HIST209 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Dental Caries, Biomedicine, Midewiwin

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HIST 209 – Week Two Notes
4 Main Herbs in Aboriginal Practices:
-Cedar:
oIn tea
oVitamin C
oProtects from scurvy, stomach ache
oHelps protect during vision quest
-Tobacco:
oOffering to show intention
oUsed in trade
-Sage:
oIn tea
oGrows in hotter climates
oHerbal remedy
oHealing properties
oReleases negative energy
-Sweet Grass:
oEspecially in smudging
o3 strands represent love, kindness, honesty
oHealing properties
oAttracts good Spirit, so used to call it + in Talking Circle
Historian’s Questions:
1. How do Aboriginals (as individuals and communities) perceive health and
disease?
2. What impact did their environment have on their health status prior to the
arrival of the Europeans?
3. What types of evidence do we have concerning types of health problems that
the First Nations and Innu have experienced?
4. *How does their worldview differ from Western biomedicine?
What is Aboriginal health heavily dependent on?
-Lifestyle + Seasonal cycle
oNomadic hunter-gatherers in Eastern North America
oSemi-sedentary agriculturalists in the Great Lakes area - Figured
out that planting corns, beans, and squash together produces enough
to sustain their rather large community (families of 10-20 people)
You need cultures of agriculture and hunting to sustain these
numbers
oPlains hunters – Hunted, Could trade for whatever they were lacking
oCoastal fishers and carvers – Lucked out (had fish, large mammals,
birds), could create sustainable society and settle, had slavery
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oInnu and Northern Cree – got the short end of the stick, didn’t luck
out, have to be able to cope with cold, rugged, harsh climate
Illnesses and Health Problems:
-Drowning
-Burns – From fires, open flames
-War wounds
-Respiratory ailments – From all the smoke, tobacco
-Intestinal parasites – Bad food source
-Tularemia – Severe infectious disease transferrable from animals to humans,
characterized by ulcers
-Rickets – Vitamin D deficiency; Ex. from lack of sun
-Dental caries (cavities) – Developed by too much maize plant because of
simple sugars; dangerous because it can lead to severe blood poisoning
-STI and TB Transmission – Huge case when Columbus and his boys came
(from Europe) because they were sexually active with the Aboriginal women
The Atlantic Peoples:
-Adapted hunting practices to available fish, fowl, and mammals on a seasonal
basis
-Had ceremonies designed to ensure a goof hunt by expressing appreciation of
target (all animals have souls so you need to talk to Spirit and thank them for
giving up their lives to sustain you and your fam)
-Worldview encompassed animate and inanimate objects as part of the great
circle
-Shamans (healers) known as Buowin were expected to discover the cause of
the problems, and to provide herbal remedies (for natural physiological
illness) or conduct curing ceremonies if sorcery or witchcraft was suspected
The Huron-Iroquoians:
-Had 3 types of healers that all work within Huron cosmology (diff. from
people on East Coast and from the Plains):
1. Arendiwane – Provided herbal remedies and forecast the weather for
crops and hunting
2. Ocata – Diagnosed ailments and recommended treatment
3. Ontetsans – Extracted spells (clearly believe in witchcraft/spell-
casting)
-In contrast to Europeans who started to separate mind and body, First
Nations groups (all) do not acknowledge a split between mind, body, and
spirit
Healing practices:
-Herbal teas such as spruce bark tea for scurvy, pain reduction through willow
bark (salicin), anesthetics, emetics, diuretics, and various teas during labour
-Also used various fungi to prevent wound infection
-Basic surgeries for fractures, war wounds, and gangrene
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Healing Ceremonies:
-Plains and Northern Woodland Cree use Shaking Tents
-Huron, Iroquois, and many others used Sweat Lodges for respiratory
diseases
-Shamans would perform dances and use sucking tubes to extract objects
that were causing disease (placebo effect or auto-suggestion?)
-Innu used Trephining (drilling of holes in skull to let out bad spirits –
horrifying but it actually worked!) to deal with headaches
Mental Illness:
-Most first peoples did not see mental illness as different from physical illness
-Individuals suffering from mental problems were not excluded from their
community
-The community and shaman would instead try to find the source of the soul
sickness, and would conduct dances/ceremonies to cure it
oEveryone had spirit/totem that helped them identify themselves in
community, would reflect spirit on mask to rid bad spirits
Traditional Aboriginal Medicine:
-Integrated, holistic approach to health: body, mind and spirit interact
together to form the person
Emphasis on prevention of sickness
-Personal responsibility for health and sickness
-Health and sickness understood in terms of laws of nature* (nature defines
health and sickness)
-Humans are supposed to live in balance with nature*
o= Conflict with Western medicine because it has the belief that nature
is here to serve us*
-Traditional medicine governed by the laws of Creation: Everything we need
comes from the Earth – Our food, medicine, water, education, religion, and
laws
-TBH, the Aboriginals discovered all the social determinants of health way
before we did!
-Medicine Man is accountable to the Creator, to the people, to the Elders of his
medicine society
-In return, the land and the people support the Medicine Man and his practice
(if moose was killed, he’d get a large portion of meat for him and his family
because he’s helped everyone else so much)
-Medicine is not for sale or profit – it is a gift to be shared
-Approach that encourages self-sufficiency, self-care + responsibility, and
control by the people
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