Report from fieldwork in Canada

Report from Beatriz Zarcos.

Long time before the arrival of the Europeans to what is known today as Canada, the people who already lived there and are known today as the Indigenous people of Canada, had their own cultures and their own ways to organize their societies. They also had their own ways to approach health and illness, and their own type of medicine. This was widely and openly practiced, and protocols and roles established for the people who held the medical knowledge. Traditional medicine had then, and has today, an important role beyond the body, keeping the spirit alive and giving cohesion and directions for the well-being and general survival of the community.

However, the arrival of the Europeans, the process of colonization and the ensuing policies of assimilation would have severe impacts on Indigenous peoples style of life. The discriminatory character of many assimilation policies as the reserve policy, or boarding schools programs, provoke the feeling for many of indigenous individuals of not being the owner of their own future, killing the ambitions and destroying the self-esteem of some of this people  (Diamond Jenness 1990: 161). It has consequences mainly for the youngest generations, with dramatic rates of suicide and alcohol abuse. This would also have specific consequences over aboriginal medicine it self, taking it to theunderground.

However, and despite the negative historical background for aboriginal traditional medicine and its people in Canada, it is still practiced at a community level and it still coexists with other forms of healing, alternative medicine and the official care system, which is premised on the bio-medical approach. What is new is the efforts that indigenous people in Canada are doing in order to take traditional healing from the underground, and get for it an official recognition. This movement has been identified for some scholars as the “…the most profound example of social reformation since Confederation”(Waldram 2008:7).

This research focus on the implementation of aboriginal traditional healing within a clinical setting, analyzing and open the debate over the following questions:

Should aboriginal traditional healing be implemented within a hospital setting? Why? What do aboriginal users have to say about this issue? Which are their main demands? What are the main reasons that are guiding some aboriginal healers in Canada to share their healing knowledge and practice it within a clinical western context? Is any demand on this sense coming from the government, or medical staff at clinics?

Which are the main challenges for this implementation and which the main direction?

Is traditional healing occurring within a clinical setting as a hospital today?  What is the present situation for aboriginal users and aboriginal medicine within a formal clinic context?

Thanks to Sami Center financial support, the field work and trip to Canada became possible. It would had an invaluable effect in the succeed of my research. The chance to do fieldwork made possible to speak directly with the indigenous people involved in this healing movement. Through this thesis I would therefore be able to represent their voices, writing a paper meaningful for them and in cooperation with them.


This entry was posted in Master and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.