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Many Paths: Intersections of Traditional and Western Healing


Today, Native people of all groups are often faced with the question of whether to rely on traditional Native healing methods or to seek Western medical treatment. Until relatively recently, the two traditions operated in parallel, with little intersection between them. Today, however, Native Americans can access a continuum of health care. Many traditional healers still practice independently within tribal communities. Other healers may work with Western-trained primary care physicians to coordinate care for Native American patients. Some healthcare institutions offer both traditional and Western medicine, often at the same location.

In most areas, Native American patients get traditional healing from within the local tribal community, rather than through tribal health clinics or hospitals. In the Dakota and Lakota, and Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara, (MHA) Tribes of the Upper Plains, tribal members arrange for services by contacting local healers directly. Some Western-trained physicians also refer patients to traditional healers, and will sometimes help coordinate both Western and traditional medicine for a specific patient.