Manataka American Indian Council



Native American Spirituality Brochure




Complementary, Alternative Medicine

The healing ceremonies of Native Americans are spiritually based and are protected by First Amendment guarantees, but they are generally regarded under the category of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in practice.

The National Institutes of Health Center for Complementary and Alternative  Medicine defines alternative and complementary medicine as "A broad range of healing philosophies, approaches, and therapies generally defined as those treatments not widely taught in medical schools, not generally used in hospitals, and not usually reimbursed by medical insurance companies."  

Yet, CAM is increasingly being seen -- and used -- by mainstream   physicians. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found in 2000 that 86 percent of physicians acknowledged referring  patients to CAM providers for complementary care. 

As Donald W. Novey, MD., explains in the Clinician’s Complete Reference to Complementary and Alternative Medicine, "Complementary Medicine is the best of both worlds. It is a blending of both mainstream and alternative medicine to provide a broader range of tools to assist the patient. It is an opportunity to look at illness from many viewpoints and therefore approach its treatment from many angles."  

CAM is becoming increasingly mainstream. JAMA reported as early as 1998 that 42 percent of Americans utilize CAM and the estimated 629 million visits to CAM providers exceeded the number of visits to mainstream health care providers, and the numbers are growing. 

Does it work? According to the Kaiser Institute, CAM could reduce medical claims by 20 percent. Business & Health magazine has estimated that Mind-body therapies can reduce healthcare costs by as much as 33 percent.

So, not only are Native Americans who adhere to traditional healing techniques and remedies, along with modern medicine, receiving health care that coincides with their spiritual beliefs and practices, but the result is better health care in mind, body and spirit.

Those who practice Native American Spirituality are not stereotypes; they are Americans in every sense, with schools, jobs, activities that are mainstream. Their religious beliefs, however, align them with CAM practices that health care providers should acknowledge and respect.




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