This fascinating account of a Yale-trained psychiatrist’s 20-year experience with Native American healing interw

This fascinating account of a Yale-trained psychiatrist’s 20-year experience with Native American healing interweaves autobiography with stories of the Native Americans who challenged his medical school assumptions about their methods. While working as a family physicans in a Native American hospital in the Southwest, Carl Hammerschlag was introduced to a patient named Santiago, a Pueblo priest & clan chief, who asked him where he had learned how to heal. Hammerschlag responded almost by rote, rattling off his medical education, intership & certification. The old man replied,”Do you know how to dance?” To humor Santiago, Hammerschlag shuffled his feet at the priest’s bedside. Despite his condition, Santiago got up & demonstrated the proper steps. “You must be able to dance if you are to heal people,”he admonished the young doctor. “I can teach you my steps, but you will have to hear your own music.” Hammerschlag synthesizes his Jewish heritage with his experience with Native Americans to produce a practice open to all methods of healing. He discovers the wisdom of the Pueblo priest’s question to his Western doctor, “Do you know how to dance?” (less)…………..

Answer one of the following questions for your initial post:
When Dr. Hammerschlag decided to practice medicine in the southwest, he knew that
he was going to be immersed in a different culture. However, it was quite different than
he had expected. Describe some of the difficulties that Dr. Hammerschlag encountered
when providing medical services, which were the result of his personal background and
Dr. Hammerschlag wasn’t always well received by those in the community. What were
some of the stereotypes the Native Americans prescribed to the western doctors? How
did those stereotypes affect their care?
obat photo
In 1965, after I had completed my medical internship
at the Public Health Service Hospital in Seattle, Washington,
I entered the Indian Health Service. It made more sense to
me than going to Vietnam, a real possibility for someone who
was twenty-six years old in that year and a recent graduate
from the Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, New York. Serv-
ing with the IHS would fulfill my military obligation. And
since no one knows more than someone who has just gradu-
ated from medical school, I went to the Indian country of the
Southwest to help, to offer healing to the people.”
Yet I was also a child. I was terrified of so many things.
I had not yet learned that it is all right not to be always sure
of everything.
I was a child of my time, an activist in support of the radi-
cal causes and beliefs of that day: end the war, help the under-
dog, listen to the uncorrupted people who live next to the
earth. I wanted to work among people I had feelings for, the
disenfranchised and the
Why I chose an Indian reservation in the Southwest rather
than the ghettoes of the Eastern cities in which I had grown
Basil 19
Chapter 1
I decided I would teach people to help themselves. I said:
“This is what I know and if you’d like to know what I know,
I’d be willing to teach you. But I also want to learn what you
know.” So I developed a system of bringing my services to
I came back to the Indian Health Service in 1970 a
a civil servant, not as the commissioned officer in the U.S.
Public Health Service I had been in Santa Fe.
I remained in Phoenix as Chief of Psychiatry for more
than fifteen years. As someone who always had trouble
with the rules and the rulers, I cannot really believe it
. But the Indian Health Service was tolerant of me
and supportive of a community-based, preventative mental
health program. During my first year in Phoenix, I spent
half my time at an Indian boarding school and half at the
Indian Medical Center, creating a community-based pro-
gram that I thought would work.
Traditionally, psychiatry has been defined as a direct
service – the doctor sees individuals face to face, makes a diag-
nosis, prescribes treatment, and follows the patient’s progress.
As the only psychiatrist to cover not only the reservations
spread out through Arizona, but also the Phoenix urban area,
Iknew there was no way I could see everyone I might be able
the urban and reservation communities. I got a pilot’s license
and flew to a different reservation once a week. I taught
groups of community health workers, nurses, doctors (and
their spouses), Head Start teachers, tribal jailers and inmates,
and the participants in alcoholism programs. And in the pro-
I learned about the history, the beliefs, the lives of peo-
ple in those communities.
This way I’ve seen far more people than I could ever have
seen one on one. And I’ve done my job as an equal partici-
pant. I expected to learn as much as I taught; I knew these
people had much to teach me. And learning from them meant
gradually finding out how many things – not just about health
or psychiatry-I thought I knew but didn’t.
