“Native American Life”
Native American Medicine
Author: Tamra Orr
Publisher: 2014, Mason Crest
Ages 10-up, Middle Grade
Throughout history religion has been an important part of Native American life, Orr explains, which varied a lot, but there were some shared characteristics. For one, religious leaders were mostly men, rarely women. A leader’s main responsibility was to heal the sick, ward off evil, prophetize, and bring good fortune to the tribe.
They were generally known as medicine men, but sometimes called shamans, or Sacred Helpers (Crow) and Buffalo Doctors (Omaha). All shared a belief in the Great Spirit and had a vast knowledge of nature and the earth. Because of this knowledge, they learned how to treat wounds and illnesses with all kinds of plants, including dance rituals and special ceremonies. They believed in a natural remedy for all physical, mental and spiritual conditions.
Orr describes the philosophy behind Native American medicine and the different practices among the tribes, as well as the legends that fostered such beliefs. For instance in the Pacific Northwest, the tribes believed that babies came from a special place called “Babyland.” Readers learn about actual rituals and the importance of dreams and visions, and how a person became a medicine man. It was not an easy process, nor was their life as one. Some even lost their lives when failing to bring positive results.
Other means of healing are also described, such as the sweat lodges used for cleansing the body and soul. Orr lists the various herbs that medicine men used, many of which are used in some form today, such as cherry bark for cough medicine and willow bark for aspirin. Traditional medicine is slowly regaining importance and respect today and reservations are growing. Native American Medicine is a good general source for young researchers, complete with photos, illustrations, glossary, chronology and index.