Ways of Knowing™ Symposium: Exploring Cultural Based Healing Traditions & Practice

Panel: Integrating Cultural Based Healing Traditions and Practices with Conventional Care

Dr.Marilyn Schlitz and
Dr. Stanley Krippner

Paul Schultz, Ojibeway, White Earth
Carson Gardner, M.D., White Earth PHC
Sharon Day, Exec. Director, Indigenous Peoples Task Force
Sandra Dliason, Center for Cross-Cultural Health

#Carson Gardner, MD

Carson shared with us his own story: He came home late one summer evening from his rural family practice, and was late and in low spirits. He parked and got out in the driveway, astonished to see a full grown Blue Heron standing on the front steps. He didn’t know what to do, so he sat down in the drive and stared at the Heron for 2-3 minutes, until it took off and flew to the edge of the woods. He ran over there immediately, but it was nowhere to be found. Feeling like this was a sign, he then went out and bought a lottery ticket, but it didn’t hit. The next morning at 6am, his Great Dane barked alerting him to the Heron’s return. It was back on the front stoop once again. It flew off again, disappearing into the woods where he couldn’t find it. This time he listened to the message that some kind of change was called for, and he quit his job and took a position on White Earth. He stated he “was looking for healing.” He had had no preparation to join the community, but he invited himself to Paul’s sweat lodge. Carson closed by saying “I am a patient of Paul’s. I found healing there.”


#Paul Schultz, Ojibeway, White Earth

Paul spoke about the importance of us allowing alternative ways of knowing and practicing to integrate the way it was always meant to do in human health care. In his tradition, individualization of care has gone on for thousands of years. When the Indian Health Services came into the reservations to provide medical care, they treated the native people like children and devalued their practices. So the challenge now—“How to impact the clinics and physicians working there to create change?” In the southwest, traditional healers began to join teams of health care providers for Indian Health, e.g. in the care of veterans dealing with PTSD. On White Earth Reservation, here in MN, change began when the local physician reached out to ask to join Paul in ceremony. That one gesture by that one doctor began to change everything. They are newly defining mutual respect in the relationship. They find that praying and cleansing (with sage) over the medications increases the effectiveness of medical interventions. The indigenious healer is recognized as just as important and effective as the medical doctor. This kind of respectful relationship can be built anywhere, and these inroads to integration can be replicated!


#Sharon Day

Sharon presented a brief power point show on the 20 year history of the community-based non-profit venture, Indigenous Peoples Task Force, with the goal of increasing the health and well-being of native peoples. In MN there are 11 reservations (7 Ojibwe, 4 Dakota.) One program of which she spoke is the Woybinagay Smoking Cessation research project for native women. It is culturally-based, provides a circle within a circle of support for women, evaluates the effects of cultural practices, and works to build trust within and between communities. Assessment, education, ceremony, meditation, making of medicine pouches, acupuncture and massage are all parts of this program. Tobacco was these peoples’ first medicine, and when the pipe ceremonies were banned, smoking cigarettes became a historical protest behavior. This quitting program needed to acknowledge all of these past and current issues, and create a new relationship for them with tobacco.


#Sandra Eliason, MD

Through 20 years in Family Practice, Sandra saw a lot of changes and increasing frustration in both the patients and the practitioners. She wanted to know how to have an intra-cultural model in medicine, and did a Bush fellowship to create such a model. The Center for Cross-Cultural Health arose from these efforts. She raised the issues about our language, about our intentionality. She emphasized the importance of learning to take time to listen, and HEAR what are the true needs and wants of the patient.

 In closing comments, Dr. Krippner suggested that perhaps instead of seeking a “melting pot” approach to integration, we needed to shift our imagery and intention to creating a mosaic, with the honoring of all components.

  • Ways of Knowing™: Cultural-Based Healing Traditions and Practices