Showing 31 - 40 of 52 annotations tagged with the keyword "Native-American Experience"

Bad Medicine

Querry, Ron

Last Updated: Dec-04-2006
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This novel is based on the facts of an actual hantavirus outbreak that took place in the southwestern US in 1993, retelling the events as medical mystery, as ghost story, and as meditation on the relationship between rationalist western medicine and the beliefs of local indigenous cultures.

Dr. Push Foster is part Choctaw and part white, raised in Oklahoma. He returns to Arizona as an Indian Health Services physician at the time an outbreak begins of what is later identified as Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome. Western medicine and traditional health beliefs and practices overlap in the investigation and response to the illness as it infects and kills Navajo people.

Querry presents us with a convincing epidemiological investigation into the virus, but also suggests an alternative, or complementary, etiology for the outbreak: an archaeologist has stolen a sacred stone from the Hopi people with the help of a Navajo witch, or shape-shifter, the title's "bad medicine" practitioner. This theft, the novel suggests, is the reason that only Navajo, and one white person (the archaeologist's partner) become ill.

The climax of the story is a showdown between the shape-shifter, a Hopi village headman, and the ghost of a woman killed trying to save her people from the 1805 massacre of Navajo by Spanish troops at Muerto Canyon. (The virus, when first identified, was named Muerto Canyon Virus.) This woman becomes a figure of both vengeance and reconciliation, an uneasy meeting of cultures that echoes and informs the work of Push Foster and his colleague, Sonny Brokeshoulder: both are men of Indian blood with a "white" upbringing and who return to their culture bearing Western medical training, but do not deny the traditional knowledge either.

Unlike most medical thrillers, this book does not offer reductive explanations and answers; instead, we are left with the certainty that traditional and western thinkers must collaborate, not only to care for patients, but to take care of the natural environment on which all our health depends.

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Love Medicine

Erdrich, Louise

Last Updated: Dec-01-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The author tells the story of two Native-American (Chippewa) families whose lives interweave through several generations during the years 1934-1984. The primary setting is a reservation in North Dakota. The main characters, Marie and Nector Kashpaw and Lulu Lamartine, are colorful, sympathetic people caught in a love triangle that endures for most of their adult lives. "Love medicine" represents an attempt by a Kashpaw grandson to assure once and for all that his aging grandfather will love and be true to his wife and cease "hankering after the Lamartine." The plan ends in disaster when corners are cut and the authentic old Indian customs for preparing the "love medicine" are circumvented.

There is a strong sense of the blending of cultures--religion, medicine, commerce, education all take on the distinctive qualities of an evolving mixed culture. Displacement and disenfranchisement are a fact of life, taken almost for granted, with humor, but not without a response. "They gave you worthless land to start with and then they chopped it out from under your feet. They took your kids away and stuffed the English language in their mouth . . . They sold you booze for furs and then told you not to drink. It was time, high past time, the Indians smartened up and started using the only leverage they had-federal law." (p. 326) So begins an initiative to establish a gambling casino; "gambling fit into the old traditions . . . . "

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Weight Bearing

Goedicke, Patricia

Last Updated: Dec-01-2006
Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

A Kiowa Native-American, so obese he looks "like a grand piano in soft sculpture," visits the narrator's office. The Kiowa is a teacher and lover of words, but back home on the reservation, the old sources of inspiration are gone--"the old stories disappear"--and he knows "at the center of himself he is starving." (The obesity comes from this desperate need for feeding!) The narrator, who is probably a writer and teacher herself cannot help him.

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Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poem presents a Native-American woman hanging by her fingers from a window ledge 13 floors above the street. As she tries to decide whether or not she'll let go, she thinks of all the reasons that have led her to consider suicide: she feels broken in "several pieces between the two husbands she has had"; here in a crowded Chicago tenement, she is out of her natural native place in the north; she is poor; she suffers from racial discrimination; she hears voices; she cries "for lost beauty." She considers her three young children and remembers her own childhood. The poem ends with the either/or choice still not made--either she will fall to her death or she will climb back in the window and reclaim her life.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Criticism

Summary:

Couser, long interested in autobiography, explores the ethics of representation in biographical writing, and in particular, the ethics of representing vulnerable subjects--for example, the aged or very young, the sick or impaired, or those who are "socially or culturally disadvantaged." He is concerned with representation of people who are intimately connected to the biographer, either as family members, or in some other "trust-based relationship." Couser argues that the relationship between vulnerable subjects and their biographers is analogous to that between patients and their physicians and that therefore principles of bioethics should be applied to such life writing, especially the principles of autonomy, nonmaleficence, and beneficence.

