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Transcript: Overview

An Overview of the Native Voices Exhibition

For native peoples, healing is more than the treatment of physical symptoms. You see, native healing is intertwined with larger concepts such as self-respect, spiritual balance, family, and a connection with the land. That's why for native peoples individual healing cannot be separated from community wellness. They're one and the same. In this exhibition we explore these native concepts of health and wellness. Honoring the native tradition of oral history, we have gathered a chorus of healing voices from across the country, so that you may hear their stories in their own words.
A reverence for nature is common among all native peoples. Unlike modern society which erects barriers between itself and the natural world native cultures derive strength and healing from the land and water. Individual wellness cannot be achieved when the connection to nature is missing or contaminated. You'll hear personal stories about the importance of land, water, the environment, and the medicinal plants that have been a source of healing for millennia.
Agnes Cope:
So this is [in Hawaiian]. This is [in Hawaiian] and this is the [in Hawaiian] of the green tea leaf. This is for a broken bone.
Native peoples believe that each person has a responsibility for his or her proper behavior and health. These stories offer ideas about personal responsibility, family, and tribal ties, role models, and identity.
Katherine Gottlieb:
Our native men are still leaders in our communities. In days of old, they would stand and they would protect their families. They would die for their women and their children, and what we're saying is do that again. Come back and do it today and this time do it around domestic violence, child sexual abuse, and child neglect. End that for us as strong men and warriors just like they did in the days when they had to stand up and fight for us. We want them to do it today.
The gathering of the community is a cherished practice because in a traditional society the community is a source of support and healing. For native peoples individual health cannot be separated from community wellness. You'll hear about the differences between life on the reservation and life in the city and attitudes that native peoples share regardless of where they're living.
Ralph Forquera:
The displacement of native people to cities has had a profound affect on just their psyche how they see the world, how they view the world, their ability to trust people, their ability to interact in a way that allows us to be able to instill in them a sense of belonging, a sense of wellbeing that can translate then into better health.
Native peoples live in two worlds, one that honors the ways of their ancestors and one that acknowledges the conveniences and challenges of modern society. Wellness is sought through the preservation of languages, ceremonies and burial practices. Reverence for the creator and respect for the wisdom of elders are important traditions that have survived for millennia.
You'll also hear stories of loyalty and military service that exemplify modern native traditions of service and patriotism.
Thomas Begay:
It was 0900 when we hit the beach. We maintained communication under all kinds of fire snipers, you name it. The officer or somebody writes the message. All they do is -- it's all an endless [indiscernible] of messages and all we do is transmit it in Navajo. In Navajo there would be another talker. We sent close to 800 in 48 hours. Came out perfect.
Taken together these concepts influence a native person's approach to good health and inform their decision whether to pursue Western medicine or traditional healing practices when confronted with an illness.
Senator Inouye:
Well, I'm glad we're beginning to recognize officially the worth of these native doctors. And I'm glad we're doing this with Native Americans and Indians, also. The Congress of the United States is considering a native sovereignty measure, which would give them [Native Hawaiians] federal government recognition as we give to Indians. And once that is set up, I think one of the high priorities would be to set up a native hospital to revive the practice of native medicine, for example. I think that's a good thing.

See the Exhibition

See the Exhibition

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