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Medicine that Walks

Medicine that Walks: Disease, Medicine, and Canadian Plains Native People, 1880-1940

Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Medicine that Walks
    Book Description:

    Challenging the view that Aboriginal medicine was helpless to deal with European disease, Lux argues that the diseases killing the Plains people were not contagious epidemics but grinding poverty, malnutrition, and overcrowding.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2788-8
    Subjects: History, Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction: Beyond Biology
    (pp. 3-19)

    Mi’k ai’stoowa, Red Crow, cast in stone, graces the entrance to the Blood First Nation’s new Kainai Continuing Care Centre with its massive ceremonial lodgepoles pointing to the sky. I leaned into the strong December wind and passed under his shadow and entered the newly opened sub-acute hospital. The great lodge room was flooded with natural light and the crystal voices of children singing to their elders. There I met with a Blood elder, who, with his infant grandson, welcomed me to the reserve and the hospital. The medicine practised there is both ancient and modern; smudges, face paint, and...

  6. Chapter One ‘The First Time We Were Poisoned by the Government’: Starvation and the Erosion of Health
    (pp. 20-70)

    Few could imagine that the vast herds of bison would never return. Deep ruts still scarred the prairies where the huge beasts had passed. But in 1876, Cree Chief Mistawasis lamented to his people the loss of the ‘ancient glory of our forefathers,’ when the herds were so large that ‘our fathers could not pass for the great numbers of those animals that blocked their way; and even in our day, we have had to choose carefully our campgrounds for fear of being trampled in our teepees.’ But the herds could no longer sustain them: ‘Gone they will be before...

  7. Chapter Two ‘Help Me Manitou’: Medicine and Healing in Plains Cultures
    (pp. 71-102)

    The medical/healing complex of plains Aboriginal peoples functioned within a world view that saw the world and its inhabitants as part of a Great Circle of Life. The Creator was aided by the Grandfather Spirits of Fire, Thunder, Wind, Sun, and Water, as well as the animal and plant Spirits. People exist within this context as worthy creatures, but no more worthy than any other being. To live a secure, healthy life was to acknowledge and respect the spiritual as well as the physical world, because there was little distinction between the two. Medical therapeutics in plains cultures recognized that...

  8. Chapter Three ‘I Was in Darkness’: Schools and Missions
    (pp. 103-137)

    Aboriginal people had pressed for education provisions in the treaties; specifically they wanted schools on the reserves. What they received was schools that reflected the paternalism of the ‘white man’s burden’ – that were established to ‘elevate’ Aboriginal students and replace their world view with the tenets of Christian capitalism. The system would be financed largely by the federal government and administered by ecclesiastics. The government left the management of the schools to the religious orders because a number of schools in the west were already being run by various Christian denominations, and were considered successful. As well, it was...

  9. Chapter Four ‘Indifferent to Human Life and Suffering’: Medical Care for Native People to 1920
    (pp. 138-188)

    The government may have agreed in Treaty Six to provide ‘medicine chests,’ but that promise was to be interpreted literally. The department consistently denied any obligation to provide medical care even while its own medical service grew. After 1880, almost in spite of itself, the department became increasingly involved in providing medical services to certain groups of Native people. The department’s approach to deciding which groups should receive medical care changed over time, but general tendencies emerged. First, it was necessary to provide medical care in order to protect the department’s pre-eminent institutions for social and cultural change, the government-funded...

  10. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  11. Chapter Five ‘A Menace to the Community’: Tuberculosis
    (pp. 189-224)

    In the first four decades of the twentieth century, tuberculosis came to be seen as the greatest health problem affecting Canadians. On reserves, although it was a persistent and patient killer, tuberculosis had to compete with many other diseases of poverty. But off reserves, tuberculosis had captured the attention of the public and the medical professions alike. It did not take Robert Koch’s discovery of the tubercle bacillus (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) in 1882 for medical and lay people to notice that the poor and the poorly fed were the most likely victims of tuberculosis. In 1899 the Canadian delegate to the...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 225-230)

    The history of medicine, disease, and Aboriginal people on the prairies is not a particularly proud one. Aboriginal communities remain among the most unhealthy in Canada. Infant mortality, accidental death, tuberculosis, and new health threats such as diabetes and heart disease continue to take their toll. As the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples points out, much of the misery can be found on reserves and in urban Canada, and is a direct result of poverty. Increasingly, First Nations communities are taking over the provision of services to their own people, and this promises to address the issues facing the Aboriginal...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 231-266)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 267-284)
  15. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 285-286)
  16. Index
    (pp. 287-300)