Past courses and trainings in Indigenous and Narrative Studies

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Here are previous programs that we've developed for a variety of conferences and community groups.  The time format indicates the range of durations for these programs.  Scroll through these to find the ones that meet your wishes.  We can provide that training or customize a program, providing parts of several or combining two or more.  Typically, in a program of three hours or more, we aim for at least half to be experiential in which people learn and practice new skills.  


Creating interdisciplinary clinical collaborations with traditional cultural healers (1 hr to 1 day)

We explore models for collaborative, integrative practice of practitioners trained within modern academic health environments and traditional cultural healers, trained in centuries old apprenticeship fashion.  We consider how to practice alongside traditional healers, including how to approach healers, how to prepare people (those from other tribal groups, non-aboriginal people who wish to consult traditional healers, and assimilated aboriginal people who have lost their cultural fluency) to see a traditional healer, and how to help them make sense of their time with the healer.  We discuss ways of overlap and experiential ways of preparing people for traditional ceremonies and doctoring practices.  We explore how healers learn from each other and the conditions under which this is maximally possible.  Various “post-modern, neo-shamanic” techniques exist to help people from outside the healer’s community to achieve the mind state most compatible to benefit from traditional healing.  These include guided imagery, fasting, prayer, and meditation, movement meditative practices, and the like.  Additionally, we explore how to incorporate traditional doctoring techniques (which could be called “energy medicine” within a biomedical context) into healing practice.  We explore how one acquires knowledge of traditional healing approaches and how the use of these approaches is evolving within mixed cultural contexts.  We discuss how we can enrich our collaborations with traditional healers and our own professional practice through the awareness and methods that their work offers us.

Coyote Medicine: Lessons from Native American Healing (1 hour to 2 days)

Native American healers can teach us much about healing and transcendence.  While cure is not always possible, healing is and can manifest on many levels.  In studies of people who have experienced dramatic cure while working with Native American healers, it becomes clear that healers engage in a dialogue within community to create stories that create the possibility for believing in healing.  The more the community supports this story, the more likely healing becomes.  As healing and transcendence occur, then cure may sometimes result.  The people who experience these cures become very present-oriented.  They let go of past grudges and bitterness.  They diminish their fear of the future.  Paradoxically, they seem to make peace with death.  They report often dramatic changes in their quality of life, their relationships and their sense of connectedness to the spiritual.  We will consider how to accomplish these goals within modern life.


Indigenous Culture and Cancer (1 hour to 1 day)

Indigenous cultures provide different views upon cancer and cancer treatment that are important in changing our views of health and disease. These cultures do not place health and illness as opposite ends of a continuum, but recognize illness as part of health, a response of the healthy organism to recognize imbalance and dysharmony and to act to stimulate the organism to engage in self-repair. Similar to what is encountered in systems theory, cancer is seen as a disease of meaning, in which the stimulus is to uncover those relationships to environment, self, spirit, body, community, and family in which meaning has been eroded and purpose has been lost, and then to restore or reconstruct meaning and purpose as a spiritual transformation that certainly leads to healing, and sometimes to curing. Both indigenous cultures and systems theorists see illness as a self-organizing and creative response to challenging conditions. What differs greatly from the points of view of both indigenous cultures and systems theory is the understanding that small changes in relationships within systems can propagate to produce dramatic changes over time. Systems are seen as self-correcting. Homeopathy recognizes this in its desire to use remedies to catalyze the body's self-healing response. This differs from allopathic medicine and the current biomolecular model which assumes that only external forces can eliminate cancer and only through the killing of these cells -- especially through chemotherapy. These paradigms of meaning suggest that changes in relationships and in information content can multiply to produce biochemical and immunological changes that can drive cancer cells back to normal cells or can stimulate super-ordinary responses from the body's own immune system that can overcome cancer cells. Killing is not necessarily the goal, but rather transformation. The various indigenous healing approaches are based upon the concept of personal and spiritual transformation -- the idea that profound changes in one's relationship to self, family, and to the spiritual dimension will provoke physiological changes through the entanglement of these various systems. Future cancer therapies may need to rely more upon these therapies of meaning and less upon current therapies of destruction. This paradigm shift may be important for future leaps forward in our treatment and compassion for those who suffer.


