Sunday, October 25, 2009

The conflict between Indian medicine and modern thought

Picture of Ernest a Traditional Man and my cousin.

Do you believe in medicine? That is a question that a lot of people ask each other in the Reserve. I guess with all the changes that took place over the last hundred years or so, there has been a split between people that believe in old medicine and people that no longer believe. It's funny that we have changed that way. I know it is a conflict that happens in our homes as well. Different siblings or cousins come to believe different ways. I know my Parents were believers in Indian medicine. My Dad had his kidneys cured by his Auntie. She had medicine. There are a few people in the Reserve that try to have medicine but most times it's weak. That is what happens when there is a disconnect between generations. It's just the effect due to loss of knowledge. When people were converts to Christianity, they left the old ways and no longer practiced medicine. A number of people were both Christians and believers of Indian medicine. It's real funny because most of the Christian Indians believed that Indian medicine was "bad medicine".

I wonder where that Idea came from, that Indian medicine was bad medicine. It is still a popular belief to this day. Some other people from different Reserves have said that "there is so much Bad Medicine in Fort Alex that the sky glows over the Reserve".

Indian Medicine is recovering. Recovering from an onslaught of attack; government, medical establishment and the Christian sect. People are acknowledging the benefits of Indigenous Knowledge. Not only is this significant in Canada, but throughout the world.

With modern education, the spread of logic thought, the notion of Creationism, the Evolution theory, there are so many schools of thought for a person to adjust to. With absolute faith, I imagine there are those that have no conflict with their beliefs what-so-ever. This is a good thing, but can also be a bad thing. All you have to look at is the Tea Party of the U.S. and the fundamentalists of Islam. Anyone can take a belief too far.

Can you imagine being told over and over that your way of life was bad? That you were praying to the Devil? That what you did was against God? That your people were bad? Messages over time have been both overt and subtle. With images of the noble Savage vanishing from the world. The job was to 'kill the Indian'. These government-run institutions were established to “civilize” the savage Indians. In 1920, Duncan Campbell Scott, the Deputy Superintendent General of Indian Affairs, had a mission to fix the “Indian problem” through assimilation. He clearly stated his mission: “I want to get rid of the Indian problem. Our object is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed.” According to Scott and government policy, it was their mission to “kill the Indian in the child” and turn them into respectable Canadian citizens."

My parents and my siblings went to the Fort Alexander Indian Residential School. That is were we were thought to do our Easter Duties. If you didn't do your Easter Duties, you would be buried behind a toilet (out house). That is funny now that I think of it. But when you are a kid and the fear of the wrath from the Nuns and the Priests, you 'know' they are telling you the truth, so you get pretty scared. I guess fear is a strong motivator. But when the threats are no longer there, you tend to lose that fear. So you don't hang on those beliefs now that the fear is gone.

I guess I still had fear for a long time about the Devil. Once you learn something it's pretty hard to unlearn it. I no longer have the fear of the Devil in me anymore. I tend to fear my own self.

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