Bush medicine, traditional medicine, spirit dancing, and countless other healing systems distinguish one people from another–one culture from another. The immense diversity of healing systems reflects the many cultural realities of the worlds thousands of distinct nations. State and international policy tend to standardize health systems at the expense of ancient and enduring approaches to healing. Instead of universalizing health policy the principal of subsidiarity–placing the decision-making power and authority for health delivery at the local level with marginal influence from the wider state and international community–ought to be adopted by international bodies like the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization and their sister organizations. Health and healing practice can not be commodified as a product and remain viable and beneficial for the world’s diverse populations. Adoption of policy recognizing the diverse benefits and character of traditional healing ways will serve state populations as well as traditional societies.
This is the message the Center for World Indigenous Studies delivered to the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization during an international conference on HIV/Aids in Accra, Ghana in 2006.
The central emphasis of the message was and remains: Traditional Healers and Conventional Physicians must work together and refer patients to each other. With one medical practitioner to 10,000 people in western Africa and 1 traditional healer to 200 people it is obvious that if there is to be a serious effort to control virus infections such as Ebola that come from the jungle such collaboration between the medical and healing systems is essential.
Traditional healers have access to people as well as methods that are appropriate for the people they serve. The people trust these healers. Conventional medical practitioners may have techniques for isolating patients, but it is clear that they lack the essential contacts and access to benefit a coordinated approach to managing and eliminating the adverse effects of diseases such as Ebola, HIV/Aids and countless other viral conditions that conventional medicine knows little or nothing about.
The first reaction of the World Health Organization to our proposal was: “We have already tried that and it doesn’t work.” In addition conventional medical practitioners with whom we met to discuss this proposal countered: “What?! Work with those quacks?”
These responses must be overcome if the emergent diseases that are already resulting from climate change (uncovering ancient virus unknown to conventional science) and exposure of indigenous peoples in the forests and jungles to metropolitan peoples.
The outbreak of Ebola and before that HIV/Aids and other conditions must alert everyone to the need to draw on all sources of knowledge–including the knowledge and access to people typical of traditional healers.
The library is dedicated to the memory of Secwepemc Chief George Manuel (1921-1989), to the nations of the Fourth World and to the elders and generations to come.access here