Integrating Indigenous Healing: A Lesson for Us All
Healing Rituals - Symbolic healing rituals and ceremonies were often held to bring participants into harmony with themselves, their tribe, and their environment. Ceremonies were used to help groups of people return to harmony; but, large ceremonies were generally not used for individual healing. Varying widely from tribe to tribe, some tribes, such as the Sioux and Navajo used a medicine wheel, a sacred hoop, and would sing and dance in ceremonies that might last for days.
Historic Indian traditions also used many plants and herbs as remedies or in spiritual celebrations, creating a connection with spirits and the after life. Some of these plants and herbs used in spiritual rituals included Sage, Bear Berry, Red Cedar, Sweet Grass, Tobacco, and many others.
The healing process in Native American Medicine is much different than how most of us see it today. Native American healing includes beliefs and practices that combine religion, spirituality, herbal medicine, and rituals, that are used for both medical and emotional conditions. From the Native American perspective, medicine is more about healing the person than curing a disease. Traditional healers worked to make the individual “whole,” believing that most illnesses stem from spiritual problems.
In addition to herbal remedies, purifying and cleansing the body is also important and many tribes used sweat lodges for this purpose. In these darkened and heated enclosures, a sick individual might be given an herbal remedy, smoke or rub themselves with sacred plants, and a healer might use healing practices to drive away angry spirits and invoke the healing powers of others.
Sometimes healing rituals might involve whole communities, where participants would sing, dance, paint their bodies, sometimes use mind-altering substances to persuade the spirits to heal the sick person.