The Medicine Men: Oglala Sioux Ceremony and Healing

The Medicine Men: Oglala Sioux Ceremony and Healing

The Medicine Men: Oglala Sioux Ceremony and Healing

The Medicine Men: Oglala Sioux Ceremony and Healing

Synopsis

For the residents of the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, mainstream medical care is often supplemented or replaced by a host of traditional practices: the Sun Dance, the yuwipi sing, the heyok'a ceremony, herbalism, the Sioux Religion, the peyotism of the Native American Church, and other medicines, or sources of healing. Thomas H. Lewis, a psychiatrist and medical anthropologist, describes those practices as he encountered them in the late 1960s and early 1970s.During many months he studied with leading practitioners. He describes the healers-their techniques, personal histories and qualities, the problems addressed and results obtained-and examines past as well as present practices. The result is an engrossing account that may profoundly affect the way readers view the dynamics of therapy for mind and body.Retired from the National Naval Medical Center, where he served as chief of psychiatry, and from Georgetown University School of Medicine, Thomas H. Lewis now lives in Montana.

Excerpt

This book describes some of the men who practice the indigenous healing arts of the Oglala Sioux. They provide advisory and therapeutic services to the rural population of some twelve thousand residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. I will examine techniques, personal histories and qualities, problems addressed, patients, and results, and will attempt to describe past as well as present practices, linking observable patterns to underlying structures.

The Oglala people are the westernmost division of the Tetons, one of the three major groups of the Dakotas, or Sioux, and identify themselves as Lak'ota. They occupy the arid grasslands of Pine Ridge Reservation, a vast landscape with a few small towns and infrequent isolated cabins. The Oglalas once roamed a much wider universe, the valleys of the Platte and Missouri, Yellowstone, Powder, and Bighorn, where lie the sites of partly remembered battles with neighboring tribes in early historic times and of the later wars with the whites that brought an end to their nomadic way of life and forced profound changes in their culture.

Along with the destruction of the buffalo herds that constituted their essential commissary the Sioux suffered heavy and repeated military defeats. They were deprived of weapons, transport, and accustomed means of livelihood, and were sequestered on reservations. Hunting became unproductive, rations were meager. Administrators made an effort to integrate their charges . . .

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