Traditional Healing Practices (1 hour to 1 day)

Traditional healing practices arise from uniquely indigenous knowledge systems about healing in locall environments and for specific peoples.  The Santee physician of the 19th century, Charles Eastman, wrote about traditional spirituality and healing practices being most threatening to the Jesuit converters compared to anything else.  If you break a man’s spirituality, he wrote, you break everything.  Recovering spirituality and healing practices represent a process of cultural recovery that opposes globalized modernistic technological culture’s efforts to homogenize people and to eliminate local healing practices in favor of more profitable (for them) pharmacological approaches.  Perhaps more important than the specific healing practices recovered is the world view and the epistemology that forms the basis for these practices.  Specific practices can be re-invented or can spontaneous emerge given an intact world view and a method for seeking knowledge.  Indigenous cultures emphasize dialogical methods of knowledge production over typical positivistic, empirical investigative practices.  Dialogue refers to information exchange and is commonly practiced with a much wider range of informants among indigenous people than positivistic empiricists (the dominant culture’s primary model for knowledge production).  Indigenous dialogue is with elements of Nature and with spiritual beings as well as other living human beings.  Elements of nature include plants and animals.  Jeffery Narby tells a story about wondering with Peruvian shamans how they knew to combine the plants necessary to produce visions when ingested.  He described their amazement at his stupidity.  “We asked the plants and they told us,” was the answer.  Similarly, within Northern Saskatchewan, where I work, dialogue with animals is common as a means for solving problems among the Dineh.  Spiritual dialogue occurs with helper spirits, spirits of illness, ancestors, and more.  When dialogue is possible, new ceremonies and practices can spontaneously arise for solving contemporary problems but within the lineage of indigenous tradition.  In that way, we do not have to fear the loss of ceremonies, rituals, or healing practices, since the dialogue can restore them or allow new practices to emerge.  A historical example of this occurred in 1868 when Horn Chips climbed to the top of Bear Butte, South Dakota to cry for a vision (hanblecheya) for a ceremony to cure “white people disease,” most notably smallpox.  His vision led to the enactment of the yuwipi ceremony which is still done today and has become one of the most important contemporary ceremonies of the Lakota.  The Ghost Dance and the Native American Church arose in a similar fashion.  The performance of all these practices results in a resistance to globalization, homogeneity of cultures, and the suppression of local practices and traditions in favor of global technological expertise.  The purpose of this paper is to describe this process of restoration of dialogue within communities in a manner that is both contemporary and supported by existing indigenous knowledge systems.  Culture must evolve and current indigenous culture in North America can evolve a healing system that is different and even superior to what is being offered to modern people (through Indian Health Service or through Health Canada).


Native American Culture and Spirituality: Lessons for Psychology in the 21st Century. (1 hour to 1 day)

Psychotherapy clearly exists within the Native American spiritual and healing arts, although not formally defined.  In preparation for ritual and in spiritual teaching, psychotherapy plays a vital role.  The rules by which therapist and client interact are different, with the therapist/shaman demanding more respect than in the modern consumerist culture and also being more directive in telling the suffering individual what to do.  We will discuss the following areas in which mainstream psychology and psychotherapy can learn from Native American culture and can incorporate techniques from Native American spirituality:

            1.  The acceptance of spirituality within the practice of psychotherapy.  Within a respect for each client’s individual spiritual beliefs, we can work within that belief system to encourage spiritual growth and development during the psychotherapy process and to use the power and energy of spirituality to facilitate psychological change.

            2.  The use of “magical” procedures which transfer the therapist’s healing intention to the client in ways which remain between sessions.

            3.  The use of change of identity for healing in desperate situations.

            Following discussion of these specifics we will consider the joys and pitfalls in integrating Native American spirituality and modern psychotherapy.


Native American Healing Practices

North American traditional healing operates from different assumptions from conventional biomedicine.  Disease is located in relationships, including our relationships with family members, with food (plants and animals), minerals, other people, spirits, the place we live, and more.  When these relationships are distorted and out of balance, dis-ease ensues.  Traditional healers see the changes found in autopsies as footprints of the illness and not the illness itself.  From this perspective, traditional healers engage in very different diagnostic procedures than conventional physicians.  They seek the areas of disharmony and imbalance in relationships rather than looking for diseases in physical tissues.  From this point of view, each person becomes their own story about their suffering and the treatment relates to that story as it unfolds to all the stakeholders in that story.  The treatment becomes a story that merges with the illness-person story to move in a direction of balance and harmony.  Every treatment is different because every person is different.  There is no treatment for arthritis, only for the individual people who suffer.  We consider a diagnosis-treatment system that is driven by individuals for individuals with a radically different conceptualization system than the one operating in conventional medicine.

