Indian country; A look at Indian health
This is Indian country. I recorded education already a presentation produced by the University of Denver under a grant from the educational television and radio Center's cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is a story told by Indians in their own words by those who know Indians well. A story of the American Indian in a modern world which has surrounded him and changed his ancient way of life. A story brought to you by tape recordings made largely on Navajo and Sioux Reservation interpreted and analyzed by our guide to Indian country. Dr. Ruth Underhill professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Denver author an internationally respected authority on her favorite subject the American Indian on this the seventh program in the series. A destruction of the engine and his health.
Dr. Ruth under Indian health there's a crying problem on that subject I was anxious to know where the Indians are getting full benefit from the white doctors or whether they stick to their own medicine. So I took the old Joe never sleeps who has appeared before on this program. Joe was a medicine man and he gets his name because the Indian say when he's treating a patient you sings all night never sleeps is a nose medicine men and I talk to him through an interpreter he said he been to the white doctor's hospital and he didn't have anything as he said against these white doctors even though they provided his greatest competition. If there was no cure from the medicine men never sleeps continued my patients are entitled to go anywhere else. He said this to the interpreter of course but he thought he should have the question. You don't hear from them and. They think they should go to the medicine man for what he said. The next person to ask was the white doctor. I found Dr. Phil Cheikh head of the health
service in the big handsome hospital run by the government defiance Arizona doctor had been 28 years in any interest. When you tell him what changes you see in the Indian attitude toward white man's medical care. When I first entered the medical service for the Indians I found that Indians were very reluctant to accept medical care and hospitalization. Saying to you. There medicine man and medicine women. There are very few babies born in hospitals at that time. Did the adults object to staying in hospitals or on use were not used to hospital care and the change from their primitive living in tents log in to clean spic and span institution with numerous apparatuses for the treatment and care of the sick. What's quite frightening actually is to leave the hospital today without proper
care. One of my patients had a prosthetic to me it was an old shoe Indian sixty seven years old. That night we found him under the bed and don't know it was time the next day he left by the window and made his way to the reservation. Now the hose had good reason to feel at the hospital. They believe there is danger in touching the dead or speaking the names they used to burn down the house where anyone had died since many people died in the hospital and it wasn't going down it being an imposing structure brick. They felt that going there was like a sentence of this and they never went there until their own medicine men had given up hope. However when the prison hospital was built on the Navajo Reservation a very wise doctor invited Navajo medicine men to come and bless it. And as it were take the case of the doctor told me what was the ceremony we had at the time. This hospital was dedicated to complete
dedication of the Apollo. And the various pagan rites. It wasn't only the hospital that the Indians had to accept they had to learn the white man's whole idea of medicine with its theory of contagion and vaccination as contrasted with a cure chiefly by prayer and singing. Naturally they had no word for germs and the interpreters were likely to hand out some pretty queer ideas. So the doctor went on to say the health service established a school for interpreters. Very nice very descriptions where one type what the germ was like to see it would lay dormant and then when and the body it was bring to life like a furnace and then grow and cause it to spread.
Some also described. A little work that would enter the body and there it would make more worms and body organs and caustic when they simply wouldn't play at the present time. Since we've been working with their own people and interpreters and they have shown their interpretation that they have seen germs and worms they now believe that there is such a thing as a germ which causes disease and they are very careful and often come and tell us to take a certain person out of their community because they have a sickness and they do not want to get it. That's an achievement. Even since the time when I was living with the Navajo I understand that now there is a bed for every tuberculosis patient on the reservation. Some are even flown to Denver other cities to get Special K. Of course there are plenty of other
germs beside tuberculosis. I remember that the Navajo used to suffer badly from Tacoma that eye disease that spread so because of dirt in the little smoky dwellings. School children had it in quantities and I've seen all men blind from it. I asked the doctor about that but he preferred to introduce an Indian who has experience with out patients. This is day DAWs a Navajo. I asked him how the coma patients felt about having treatment and operations. Coming can you. Get the glasses for them do they have to take some of them to get in them. When they need help and. There is a very much Tacoma now you know. What treatment do you give a present for to cover one arm I. Think.
