Monday, March 5, 2012

About Cherokee Indian Shamans


ABOUT CHEROKEE INDIANA SHAMANS 


Of late years, especially since the establishment of schools among them, the Cherokees are gradually beginning to lose confidence in the abilities of their own doctors and are becoming more disposed to accept treatment from white physicians. The shamans are naturally jealous of this infringement upon their authority and endeavor to prevent the spread of the heresy by asserting the convenient doctrine that the white man’s medicine is inevitably fatal to an Indian unless eradicated from the system by a continuous course of treatment for four years under the hands of a skillful shaman. The officers of the training school established by the Government a few years ago met with considerable difficulty on this account for some time, as the parents insisted on removing the children at the first appearance of illness in order that they might be treated by the shamans, until convinced by experience that the children received better attention at the school than could possibly be had in their own homes. In one instance, where a woman was attacked by a pulmonary complaint akin to consumption, her husband, a man of rather more than the usual amount of intelligence, was persuaded to call in the services of a competent white physician, who diagnosed the case and left a prescription. On a second visit, a few days later, he found that the family, dreading the consequences of this departure from old customs, had employed a shaman, who asserted that the trouble was caused by a sharpened stick which some enemy had caused to be imbedded in the woman’s side. He accordingly began a series of conjurations for the removal of the stick, while the white physician and his medicine were disregarded, and in due time the woman died. Two children soon followed her to the grave, from the contagion or the inherited seeds of the same disease, but here also the sharpened sticks were held responsible, and, notwithstanding the three deaths under such treatment, the husband and father, who was at one time a preacher, still has faith in the assertions of the shaman. The appointment of a competent physician to look after the health of the Indians would go far to eradicate these false ideas and prevent [pg 337]much sickness and suffering; but, as the Government has made no such provision, the Indians, both on and off the reservation, excepting the children in the home school, are entirely without medical care.