We explore the idea of the spirit of an illness that arises from relational transactions.  We explore traditional methods of dialogue with spirits – those from nature, those from the spirit realm, and the souls of other people.  We explore traditional diagnostic methods such as hand trembling or shaking tent ceremonies.  We consider the nature of prayer in diagnosis and treatment planning.  We see how differently they think and perceive from conventional biomedical approaches.  We explore the search for sources of disharmony and imbalance and how that proceeds and how that is different from conventional diagnostic methods.  We practice eliciting the story of an illness and explore integrating stories from the patient, family members, and the illness itself.  We see how treatment stories develop.  We compare traditional North American healing to the ideas that emerge from complexity studies and modern physics.


Coyote Wisdom:  Lessons for Healing from Native America

This course aims to provide participants with an experience of a "Native American inspired, post-modern, semi-urban, neo-shamanic" approach to healing, which is what we jokingly call Coyote Wisdom.  We'll start with a discussion of how traditional healers see mind, identity, body, story, health, and illness and lead into the concept of story -- the one we live and the ones that live us and how to use story for healing.  We will see how guided imagery and storytelling fit into this.  We'll lead into Native American inspired energy healing or "doctoring" as it is often translated, learn about the talking circle for conflict resolution and healing, and finish with ceremony.  


Overview of Native North American healing practices (1 hour to 3 days):

These practices are based on the belief that healing has a spiritual aspect that must be addressed. Elders say that they heal both the body and soul, as well as restore harmony to the community and nature. Healers communicate with spirits in order to help heal. Some healers say they can heal spiritual, psychic, and physical wounds as well as communities and global conditions.

Healers work in cultures that include other specialists such as herbalists, diviners, bonesetters, and midwives. Some healers are very selective in choosing which people they will treat because if they fail, they lose stature.

Healers enter a trance to figure out what is wrong with the patient and what to do about it. The healer or an assistant may pray, sing, chant, dance, or drum around the patient. Storytelling and other art forms may also be used. During the trance, the healer's soul is believed to leave the body and travel to the spirit world in a search to help the sick person. This is where the healer communicates with the spirits thought to be responsible for the illness. Although the healer is in a state of trance, he is still conscious and aware. This allows him to bargain with the spirits who can help the patient's illness. The healer returns and shares his or her vision with the sick person.

Each healer must complete rigorous training, especially in the ability to achieve the controlled trance required for communication with the spirits. Healers work both with individual patients and with groups.

What is the history behind it? Traditional healing of this type may date back as far as 40,000 years. It is believed to have begun in the Altai and Ural Mountains of western China and Russia, probably in the form of a religion. In the Tungusu-Manchurian language, the word shaman means, "one who knows."

Native North American healing emphasizes the role faith, hope, and belief play as they are embedded within a community and a culture. Traditional healing emphasizes the importance of relational and cultural elements in determining the effectiveness of complementary and alternative medicine and will reflect upon research methodologies to capture these phenomena.

Native American Icommunity-based medical systems have a number of rituals and practices: sweating and purging, usually done in a "sweat lodge"; the use of herbal remedies gathered from the surrounding environment and sometimes traded over long distances; and shamanic healing involving naturalistic or personalistic healing. Tribes such as the Lakota and Dineh (Navajo) also use practices such as the medicine wheel, sacred hoop, and the "sing," which is a healing ceremony rite that lasts from two to nine days and nights and is guided by a highly skilled specialist called a "singer."

Formal research into the healing ceremonies and herbal medicines conducted and used by bona fide Native American healers or holy people is almost nonexistent, even though Native American Indians believe they positively cure both the mind and body. Ailments and diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, thyroid conditions, cancer, skin rashes, and asthma reportedly have been cured by Native American doctors who are knowledgeable about the complex ceremonies.


Contributions of aboriginal medicine to modern health care. (1 hour to 1 day)


The world’s traditional healers have much to teach modern medicine.  In the dialectic between technology and humanism, medicine has swung too far from the healing traditions of our past.