That better than you don't think. Some of them. With that kind of treatment. And. If you're wearing one you want to know because most Navajos don't. And was it that your dad who. This practice of having no nurses and nurses aides whenever possible has helped a great deal with people's attitude toward treatment. It's going to be carried even for it. So there ought to be clinics throughout the reservation with now who's there to act as aides and interpreters. I talked to one of these helpers Mrs. Briggs a bro. Could you tell me whether the people who come to the clinic for you whether they know you know you know.
I asked Mrs. Brown about this obvious use of the free medical facilities provided by the government. I knew this would require a great deal of change because the Navajos once afraid of white doctors and their clinics. So I asked Are there any that just come quicker because they are afraid that very day. Where. Where. People want to talk to him. They. Are learning and won't. Happen. Thanks. You're in a car and you explain to me. And this patient explanation seems to have changed an attitude of fear to one of
cooperation which carries over even into the children who come to the clinic. I asked Mrs Brown how do the children act when you know when you get them into the dental chair they make a first for the children to support you. And they don't make a push for a doctor's treatment. Yeah I read heard it said that your identity had that. And and you know what. He thinks. They can. He and I don't know what you have to. Imagine if you can a white child who is cooperative and unafraid in a dentist's chair. Well aside from this medical treatment from the federal government which the Indian seems with accepted in full measure. There's a good deal that the Indian
himself needs to do about keeping healthy and for any white person who goes on the reservation. It's plain that by our standards the Indian hasn't done it. I question a white woman who runs a trading post about that. I was amazed to see people out in the street just so they don't think anything of having was coming and sitting down on the dirty floor or whatever might come. Well then it's pretty crazy. Do they continue to wear it or just buy new and wear out some cases they value in some cases just trying to just put another one on over the top. It's true. Much of the Indian's health problem can be blamed on what we would call carelessness or laziness or just plain as day does a Navajo nurse's assistant in the Fort Defiance I was on a hospital said. Him be kindly 20 minutes and you would usually don't mean anything.
Is that because he had learned how to keep clean. I mean and you didn't have that in houses to him. So the Navajo has learned something about sanitation and use lately. Dr. Phil the head doctor at the hospital told me what's being done to teach Indians these health measures. For the past four years there has been a school twice a year in Phoenix in which in the end young people are brought and are given a course of three months in sanitation with actual experience on reservations and they retired to their own reservations in order to teach their own people sanitation in all its forms including safe water supplied disposable human waste chemical flies and then sex how to build their homes and how to keep there. The grounds around their homes in a sanitary condition. Does that mean they shouldn't have a dirt floor in the house anymore.
Not necessary. We advise against it but we try to teach him how to keep a dirty floor since that is probably the best thing that they can use and they are taught how this floor can be kept sanitary. It can be swept. How can it be kept Senator. It can't be swept. It can't be covered by sheep skins which can be dusted and put outside into the sun and the human race are not allowed to cumulate garbage and other materials that accumulate from the food can be kept outside and buried and there's various ways that you can keep native home sanitary to present the all with one magically sanitary because the sunshine simply disposed of James Bond. That is correct in the south west especially where there sunshine is is always present. The conditions around a new no home can be kept fairly well sanitary if
proper precautions are taken and they are taught how to take care of their home environment. To understand the problem of teaching sanitation to an Indian something completely unheard of not so long ago when most understand how much a part ways Indians were in the past. As a man who was engaged with this problem of educating the Indian put it I think the first problem of the novel basically was to. How book point that people. With problems I didn't know they had they had a society designed to be traditional maintain a good life. And didn't realize that it wasn't a good life. They really didn't know that they were colder than other people hungrier than other people. Sicker than other people. I died sooner than other people. I think that that was the initial level when I began to
realize the shocks. That other people didn't have as hard a time as and I would say other people are getting ahead and we are not. No we will consider what happens with this who have to some extent part of the transition. As the work of a group is the newcomer new the resolutions that as far as the future medicines are concerned my husband just said he thought perhaps he'd be safe in saying 20 percent perhaps a fourth of our prescription business now is Indians Britons or Indian cast and you know I didn't know. Course they were some of the old timers. They all have certain apps and stomach tramp prescriptions that they have bought years back but now they hear they're becoming educated professionals go to doctors to get their prescriptions for when I need them.