Couser explores life writing and betrayal (Chapter 1), outlines how he will apply the principles of biomedical ethics and ethnographical ethics to life writing (Chapter 2), and applies these principles to examples of collaborative autobiography (Chapter 3). He then critiques in detail Michael Dorris’s memoir about his adopted son, The Broken Cord (Chapter 4); the work of Oliver Sacks (Chapter 6); memoirs of euthanasia (Couser calls these "euthanographies"), Saying Goodbye to Daniel: When Death Is the Best Choice, by Julia Cassutto Rothman; Rescuing Jeffrey, by Richard Galli, and But What If She Wants to Die, by George DeLury (Chapter 7). Finally, in the last chapter, Couser considers how investigation of the human genome might influence the "scripts" of our lives and hence life writing, and also how life writing might be a counter discursive force against genomic essentialism.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

Ian Stevenson, a psychiatrist at the University of Virginia, has devoted his career to the study of cases suggestive of reincarnation. The cases consist of narratives of young children who claim to remember past lives. The cases occur primarily in India, Sri Lanka, South Asia, West Africa, Lebanon, and among Northwestern Native Americans, in cultures and religions in which reincarnation is accepted. Stevenson and his colleagues have collected over 2000 such narratives, but only a much smaller number provide what he considers "strong" evidence.

In the latter cases, Stevenson has performed detailed, nearly contemporaneous investigations that appear to rule-out communication of any kind between the child's family and the relatives of the recently deceased person the child claims to be. In addition, many of the "strong" cases have birth defects or birthmarks at the exact sites of traumatic injuries in the deceased person's life.

This book is a shortened and popularized version of a scientific monograph entitled Reincarnation and Biology: A Contribution to the Etiology of Birthmarks and Birth Defects (also published by Praeger Press in 1997). Stevenson categorizes his cases by strength of evidence for a precisely located traumatic injury in the deceased person (i.e. simply remembered by the family, identified in medical records, or verified at autopsy). He also categorizes cases by the size and nature of the child's defect or birthmark.

In each chapter he presents a series of short narratives summarizing cases in a particular category, and comments on the weight and possible interpretations of the evidence. In Chapter 26 Stevenson analyzes a variety of explanations (including normal and paranormal possibilities), and concludes that the strongest of his cases are best explained by accepting the hypothesis of reincarnation (i.e. the discarnate personality of a recently dead person influencing the personality of a newborn child).

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Indian Camp

Hemingway, Ernest

Last Updated: Nov-28-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

From a fishing trip the local doctor is summoned to an Indian village to assist a woman in labor. With him are his young son and an older male relative. The physician assesses the situation in the closed, pungent hut and determines that his only option is section--with a pen knife and fishing leader as his instruments, and no anesthesia for the Indian woman. The doctor arrogantly, but only briefly, celebrates his success as a surgeon only to discover that the woman's husband, apparently unable to tolerate his wife's pain and the racism of the white visitors, has silently slit his own throat. The child, who has observed the entire proceedings asks, "Is dying hard, Daddy?"

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Annotated by:
Sirridge, Marjorie

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

Dr. Alvord was born to a Navajo father and a Caucasian mother--bilagaana--and felt from the beginning that she was walking the path between two worlds. Her childhood was spent on an Indian reservation and she was very close to her Indian grandmother.

She was fortunate to be able to attend Dartmouth College where there is strong support for American Indians. Actually there were 50 other Indian students there when she enrolled. From there she went to Stanford University for medical school and a surgical residency. This was a very unusual path for an Indian woman.

While in medical school and residency she felt very much separated from her Indian heritage and was glad to start her practice of surgery in the Indian Health Service and eventually to return to the Indian Hospital at Gallup, New Mexico, just fifty miles from the reservation where she grew up. This gave her the opportunity to learn more about Indian medicine and how to care for Indian patients.

While there she met her husband, a considerably younger Caucasian, and had her first child after a problem pregnancy. She sought the help of an Indian Medicine Man during this experience and felt much help from him. This is described very vividly.

Just eighteen years after she left Dartmouth she returned to be the Associate Dean for Minority and Student Affairs and to practice surgery and teach part time. There she hopes to share the Navajo philosophy of a balanced and harmonious life called "Walking in Beauty."

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

It is Good Friday, or, rather two Good Fridays: one muddy and stormy and demanding an indoor funeral conducted by a black-robe but infused with an attenuated Salish ritual. This is the bad Good Friday. The real Good Friday, the warm and sunny one, escapes the Christian emblems. The tribal mourners' ". . . chanting / bangs the door of any man's first cave." As the narrator leaves the church of the bad Good Friday funeral service, he notes, "Every year / A few less live who know the Salish hymn."

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Montana 1948

Watson, Larry

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This little novel is the retrospective tale of a childhood event told by the protagonist 40 years later. Family relationships and bonds in conflict with professional and community obligations vie with the shadow of racism and sexual abuse in the doctor/patient relationship for the core tensions in the book. The setting is a small rural community where the pioneer family about which the tale evolves controls the law and the medicine. The boy narrator relates his view of the breakdown of family as its secret--a physician uncle who is suspected of sexually abusing his native-American women patients--becomes a force that demands action from the doctor’s brother who serves as the sheriff.

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