Seven principles about healing have emerged from my study of what aboriginal healers do to help patients get well:  1. They spend time and they recognize that time is in itself healing (time).  2.  Healers recognize that healing only can occur within the context of a quality relationship (holding environment).  3.  Healers listen to the client’s story of the illness, making sure that the client knows that the healer has understood, and then use their methods to transform the story toward one that ends with wellness (Deconstruction-reconstruction).  4.  Healers recognize that major life changes are required for recovery from chronic diseases (2nd and 3rd order changes).  5.  Healers enroll and enlist the community in supporting and facilitating the healing process (ceremony).  6. Healers call upon spiritual resources for help with healing, serving as a channel or conduit for the patient to recognize and encounter this dimension (prayer and shamanism), holding an unshakeable belief that the client can get well (faith).  7.  Healers recognize and work with the interconnectedness and inter-relatedness of all beings (systems theory)

Medicine needs Coyote the trickster to return to a caring, compassionate profession that can include the seven principles of traditional healing. In the tradition of coyote, we will consider how to change modern medicine so that it can once again be healing.  We will discuss how to infiltrate and change health care for the better.


Mehl-Madrona L.  Coyote Medicine.  New York: Firestone, 1998.

Radtke HL, Stam HJ.  (1991).  The relationship between absorption, openness to experience, anhedonia, and susceptibility.  Intl J clin and exp hypnosis.  39: 39-56.

Rilling J, et al. (2002).  A neural basis for social cooperation.  Neuron 35: 395-405.

Sachdev PS.  Maori Elder-Patient Relationship as a Therapeutic Paradigm.  Psychiatry 1989; 52: 393-403.

Sachdev PS.  Maori Elder as counselor in a forensic psychiatry unit in Otago, New Zealand.  Presented at 22nd Annual Congress, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, Brisbane, Australia, 1986


Traditional Aboriginal Healing and Modern Health Care: An Integration of Possibilities (1 hour to 1 day):

Traditional cultural healing is starting to flourish in much of aboriginal North America today.  Forced underground by the Indian Act, which proceeded to outlaw its practice, it became legal again in 1960.  Since then, healers have been becoming more and more public, more conspicuous, and more open about their work, though some older individuals still work in secrecy given their closest to the time frame of healing being outlawed.  In this course we will look at some of the fundamentally different ideas behind this healing and compare and contrast them with the European-derived biomedical model.  The aboriginal model sees illness as arising from disharmony and imbalance and seeks to restore harmony and balance as a means of cure, more often than making a direct attack on the symptoms themselves (as the biomedical model does).  The clues for how to restore harmony and balance lie within the person’s life story or master narrative.  Healers typically spend much time listening to all the stories that are being told about the sick individual so as to know where to suggest restoring harmony and balance.  In fact, the story is seen as more important than the diagnosis, for the story is the diagnosis.  Allopathic categorizations such as arthritis or diabetes are of generally less value than the person’s own story of becoming ill and being ill.  Illness, in that context, is a verb, whereas biomedicine makes it a noun, a “thing” that one has.

Following an exploration of the differences in philosophy of traditional cultural medicine and biomedicine, we will consider how traditional healers work through stories that describe their interactions with their clients.  We will look at their use of story and the re-authoring of those stories, their telling of traditional stories, their use of ceremony and ritual, their use of herbs and medicines, and their use of energy medicine, or what is called “doctoring.”  We will consider concepts of curses, spirit possession, and bad medicine and compare these to European-derived concepts.

Healing through dialogue clearly exists within traditional cultures, but is not the same as Western concepts of psychotherapy, a concept with which most traditional people disagree.  Dialogue exists to change story and to restore participants in participation in tradition roles as prescribed by ancient teaching stories.  The rules by which client and healer interact are different, with the shaman/healer demanding more respect than in the modern consumerist culture and also being more directive in telling the suffering individual what to do.

Spirituality is essential to traditional healing.  Healers work within their clients’ belief systems (master narratives) to encourage spiritual growth and development and to use the power and energy of spirituality to facilitate change.

The use of “magical procedures” or ceremonies transfers the healer’s intentions to the client in ways which persist between sessions.

Finally, we will consider what traditional cultural healing practices and aboriginal philosophies have to offer modern medicine and psychology, including what contemporary practitioners need to know to work effectively with aboriginal people.


