IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

"It Looks at All of You" -- Elders' Understanding and Utilization of Traditional Medicines in a Canadian First Nation Community

Listed author(s):
  • Ralph Matthews
  • Tamara Jennifer Ibrahim
  • Anne Martin-Matthews
Registered author(s):

    First Nation (Native Indian) people in Canada have higher incidences of every major disease than do the Canadian population, as well as higher infant mortality rates and lower life expectancy. Calls for a new approach to health service delivery for aboriginal people emphasize the importance of community based treatment and the incorporation of traditional medicines and healing approaches. However, there has been little empirical research on how widespread traditional health knowledge and practices are after decades of suppression and neglect. Neither is there much empirical information regarding the relation of traditional approaches to 'western' mainstream practices. This paper presents findings from in-depth interviews with 52 Elders (over age 55) in the Tseshaht First Nation of British Columbia. The study was carried out with the permission and cooperation of the Tseshaht Band Council. Our data show that, despite being located near the medical facilities of a nearby city, support for and utilization of traditional medicines by Elders in the community remain widespread. Traditional medicines are generally not regarded by Elders as medications, but as means to link the individual holistically with the spirit and with nature. They are said to work because they engage the individual through faith in their capacity to cure holistically. Respondents reported little opposition from bio-medically trained medical practitioners, but suggested that traditional secrecy about such medicines hamper any efforts to link them directly with outside medical practices. Given the advantages of having aboriginal people involved in their own health care, coupled with the secrecy required by traditional practices, we recommend the parallel development of native healing programs integrated with mainstream medical treatment strategies as an appropriate approach to the health problems of Canada's First Nation communities.

    To our knowledge, this item is not available for download. To find whether it is available, there are three options:
    1. Check below under "Related research" whether another version of this item is available online.
    2. Check on the provider's web page whether it is in fact available.
    3. Perform a search for a similarly titled item that would be available.

    Paper provided by McMaster University in its series Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers with number 281.

    in new window

    Date of creation: Nov 2010
    Handle: RePEc:mcm:sedapp:281
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario, L8S 4M4

    Phone: (905) 525-9140 ext. 22765
    Fax: (905) 521-8232
    Web page:

    More information through EDIRC

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:mcm:sedapp:281. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.