Indigenous spiritualities

Harvey, Graham (2012). Indigenous spiritualities. In: Cobb, Mark R; Puchalski, Christina M. and Rumbold, Bruce eds. Oxford Textbook of Spirituality in Healthcare. Oxford Textbooks In Public Health. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 49–54.



This chapter introduces some key facets of indigenous knowledge (usually best seen in practice or performance) that are necessary features of an understanding of what health and healthcare might mean in relation to indigenous peoples. In particular, it engages with what can (with some care) be called animist worldviews, a reference to the pervasive relational ontologies and epistemologies of many indigenous peoples. It considers some definitions of health as "good living", which call on people to live with respect for others. The activities and practices of traditional diviners, healers, shamans, and medicine people are introduced. Understanding relationships also leads to understanding the widespread notion that ill-health has relational causes, sometimes caused by breaches of tabu, sometimes by the machinations that might be called "witchery". Even when dispossessed from land and communal belonging, indigenous people's health needs are often still tied in to more relational than individualist notions of what it means to be a person. This may be true either because such people maintain "traditional" habits of living and knowledge or because they are stereotypically treated as "different" by the dominant society. In short, this chapter tries to consider a range of ways in which health and indigenous spiritualities might intersect and require further consideration.

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