Inspirational Techniques from Aboriginal Healing Practices for Spiritual Enhancement in the Clinical Office Setting (1 hour to 6 hours):

This course address what we can do in an office setting to enhance the spiritual experience of ourselves and others who sit with us.  We draw from the presenter’s roots in aboriginal culture to find modern translations of these concepts that practitioners can use in contemporary settings.  First comes the concept of purification.  Most ceremonies are preceded by purification as a means of mental preparation, building focus, channeling energy, and being helpful.  We review personal means for purification that can be done before, during, and after work and will perform a short purification for ourselves.  Then we consider prayer.  Prayer can be powerful before, during, and after visits.  We do a brief prayer ceremony.  We move on to spiritual dialogue.  Through accessing trance states (altered states of consciousness), we become more able to put aside our conventional beliefs about the world (including our limitations) and enter into a dialogue with Nature and the spiritual domain.  This includes conversations with non-physical beings.  We do an experiential exercise to gain deeper understanding of this concept and process.  We discuss the need for continued dialogue, concepts of spirit helpers, and ancestral guidance, and how to allow these ideas to become ordinary.  We conclude with the Lakota-style talking circle as a means to allow ourselves to more fully experience each other and will depart with a closing prayer.  (The ceremonies cannot readily be done in the 1-2 hour format.)


Participants will be able to list three differences in world views between typical aboriginal models for mind and conventional psychological models as taught in American universities.

Participants will be able to list three ways in which what is often called “psychotherapy” would differ in traditional aboriginal societies.


Aboriginal Approaches to Mind and Mental Health (1 hour to 4 hours):

I. Cultural differences in the definition of “mind”

II. Identity as story.

Elders have said, “All we are, are the stories that have been and will be told about us.”

If stories define identity then we can only understand ourselves by reviewing all these stories.

Since stories arise in social relationships, then this is another way of saying that social relationships create and maintain our identities, which can differ by context.

III.  Relational Self

The Western “Self” is hard to find in indigenous societies.  It does not behave like a rock, a fish, a deer, or a tree.  Where can one locate it.

Most aboriginal cultures locate the self between people.

We are formed from our relationships which create and define us.

We are our roles and the expectations placed upon us within our communities and families.

We are created and maintained as well by relationships with the land, the animals, the plants, and the spirit world.

Current psychological research emphasizes the contextual nature of behavior, as opposed to an intrinsic, personality driven model.

If self is relational and identity is story, then DSM is not as relevant

Behavior is not as maintained or predicted from an individual analysis as DSM would suggest.

DSM is more culture bound than its proponents suspect.


IV. How is aboriginal psychology different from Western psychology

A.  Tremendous focus on relationship and community and harmony and balance within those relationships and communities.

B.  Emphasis upon traditional roles and role enactment.

C.  Emphasis on techniques of self-management (meditation, for example).

D.  Emphasis on body-centered approaches since mind is not separate from body.

 Spiritual practices and psychotherapies often neglect the healing power of the body. 

Indigenous healing systems of all cultures have always touched the body as a means of activating the self-healing response.  

Native American healing is no exception.

E.  Use a narrative approach to healing, meaning listening to the patient's story to discover how he or she constructs a world of meaning and belief and changing that story to change the illness.

V. Examples of Community Interventions

Healing circles and talking circles to create community when people have none. 

Large group ceremonies.

Culturally specific “group therapy like” processes (e.g. in the sweat lodge ceremony or in ho’oponopono).. crucial to psychological healing.


VII.  The Healing Power of Spirit (1 hour to 4 hours)

A.    Spirituality and spiritual healing is an intimate part of psychology since all healing is spiritual healing

B.     Prayer is an essential part of all therapeutic encounters.

C.     Ceremony often represents people's first contact with the spirit realm.



Mehl-Madrona L. (1998). Coyote Medicine: Lessons from Native America for Healing.  New York City: Firestone.

Mehl-Madrona L. (2003).  Coyote Healing: Miracles from Native America.  Rochester, VT: Bear and Company/InnerTraditions.

Duran E, Duran B (2002). Post-Colonial Native American Psychology.  Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Westerman T. (2004). Engagement of indigenous clients in mental health services: What role do cultural differences play?  Australian e-Journal for the Advancement of Mental Health, 3(3).

Wells, MI. (2000). Beyond cultural competence: a model for individual and institutional cultural development.  Journal of Community Health Nursing 17(4): 189-199.



 This workshop can begin a healing process on many levels.  It is for people searching for a sense of peace and harmony in their lives.   It can be of great value and benefit to those suffering from a physical illness.  In the Native American Way illness is a path that arises from a lack of harmony and balance in the way in which we walk upon the earth.  We are especially interested in healing the child within so that people can pass that healing on to their own children and their children's children.  We are the children of the future.  Our children are the future of the world. 

