A traveling exhibit of Native American medicine practices in North America was previewed in the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage on Monday. The exhibit explores the different aspects of wellness, illness and native life through interviews and art.
The exhibit is called “Native Voices: Native Peoples’ Concepts of Health and Issues” and it features concepts of health from contemporary American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians. Representatives from many different tribes were interviewed about the different medical practices and the importance of the wellbeing of an individual for an entire community.
Senior staff at the US National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland Dr. Robert Logan says the exhibit started as a way to show Americans the health disparities and difficulties that medically underserved communities face.
“But as we began to do this, it suddenly turned more positive and stimulating than we ever thought. People started telling us about not just examples of failure but also examples of success. And also they began telling us very stimulating things about how Native Americans conceive of health and illness differently than a lot of Americans do.”
Logan says the exhibit uses a combination of native artwork, artifacts and interviews with Native Americans accessible on iPads and tablets that work together to explain the use of traditional and Western medicines.
“To most of us when we are ill, we think if you’re ill you go see a health care provider and you get a medication or you get some kind of procedure and that’s it. To people who are Native American, that has nothing to do with health whatsoever. Your health is the health of the community that’s around you. Your health is related to the health of nature that’s around you. It’s a totally different way of thinking about what’s the quality of life. What’s the community, what’s the role of an individual? It’s fascinating and stimulating.”
The app, Logan says, allows people to search for subjects specifically or browse around. He says he understands not everyone can make it to Anchorage for the exhibit but the app is available in the iTunes store.