But even those who yours are drugstore prescriptions as we do they do have a serious hope problem. They often live in crowded hooves and they don't have the sterilizing sunshine that places the Navajo. I talked about this with Mrs. Jones a superwoman who is chairman of the hill committee for their council they're trying to do it and the education to get our people health conscious That's the main. Purpose of our and I think we're fighting against tuberculosis is that is one the biggest because we know that many people the state of South Dakota you know that 55 percent of statistics show that in tech tuberculosis which is it's just absolutely right. And that's why for the past year to do is to try to control tuberculosis and reservation. Now here again we find it pretty difficult because the health of people never gets tuberculosis. People that have their essentials and there those are some of the things our people don't have.
Besides loneliness the right food is important as we're learning oh so pleased Indians in old times didn't need to think about about ration. They got almost no sweets very little. Plenty of sunshine in excess. When there was a feast or harvest could hold still after that became plenty of time to going without. So our problem of overeating. Nobody touched them. Now I've been asking Mrs. Jonas about the Sioux Reservation. I don't think our Indian people are conscious yet. They Because just like I said before they only have a limited amount of food and they eat whatever they have that is handy at night or you eat a lot of pop and ice cream and such things well it seems it may seem like that to the outside people because they don't very often that they get tested and when they do have a few pennies or dynamiting that's it. If you go for something sweet in their home they don't have
that when they like me ever used to have me. I don't know like you know a family. Well most of us white people make a point of going without dessert. It's true though that most Indians have never learned about it and they don't choose wisely. Even on the budget they have the schools are working hard to teach them. He was a little boy trudging along the road far out on the Navajo reservation every fall he says the bus comes and takes him off to boarding school. How do you like the food is it different from what you have at home. Well it is good food.
They get to spend it. The children in the pub who have been civilised Indians for centuries learned long ago to eat the good things out of the white man's stores. I got a symbol of that from little Illinois who lives near Santa Fe New Mexico. That's just what I have. Bacon. But. There you have a good breakfast. Children know what it is. Oh I thought you meant the right thing. That gives us a number of examples of people who have learned good health practices or are being taught. I was still curious to know if they're all practices which were something like faith healing really was still fun. So I went back to Joe never sleeps in his make it a little shelter where that day the dust was blowing in
my questions of course were put through an interpreter. Now he's a medicine and if you find that people are as interested in ceremonies as they used to be OK. I don't know if they were very well respected up to this stage not now. Some people still think I'm something. Well now I notice he's wearing glasses did he get them from the White House today. And why don't they. So the only system and the new go on to get the moral is. Perhaps the word here is necessary to explain the old system of Navajo nature hearing among the Navajos the practitioners where the medicine men who were hired by their patients much as we do Doctor. I asked an elderly
Navajo about this. We'd like to hear what you do when you ask a medicine man to come how do you find out what man you want to begin with. You know like just like a doctor you know you you know and a doctor why he is a good doctor. That's the way we go to a medicine man. Well each medicine man has just about one chant that he sings has and one thing just like the same thing like doctors you know a doctor maybe a special and dentist or maybe or maybe. I doctor you call. But before you go to the eye doctor you generally go to a general now and he tells you whom to go to. Now what do you do about that. We looked around. You go to a medicine man you know. Yeah that's the way you pick him because you know him. Yeah. This SO system and then you go on together more or less. I tried to find
out about that read Winnie the conservative Oh Navajo you met a moment ago when I first drove up to his old town he came limping out leaning on a stick. But he was badly crippled with arthritis. I would not have you done for this arthritis since there's no hospital here. What do you do. Like I went through. My own medicine that I was in the hospital but I just went down got worse. So I had a whole half to hold me back I'll be here. To get the medicine man bring me back up but you can't back up. Yeah yeah. I know where your hands are much worse than they are now. Well I get worse in hospital. I see it. You little think it's hard to tell you I can't straighten my leg so I have to have a scratch. But the medicine man hasn't changed except the pain. So Reid felt that the medicine men did you more good than the hospital. Perhaps if he