We will begin with an overview of what indigenous healing systems, particularly those of Native North America have to offer us for our modern lives.  We will discuss the importance of ceremony and ritual in our lives, and consider how to recover those events in the modern world.  We will discuss the sweat lodge, the sacred pipe, prayer and other ceremony.  We will close with an imagery exercise to feel more connected to the earth.

Next we will explore the stories about our illnesses and ways that we suffer.  We will look at the stories we are living and the stories that are living us.  We will invite our illnesses and pains and sadness to tell their own stories.  We will see how story is crucial to ceremony and ritual and will hear some traditional stories.

Then we will participate in a talking circle process in which we design and carry out our own ceremony for healing.  We will see how people of all backgrounds can create ceremony and ritual together that is respectful of everyone’s culture of origin.

Finally we will continue to explore the inner landscape of our body to discover the source of illness, draw on the resources of our spirit guides, helpers, and allies, and gain deeper insight to dialogue and resolve affliction.  We will commit to practices to continue in our daily lives and consider how our healing might continue after the workshop ends.  We will finish with stories of future wellness that will guide our steps after we leave.


Indigenous Healing Wisdom for Modern Practice (A series of 12 weekends which can be done in any order or as desired):

Goal: “To enrich your life and professional practice with the wisdom of the wisdom, medicine, culture, and spirituality of the indigenous world.  Our goal is to bridge the pre-modern world to the post-modern world, preserving, teaching, and honoring the wisdom of the ages and of diverse cultures, and incorporating it into our modern practice of the healing arts.”

In this training program, we will discover, explore, and teach how the insights and wisdom of indigenous healing and culture can enrich our personal and professional lives. 

Training Module 1:  Indigenous Culture, Post-modernism, social constructionism, narrative practices, and applied quantum theory.

How do these diverse areas relate and support each other?  Post-modern philosophy provides a basis for understanding and integrating diverse cultures with equal validity.  Social constructionism provides a way of understanding how we create our methods for healing and curing through our networks of social relationships.  It downplays the role of the expert or the idea of privileged knowledge, and supports the idea of local knowledge developed by particular communities for particular contexts and needs.  The wisdom of any particular culture arises from its context in geography, history, and networks of relationships to other cultures.  That wisdom may not be relevant to other communities and cultures except in the sense of learning how practices arise out of context and need.  Translation is necessary between cultures to consider what elements of one culture can inspire, aid, and inform another culture.  Dialogue is necessary for this to happen.  Through dialogue members of diverse cultures share perspectives and come to understand how local practices have arisen and whether parts or wholes of them can be useful to other cultures.  Narrative practices acknowledge that these powerful cross-cultural dialogues take place through the telling of stories.  Cultures maintain their integrity through their traditional stories.  The passage of stories from generation to generation represents the preservation of culture.  In our post-modern world of contact with multiple cultures, elements of culture pass across previously rigid cultural boundaries to enrich and inform other cultures through the global dialogue.  Applied quantum theory gives us a natural science framework to understand how cultures “in-form” their members how to belong and actually shape members to achieve better fits and to evolve in culturally desired directions.  Concepts of holism, non-locality, non-separability, and connectivity inform our understanding of how change occurs and practices evolve.

This course arose from a conclusion of dialogue of multiple people that the wisdom of indigenous cultures is in danger of extinction.  This wisdom represents a radically different view of healing and curing than modern biomedicine.  The biomedical perspective is exclusionary and dismissive in its insistence that it is the most valid and effective paradigm for healing and curing.  Multiple voices are dismissed by this dominant discourse.  A value and belief is emerging among a segment of health care practitioners that the wisdom of indigenous cultures and their practices are needed within modern health care in order to be more effective and compassionate.  We have encountered the limits of the pharmaceutical industry as well as some downsides to the exclusive practice of constructing problems as belonging to individuals and solving them with drugs.  While this method can produce results, we recognize that other ways of conceiving problems may be equally effective and more desirable.

Training Module 2: The healing wisdom of Native North America.

