Native American healing incorporates mind and body techniques to treat almost any condition, whether it is psychological or physical. According to principles of Native American healing, illnesses are not rooted in the affected area, but are caused by spiritual imbalances, which can be corrected by herbs, meditation and rituals. Native American healing has been around for countless centuries, and although many of its practices were illegal in the United States for decades, rituals used for healing were made legal once again in 1978 on the grounds that restriction violated freedom of religion.
Much of what we know today about herbal medicine is based on Native American healing. Herbs were a staple of Native American medicine, and for almost any kind of complaint, tinctures, salves or teas made of leaves, flowers, bark or berries were applied or consumed to treat the ailment. Native American healing has saved millions of lives, thanks to the invention of penicillin, which was derived from a Native American treatment for infection using mold. Before penicillin was discovered by doctors, Native Americans had been using it as a remedy for centuries to treat illnesses.
There is a revival of interest in Native American healing as more people are searching for alternative remedies to avoid the side effects, inconvenience and cost of traditional medicine. Native American healing also focuses on detoxification methods, such as sitting in sweat-houses and fasting to remove impurities from the body. These sweat-houses consisted of fires in tents, and through perspiration, the body could be cleansed and purged of germs and other unhealthy substances.
Given today’s hectic, stress-filled lifestyle, Native American healing is making a comeback and traditional practitioners of this science are very much in demand.
Traditional healing techniques, use a variety of techniques, including laying-on hands, to help restore the body, mind, and spirit to wholeness and balance.
Origin of Method/History: “The healing traditions of the Native Americans have been practiced on this continent since the Clovis Culture at least 12,000 years ago, and possibly for more than 40,000 years.” There are many diverse traditions among different cultures of Native Americans, and the information presented here is a compilation of these techniques.
Theory: What is energy? What is energy healing?
What energy is being worked with? “The manifestation of divine spirit in living beings is life force, or divine breath; known as ni in Lakota63 and nilch’i in Navajo, The ultimate source of this wholeness is known by many names: Kitchi Manitou (“the Great Mystery,” Ojibway), Wakan Tanka (“the Great Sacred” or “Great Spirit,” Lakota), Acbadadea (“Maker of All Things Above,” Crow), Shongwˆyad’hs:on (“the Creator,” Iroquois), or simply God.”
What is illness/health? “According to Native American medicine, a healthy person has a sense of purpose and follows the “original instructions” – i.e., the guidance written in the heart by the Great Spirit. Health means restoring the body, mind, and spirit to balance and wholeness: the balance of life energy in the body; the balance of ethical, reasonable, and just behavior; balanced relations within family and community; and harmonious relationships with nature.” Illness can be caused by: negative thinking, disturbances in flow of life energy and healing power within the individual or to/from the environment, environmental poisons, spirits, bacteria, traumatic events, breach of taboo.
“Native Americans believe that inherited conditions… may be caused by the parents’ unhealthy or immoral behavior and are not easily treatable …among adults, some diseases are the patient’s responsibility and the natural consequence of his or her behavior; to treat these conditions may be to interfere with important life lessons. Some illnesses are not treated because they are considered “callings,” or diseases of initiation: physical and spiritual crises engendered by the breakdown of previous ways of being or by the acquisition of guardian-spirit power.”
Who can heal? Training? “Many aspects of Native American healing are still closely guarded oral tradition. Specific techniques of healing, sacred songs, and healing rituals are received directly from elder healers, from spirits encountered during vision quest, and as a result of initiation into secret societies.” “Many Native healers believe that people learn to heal best the conditions that they have experienced. Healing power can be inherited from ancestors, transmitted from another healer, or developed through training and initiation. However, the best way to develop, strengthen, and maintain healing power is through rigorous personal training.”
Practice: How does a healing session work for this technique?
Methods of treatment are as varied as methods of diagnosis. The most common methods include prayer, chanting, music, smudging… herbalism, laying on of hands, counseling, and ceremony.
Assessment: “As in Western medicine, the Native healer observes presenting symptoms …[may] also discuss the possible causes of the disease, the patient’s lifestyle and relationships, and how the patient’s disease was affecting his family. The purpose of this lengthy discussion was not merely diagnostic, but also “to draw the people completely into the curing process, to engage their total persons, to get them communing fully with Wakan-Tanka [the Great Spirit] and the Helpers”. Wintu shaman Flora Jones would assess “With the diagnostic powers of the spirit-helpers acting through her hands, she begins to move her fingers carefully across the patient’s body sensing unseen, internal injuries or abnormalities.” Flora Jones feels the patient’s disease or pain in her own body: “I become a part of their body.” Healers also use several forms of divination and dream interpretation.
Treatment techniques: Laying on of Hands. “Massage, healing touch, and non-contact healing are practiced by Native healers throughout North and South America. Often the hands are used to sweep away or remove spiritual intrusions or to brush in healing powers. Cherokees warm their hands over coals and circle their palms either on or above an affected area. Some healers hold their hands to the front and back of an affected area, creating what they now call “electrodes within the body.” The healer imagines that electricity is moving from 1 hand to the other. Sometimes the muscles are rubbed in a manner similar to Western massage. To increase the healing effect, the medicine person massages specific therapeutic points.”
Uses: When is this Technique useful?
Duration/Frequency: “Disease can have a slow or sudden onset. Similarly, healing can occur quickly or over a long period of time. However, even in serious or chronic disease, long-term therapy may not be required. The intensity of therapy is generally considered more important than the duration. Healing may not be a gradual process but rather a quantum leap. However, Native healers recognize that patients must make lifestyle and behavioral changes that reinforce and maintain the improved condition.”