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Reviewed by:
  • Religion and Healing in Native America: Pathways for Renewal
  • James T. Carroll
Suzanne J. Crawford O’Brien, ed. Religion and Healing in Native America: Pathways for Renewal. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2008. 236 pp. Cloth, $49.95; e-book, $54.95.

Religion and Healing in Native America is a rich and nuanced treatment of Native Americans views on physical health, storytelling, history, and the future direction of Indigenous scholarship and discourse. Suzanne Crawford O’Brien, the editor, selected essays covering a wide range of topics and recognized the necessity of balancing Indigenous and non-Indigenous voices. The organization, integration, and clarity found in the text are a product of both effective editing and a robust thesis linking the various essays—comparing Indigenous views on notions of “wellness,” “health and well-being,” and the pivotal intersection of religion and healing in Native cultures and traditions.

The text is divided into four parts, each containing two essays that balance cultural and historical analysis with contemporary endeavors and practices. In dealing with the “wounds of colonialism” the authors tackle the prevalence of cancer and diabetes in Native communities and make clear connections between colonial contact and these maladies. More important, however, are the programs and endeavors by Native peoples to contextualize disease in an appropriate cultural context. The second part deals with the broad concept of “cultural identity and well being” by examining how alcohol abuse has led many Native peoples to recall Native spirituality and to overcome addiction through culturally appropriate recovery programs. The linchpin is the contemporary effort to use storytelling to reconnect with the past and to shed the negative elements of colonial domination. The next group of essays considers notions of “self” among Native peoples and reviews a number of current endeavors aimed at reconnecting Indigenous culture with contemporary experiences in Native and urban communities. [End Page 258] The violence and loneliness that Native women encounter in urban areas has galvanized many to form self-help groups, including the Still Movement in Vancouver and the Women’s Wellness Program in the Puget Sound, to apply traditional remedies to contemporary challenges. It is clear that Native communities are addressing important issues in ways that value the culture and history of various tribal groups. The book concludes with two essays that synthesize the major themes—healing and storytelling—and rely on moving firsthand accounts related to both themes.

Religion and Healing in Native America consists of eight essays covering the major ideas of healing and storytelling with an insightful foreword and afterword that contextualize and connect the individual essays to the larger theme. Each essay is accompanied by an up-to-date and comprehensive bibliography, which greatly enhances the value of the essays for those interested in exploring the various issues and topics in greater detail. In addition, the essays may be used individually or collectively by scholars, health professionals, sociologists, historians, and the like.

Religion and Healing in Native America is a carefully researched and culturally nuanced treatment of the intersection between Native cultural practices and health. The essays provide a wide array of interpretations and approaches to connecting culture and wellness. This treatment would benefit both scholars and health professionals and makes an important contribution to understanding Native cultures in the twenty-first century.

James T. Carroll
Iona College


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pp. 258-259
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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