The essence of Native American healing is to conceptualize dis-ease and illness as resulting from imbalance and disharmony in relationships.  Cherokee culture, for example, envisions relationships as the essence of a life, rather than the self, as is frequently posited by European-American culture.  Relationships emerge with the plant kingdom, animal world, land and geographical landmarks, loved ones, family members, community, ancestors, and larger culture.  Our relationships with the plant and animal kingdoms involve what we eat, herbs that we use, how we obtain our food, and how we dispose of our wastes.  Emotions are seen as arising out of relationships with other human beings.  This perspective differs radically from the biomedical perspective of illness arising from biological-structural changes in tissues, often conceived as the result of genetic causes.  Therapy is directed at changing gene expression, usually through pharmacological means or surgically altering the effects of chronic tissue changes.  Native American healing is directed toward restoring balance and harmony among all relevant relationships.  Even the question of confidentiality is addressed differently in Native American life, since the relationship is primary and the person is secondary.

The medicine wheel and its spiral philosophy of growth and development provides a heuristic framework for diagramming and understanding these concepts of harmony and imbalance.  We will consider the 16 points of the medicine wheel and how they inform us to remain in balance as we address suffering and dis-ease.  We will

Training Module 3:  The Healing Wisdom of (Another Culture – to be announced).  This module resembles training module 2, but for one other indigenous culture, depending upon who is available.  It will be a culture from outside of North America.

Training Module 4.  Incorporation of Ritual and Ceremony into Health Practices.

Why are ceremonies and rituals important?  How does using dramatic (in the sense of acting physically) practices affect our conception of what we are doing.  We will consider the common elements of rituals and ceremonies from multiple cultures and will consider the usefulness in health practice of daily ceremonies.  These can include welcoming the dawn, greeting the twilight, removing adverse energy or entities, purification ceremonies, vision quests, and other specific practices of local tribes or groups.  We will explore the concept of spiritual entities and various concepts of how they interact with humans, especially in reference to health and disease.

Training Module 5.  Storytelling and Visualization.

We will learn how indigenous cultures use storytelling, imagery, and visualization as part of the healing and curing process.  One tribe, for example, uses a practice that translates literally as “putting them to sleep so that they dream like they’re asleep, but they’re really awake.”  Stories are crucial to indigenous cultures.  Some scholars have argued that our modern culture suffers in its loss of traditional stories.  We will explore how stories inspire people to believe that they can be healed or cured.  Stories revision people’s sense of what healing and curing means and how it comes to pass.  Within the modern world, Alcoholics Anonymous provides an example of the healing power of stories.  Through testimonials, other alcoholics learn to believe that they can stay sober also.  The Native American Church and other cultural practices also use stories to inspire transformation.  Storytelling requires the use of language as rhetoric, including the power of persuasion (often called hypnosis in the modern European-American world).  Evocative visual images make the story more powerful. 

Training Module 6.  Energy healing.

Energy healing is a common aspect of the indigenous world, largely dropped by modern biomedicine.  Multiple types of energy healing practices exist.  Cherokee culture, for example, uses hands on the body, hands over the body, the shaking of rattles, burning of herbs, use of crystals, and the use of feathers and feather fans to move energy.  Cherokee also practices an acupuncture-like process of inserting needles (thorns, porcupine quills) into specific points along meridians to remove energy blockages.  In this module, we will consider the concept of energy – what is it, how does it work, how do we work with it, what happens when we work with energy.  We recognize that these are constructions to guide us and not necessarily absolutely true, but rather models to guide our practices.  Energy healing is used to clear energy from ourselves, our sacred objects, and our dwelling places.

Training Module 7.  Manual Therapies.

Every culture provides hands-on therapies.  On Zuni pueblo, in New Mexico, for example, high velocity adjustment practices developed parallel to and preceding the development of chiropractic medicine in Iowa.  Apocryphal stories exist about chiropractic arising from the study of existing Native American methods.  Hawai’ians have lomilomi, Cherokee have a well-developed style of bodywork, as did Apaches.  In this module, we will learn one type of manual therapy from an indigenous culture, aimed at incorporation into local practices and also preservation of particular styles of practice that are in danger of extinction.

Training Module 8.  Large Group Experiences.

Within a narrative stance and a post-modern framework, and entirely compatible with the practices of indigenous cultures, is the idea that groups best solve their own problems.  Groups decide what constitute problems and what comprise acceptable methods for solving these problems.  We will consider the practices of healing circles, large group meetings to bring social networks together to discuss their constitution of a problem and to brainstorm about solutions.  We will consider the healing power of large group ceremonies for healing communities.

Training Module 9.  Natural Therapies (herbs, diet, water, hot springs, etc.)