had no faith in the hospital that was the case. Arthritis is known to be a disease largely connected with nerves and feelings. In fact as we learn more about psychosomatic immanence we are beginning to see what a real function the Navajo medicine men may have. Certainly there are a number of old time Navajos who still look to him. When his chicks sound about the official interpreter at the reservation although chick speaks good English and has been among what he called Anglos for years he still turns for help to the Navajo ceremonies. Stuff that I have said over the course of my. There by I I can't I can't get away from them altogether. Well you're cured by the media right now. Oh yeah. The white duck to try to cure you. Well I've been to the town. I always go to their doctor first you know. But there was a time
see the Doctor's where he said well there's nothing wrong with you. It's like your 1935 I was I was there I was a attending their summer school when I discussed this with swelling and I went to the doctor. And. He said your kidney. So after about two weeks like I said we don't sing anything wrong with you. But Stoneman swelling us was there. So when I went home I got their medicine to do that and we're going to kids. And he says well let's hear require a finite ceremony a cure that provide you know so hard at night Samantha that I had to sing it down would mean that before the same was over and I saw I was gone and I was short of breath to perfect my heart
ever since stand beside us about close to 20 years ago now. And the fact that there are even some young educated Navajo get help from the ceremonies on that subject you can listen to and an athletic young fellow just ready for college. He speaks English excellently and attends a Protestant church. Yet this is what he said about the Navajo way of curing which is by song and ritual. Well I believe I believe in Santa. I don't know that I've been cured. Some of the. Medicines that they give out I had to really was about seeing now it was by medicine it was. Cured me of bad dreams. It really did cure me. I never had a bad dream.
Well that sounds interesting. You don't know what the books I suppose. No I don't believe it I know but you don't feel that the singing the singing is secure do you. Psychological it is I think you know I've studied in psychology and. If you can believe that you get in wow they get well but he's hard things like I thought right is heart trouble and stuff like that it's hard to cure in the squad it's just a usually quick cure headaches. Mostly in the brain they usually cure that mostly usually successfully. Now that we know that some of our ills are psychosomatic and could really be cured by a different mental attitude I think we can respect the Navajo curing ceremony in a way
that only a white man never did. Dr. Phil is doing so much to educate Navajos in practical hygiene is fully aware of this. He explains how modern science and Navajo state can actually work together for a cure. I believe a larger. Curative value of this use of the present time by psychoanalysis psychiatrists and what is now known as psychosomatic medication their pain medicine man. Is a little different. It is the same basis as exact spiritual guidance or spiritual. Satisfaction. From our religious leaders such as the priest the minister or rabbi they accept from their medicine the same type of satisfaction in their troubled mind and in their troubled
bodies now do you have enough and then come here to comfort them just as the priest comes to him. In the Southwest where medicine men are still lag. It is quite common practice and we accept them into the institution if there every question on the same basis as we would a priest or already is leader of any other church or believe. You just heard engine from three of the subjects in the series of books on the programs featuring Dr. Ruth temple Underhill author and those of authority on the American Indian. Next time in your country brings you a story of Indians in school about their struggle for education. Engine coffee was produced by the University of Denver on the grounds of the Educational Television and Radio Center. This program was distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters.
- Indian country
- A look at Indian health
- Producing Organization
- University of Denver
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Interviewee: Dawes, Dade
Interviewee: Brown, Berta
Interviewer: Underhill, Ruth, 1883-1984
Producing Organization: University of Denver
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 57-51-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Indian country; A look at Indian health,” 1957-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 12, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-dz03330w.
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