Samoan Medical Belief and Practice

Samoan Medical Belief and Practice

Samoan Medical Belief and Practice

Samoan Medical Belief and Practice

Synopsis

Contents: Pt. 1: Some conceptual and theoretical issues. - Pt. 2: Samoan indigenous medicine in its historical context. - Pt. 3: The social organisation of Samoan indigenous medicine. - Pt. 4: Medical belief, diagnosis and practice in contemporary Western Samoa. - Pt. 5: Conclusion.

Excerpt

This is an account of the medical beliefs and practices which Samoans call Samoan medicine and believe to be indigenous. Our interests in Samoan medical belief and practice developed independently and in very different circumstances.

La'avasa grew up with her grandparents in a village in beautiful but remote Fagaloa Bay in Western Samoa. Her grandmother was a Samoan healer and those around her became involved in her practice. Children and grandchildren were sent to the edge of the sea to collect the creeping plants found there and to the plantations and forest for leaves, bark, shoots and other material used in her medicine. The children routinely watched, and occasionally even helped in the preparation and administration of her treatments. Although La'avasa was very fond of the old lady and interested in her work, at no point did she ever contemplate the vocation. Indeed the decision was taken out of her hands when she returned to live with her parents in Vaigaga in Faleata. There again, she was able to observe her mother's sister, who had by that time become a well-known and respected healer. But again the process was informal and unstructured and ended temporarily when La'avasa left Samoa to live in New Zealand.

I first came into contact with Samoan medicine while teaching in Vaito'omuli in the Palauli District of Savai'i in 1965. I lived in the centre of the village with Momoiseā Imoa, his wife, Olive, and their extended family. while illness is a common topic of discussion in most Samoan households it was probably even more frequently discussed in that family. Olive, a highly respected district nurse, travelled around the district and returned with many interesting, perceptive and often amusing observations on Samoan responses to illness. She also dispensed much medicine and advice to those who turned up at her door in search of help. At the time I was merely mildly interested in medicine and content with casual observation. Some time later however, while working in the Department of Agriculture in Samoa, I had an accident which was treated with only partial success at the Apia General Hospital. A fofō, or healer, in the village in which we were working completed the . . .

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