In subsequent weekends we will explore plant spirit medicine, nutrition and herbs.  Indigenous cultures have different views of plants and natural therapies than the natural products biochemical point of view of European-American cultures.  We wish to explore and preserve these alternative points of view regarding herbs and plants and animals and their use in healing and curing.  These points of view include the idea of communicating with the spirit of plants to learn what the plants want to heal.

Training Module 10.  Bridging cultures; pitfalls, challenges, enlarging the global dialogue.

Training Module 11.  Integration and Theory Revisited; Modern Practices that Enrich Indigenous Healing.

Besides having time to revisit how our theories and ideas have changed over the course of the training, we will visit some modern practices that seem to build upon indigenous understanding of the world.  These include practices like hypnosis, biofeedback, neurofeedback, magnetic therapies, and electrical stimulation.  We will take time to explore some of these tools to wonder how they might be integrated with indigenous practices.  We will revisit the world of applied quantum theory to talk about the theoretical basis for our being connected with each other and being influenced by each other, sometimes in unexpected ways.

Training Module 12.  Group practice. 

We will form a community of practitioners and “clients” to interact as a community to implement the practices that have been learned.  We will explore non-expert


Native American Resources for Personal and Spiritual Transformation (1 hour to 2 days)"

Native American culture and spirituality offer multiple resources that are less available in Anglo-European society.  These resources can be used for personal and spiritual transformation.  The sweat lodge is one of these resources as a ceremonial aspect of personal and spiritual cleansing.  During this day long process, we will explore the stories that define this aspect of culture and transformation and that explain the symbolism and meaning of the sweat lodge.  We will participate in these teachings and stories and then will share a sweat lodge ceremony together.  After the ceremony, we will consider some key questions about ourselves – how can we be both modern people and indigenous people, how can we maintain the traditions of an earlier time and still participate in the modern world, what are we to make of the purists who claim that aboriginal ceremonies should be limited to pure blood aboriginal people, and what is the proper means to respect traditional ceremony in the face of diversity.


Coyote Psychiatry:  Native American Wisdom for Healing Emotional Pain (1 hour to 2 days):

In this course, we are going to look at what medicine people really do when they undertake the healing of a patient.  We review the story: “Melvin Grey Fox cures a schizophrenic.”  What happened to make that young man better?  How can we learn from what Melvin did to enrich or own lives and our practices?  We know that Native American healers teach us to spend time with our patients when its needed and as much as is needed.  They understand the importance of relationship for healing.  They understand the seven directions of the body and know that change must happen for all of these directions for healing to occur.  They know that a major illness requires major life change for healing.  I call this quantum change.  The person who you used to be must be no more.  You must be “born anew” to a new personhood, a new personality to escape from the territory of illness.  You must reverse your path to get out of the swamp, returning to an earlier time of life and remaking earlier choices.  Gary Holy Bull calls this, changing your childhood.  To heal we must interweave our life stories with those of the divine.  We must create sacred stories that are both personal and infinite and include our wellness as a logical outcome.  We contact the sacred and listen to the spirits through ceremony and ritual, an important part of any healing journey.  We will conclude with a ceremony to pray for ourselves and our patients and to show how we can weave ceremony into time with patients.


 The Medicine Wheel (1 hour to 1 day):


In this course we will study the symbolism of the medicine wheel and how it forms a map for the healing journey. We will learn daily practices and rituals, including those to welcome the dawn, greet twilight, and prayers of protection and gratitude. We will explore Native American imagery and visualization techniques and methods of “clearing energy ” from ourselves, our dwellings and sacred objects. We will review the concept and practice of purification, vision quests, medicine bags and sweat lodge ceremonies.


Cherokee Bodywork (1 hour to 7 days):


The Cherokee culture developed a comprehensive, sophisticated body work system that encompassed a form of osteopathic massage and manipulation, breath, and energy work. We will learn some of its fundamental techniques including the use of breath to re-animate the body and “draw spirit” into affected tissues and the alternation of deep pressure and gentle rocking release. We will compare this approach with Apache body work, a more intense, deep pressure style. We will also learn about Cherokee acupuncture, crystal scanning and healing, the channeling of spirits and healing energy.


Storytelling / Visualization / Ritual (1 hour to 3 days):


In this course we immerse ourselves in the rich techniques of healing stories and guided visualizations many Native American cultures refined into masterful therapeutic modalities. We learn how to develop rituals to use with our clients as well as for our own healing and protection, and we close our time together with ceremonies that include the Lakota pipe ceremony and “spirit expulsion” ceremonies.