Native American Culture/Religion

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Question
Hello,
My question involves native american religion. I am a nurse practitioner for a large private practice. Recently I had a patient who appeared to be very uncomfortable by presence. He had stated that his native american religion forbids him to be alone with a women behind closed doors and requested to be seen by a male doctor instead. Although I try to be respectful of all religions and how it effects the care of my patients, I couldn't help but wonder if there was actually any truth to the man's claim. I have never heard of this before and the outright rudeness of the man's request led me to believe he was just sexist. Please corect me if I'm wrong, and enlighten me as to how this came to be religious practice. Thanks so much for your time.

Answer
Among the Lakes Nations (Ojibway, etc. ) I've never heard of that kind of restriction regarding healers, but I would seriously suggest that you contact the Offices of the Indian Health Services for your State and discuss the situation with one of their counselors. While it might have simply been a male patient that was uncomfortable with a woman provider. Possibly he had an illness of a personal nature that made him nervous, in any case, if you get a lot of traditional Native people, then you should get a local definitive answer. It can't be easy. I've had friends who have worked with IHS with some very traditional folks and often more rigid gender role traditions can be only one of the many ways our cultures clash. Among the Plains Nations, (Lakota,Cheyenne, etc.) gender roles are much more traditional among traditional people, but among the Eastern Iroquois Nations, for example, the roles are quite reversed with most important tribal leadership work and healing being done by the women. Ditto for the Cherokee. It's going to require a bit of homework on your part. MY friends tell me that often simply acknowledging a Native Patient's cultural discomfort verbally, lays a smooth path for a better relationship. Good luck.

Native American Culture

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Richard Sutton

Expertise

As a direct reservation trader in all aspects of American Indian arts since 1985, I've answered questions regarding cultural property issues, origins of traditional crafts, materials and techniques, collecting, authenticity, symbols and, of course, repairs! We have operated a retail gallery since that time, bricks and mortar until 2007 and online since 1996. Our online operation closed in 2/2015, to allow me to finally write full-time. My writing site can be found at www.sailletales.com I'll be adding a book or two from our trader experiences under the pen name of W.T. Durand and the rest of my fiction is under my own name. We are not "New Age" practitioners of adopted American Indian religious ceremonies or combined philosophies. If you are seeking such knowledge for spiritual reasons, we will only provide answers that address factual information on these subjects. Unless one is raised in a traditional, American Indian family with language, culture and religious belief intact, we don't believe that simply applying the trappings or cultural property of a given traditional group will give a non-Indian (Native if you prefer)any insight other than the academic.

Experience

My primary focus is on Southwester American Indian Nations and their people, but I also have experience in Plains and Northeastern traditions, having engaged in active trade and retail since 1985 and study for most of my life. I am not claiming any expertise at all in the work, techniques, lifeways or crafts that are made by the Native People of Mexico. They are not the same, either linguistically or culturally but certainly their crafts deserve discussion and appraisal by those who are able to provide real information.

Publications
I was a guest on Fox Network "Lifestyles" program, during the 1990s, to discuss how to tell forgeries, and authenticating jewelry as Native American work. I have also written extensively for our website, www.kivatrading.com and our Ebay Store.

Education/Credentials
UofO, 1970 active in the Authentic American Indian Arts business and direct Trader since 1985. Graphic Designer and published novelist.

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