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Aboriginal Medicine - Advantages of Aboriginal Healing Methods for the Aboriginal People

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Many of the inequalities in the health of the Aboriginal people can be attributed to the

erosion of the Aboriginal culture.(chp.2). Restrictions placed on the cultural practices of the Aboriginal people ultimately led to the abatement of the Aboriginal traditional medicines.(p88). Losing their freedom to practice traditional therapeutics, the Aboriginal people eventually had to adapt to the culturally inappropriate ways of western medicines. The purpose of this paper is to examine the advantages of Aboriginal healing methods for the Aboriginal people, as well as to explain why these traditional methods continued to persist long after western style medicines were introduced.

Advantages of Aboriginal Healing Methods for the Aboriginal People

Traditional healing methods were based upon traditional Aboriginal spirituality beliefs.(p18). This spiritual belief system stated that "people exist within this context as worthy creatures, but no more worthy than any other being. To live secure, healthy lives through acknowledging and respecting the spiritual as well as the physical world, because there is no difference between the two."(p71). The whole Aboriginal culture was based around these beliefs. Everyone in the community was treated as equal with acknowledgment and respect. Therefore those who deemed to follow the cultural beliefs had no difficulty in understanding the healing practices of the people. This appreciation of equality and respect was an advantage to the Aboriginal people, especially within their healing methods.

Illness was treated in many ways but the main goal was to achieve a sense of balance and harmony.(p82). Applications of herbs and roots, spiritual intervention, and community wide ritual and ceremonies were all therapeutic practices.(p71). "It was the healer who held the keys to the supernatural and natural worlds and who interpreted signs, diagnosed disease and provided medicines from the grassland, woodland, and parkland pharmacopoeia."(p18). The healers knowledge of herbs and roots and ways to administer and diagnose had been passed down from generation to generation.(p85). Healers stood as an advantage for the Aboriginal people. "Trust and a personal relationships would naturally build between the patient and the healer."(p77). This must have been comforting for the Aboriginal people, being aware of what they were taking and trusting their elders and ancestors with the guidance. Aboriginal medicines were based upon their beliefs, the healers and medicine men were reassuring and comforting members of the community since they could communicate with these spirits. Even though they were usually men and elders ,

they were not seen as having more power, just higher spiritual ability-they were treated as equal and

respected the same as any other.(p73). The healers also respected the physical environment form which all medicinal herbs and roots were taken. If something was taken a gift was always left as a sing of respect and acknowledgment- for example tobacco was commonly left when herbs were taken from the ground as a gift to the creator.(p100). I see this as an advantage to the Aboriginal people because it taught value and meaning to life-not to be too greedy as the white men soon came to be, depleting many of the Aboriginals' medicinal herbs and roots for their own use.(p99) There was one thing that the white man could not take away form the Aboriginal people - their beliefs. Even though the White man tried it was something that the Aboriginal people kept as their own. This, I see as an advantage to the Aboriginal culture because the medicinal practices were based upon these beliefs, and they could not be stolen from them.

One other advantage to the healing practices of the Aboriginal people was the formation of bonds and ties with one another through the ceremonies and rituals that were performed.(p73). An illness was a communities responsibility. Everyone had roles from dancing to singing to drumming, depending on the ceremony.(p75). The family would constantly surround the ill stay in the same room until the person was no longer sick.-This was misunderstood by many western medical doctors who eventually forbid any of the rituals to take place.(p115). So the main advantage I would say, that Aboriginal healing practices has for the Aboriginal people is the understanding and clarity it makes for them because it is what they know and what their ancestors knew. It was their culture, and one must understand the culture to understand the benefits of its healing process for its people. The white man began to deteriorate the Aboriginal healing practice in order to implement their own. No values or beliefs of Aboriginal therapeutic practices were taken into thought. This forcing uncomfortable and untrustworthy situations to arise within the "western world of medicine."(chp.4).

Persistence of Aboriginal Healing Methods After the Introduction of Western Medicines

One does not have to look far to find the reasons why the Aboriginal people failed to embrace the Western-style medical practices. Reasons that I will discuss for the persistence of Aboriginal healing practices are 1. Lack of doctors for the reserve. 2. The Aboriginal people were afraid and unaware of the practices (not trusting of the ways). 3. The communication barrier between doctors and their patients. 4. The misunderstanding of cultural practices and the roles of the individuals involved (the role of a doctor vs. role of a healer). 5. Many of their healing methods

still continued to be effective western medical attention was the last resort.

There was a shortage of doctors on the reserves if there were any doctors at all; as well as a

shortage of doctors who would treat the aboriginal people. "The native people were often affiliated with very malignant diseases such as smallpox, scurvy, and other loathsome diseases..doctors wanted to protect their own health and safety...they feared potential outbreak within the communities...this being the number one reason why the department was at first unwilling to entertain the notion of medical practitioners for the reserves."(p143). The white culture should feel extreme guilt for it was them who introduced the malignant diseases to the Aboriginal people, forced them to practice their "Western medicines", than left them to suffer when no "western medicines were provided resulting in the high death rates of the Aboriginal people. And this all because the doctors were afraid to do their jobs-treat the ill. Frankly



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