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Transcript: Introduction

A welcome message from Donald A.B. Lindberg, MD Director of the National Library of Medicine


Dr. Lindberg:
Welcome to NLM, the National Library of Medicine… the largest medical library in the world- and to “Native Voices: Native American Concepts of Health and Illness”
You will hear individuals speak to us about their own ideas of health and illness, how these happen, how death fits in too. They will speak of traditional healing ways, modern treatments, their ideas about loyalty and military service.
The National Library of Medicine chose to present this exhibition because of our growing admiration for many of the ideas and practices of American Indians, Native Alaskans, and Native Hawaiians.
These people do have different mental models—or attitudes, if you like—about life.
But they also share important beliefs.
First native peoples seem to us- to share a common view that each person has a responsibility for his or her proper behavior and health. This includes such matters as diet, exercise, traditional or Western medical treatment… hospice care.
Second…you will gain a sense of how these Native people place the tribe…the group…the village…at the center of their beliefs about health and happiness.
The rebirth of voyaging, and the canoes of Hawaii—seek to rebuild the people’s pride in their group and its sea going history.
You will see Choctaw boys and girls taking charge of their own health—through traditional sport.
Third, there is a common high regard for Nature—the climate, the plants, the animals, the land itself. It’s a complex topic that blends physical reality with spirituality.
Fourth, when you listen to the interviews, you will surely hear a reverence for traditions, for tribal Elders, and for a Supreme Being.
Fifth, the native groups all share a history that is lamentably full of rough, unfair treatment—as our modern American and Western European industrial civilizations enveloped native lands, abolishing ancient sources of pride. Our Time Line shows the history of groups. Interviews of individuals suggest that loss of pride and purpose can be serious obstacles to healthy living and even to recovery from illness.
Our exhibition is also about young native people, today…and how they incorporate all these experiences in their own ways- to help make their lives happy and healthy.
Throughout all these discussions is the art of native people. The art objects represent the ideas of the people—often magnificently.
Come back to NLM any time. Read about any of the things you see today.
For now, have a fun and enjoyable visit!

See the Exhibition

See the Exhibition

Discover the interconnected relationships between health, illness, and cultural life in Native communities.