The Indian boarding school in Phoenix, where I worked
half-time during my first year in Phoenix, was largely popu-
lated by youngsters sent there from their reservations for some
“problem.” Either they didn’t get along in the public schools or
their parents couldn’t afford to keep them at home. For a time,
our government had forced all Indian children to live in board-
ing schools away from home and tribal roots in an effort to
make Anglo-Americans out of them. Now there are schools
on most reservations, so the off-reservation boarding schools
are a last resort for children or families with problems.
When I returned to the Southwest, I believed that the
opportunity to work with young people would give me with
the greatest opportunity to effect change. But this school, with
its troubled students, proved to be too tough a place to
to treat individually-and the culture itself didn’t particularly
fit this approach.
22 / The Dancing Healers
Basil / 23
a good
of anti-German insults, “what did you think of the television
“I was overwhelmed,” she replied in a frank and
time. I knew
manner. “It was, of course, all before
little of the period, and I must say that it has been dramati-
Frank” method of evaluating loyalty. It turned out to be a
way not to get too close to anyone. I think Jews often share a
certain pride about suffering that we really don’t want to give
up. It’s like a badge of honor: ‘We’ve suffered more than you!
I had basically settled the Christian business quite some
time ago, forgiven them as a whole, and been able to become
intimate friends with non-Jews. Except for Germans. Germans
were always another story. Whenever I heard people speak
ing German, I would still quietly listen to their conversation,
waiting for some anti-Semitic slur. Basil and the class of Indian
students forced me to confront my own hatreds, and I have
cally underrepresented in German school books.
i told her that I spoke German, but rarely to Germans.
However, if she were more comfortable I could converse with
her in that tongue. Then, with disregard for any kind of social
amenity, I told her of my great distrust, even hatred, of all
She was shocked by my vehemence. She protested that
continued to struggle with those feelings ever since.
I had never been to Germany, that I had never spoken to
In 1983 at a tropical resort I was watching the sun set while
young Germans. How could I be so angry toward a people
listening to a classical music concert by the shore and read.
I did not really know?
ing Yaffa Eliach’s Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust. This book, the
The image of my days with Basil ten years earlier flashed
first compilation of Hasidic stories in generations, touched
in my mind, but before I could examine it, I pressed on in
me profoundly on several levels of my being through tales
my anger and told her a story about my parents’ return to Ger-
that once again described the reality of the horrors my fam- many in 1960. They had both come from the same small Prus-
ily had lived through but also through stories of kindness, sian village, and they had gone back to settle some reparation
friendship, even laughter.
business. The mayor welcomed them and presented them
Next to me, reclining in another lounge chair, was a young
with flowers. As they wandered the old streets, my parents
woman who was also listening to the concert and watching
looked with tears at landmarks and memories.
the sun set. At the end of the performance, she leaned over They stopped at their next-door neighbors’ house, and
and in a distinctly German accent asked if I was reading The
they were astonished to discover that, although quite elderly,
Holocaust. The American mini-series of that name, she
the same people still lived there. There were tears and shouts
explained, had recently been shown on German television.
of joy, and these elderly Christians invited my parents inside.
“No.” I said, sitting up straighter (so that I might be better
As they walked into the front room, my mother saw a
prepared to attack her), “these are Hasidic tales
of the Holo-
familiar chair sitting in the corner. It was unmistakably her
caust. They have nothing to do with the television series. By
father’s rocking chair, abandoned and forgotten in their fearful
escape. When the neighbors saw that my mother recognized
the way,’ I asked, preparing to pluck an arrow from my quiver
24 | The Dancing Healers
Chapter 2
the chair, they explained that they had taken it from the house
because the Nazis would have taken it anyway.
My mother walked out of the house and went back to t
railroad station to await the next train. When it pulled out of
the village, she dropped the mayor’s flowers over the side
When I finished the story, I knew that I had experienced
pain and at the same time much joy in telling it. Suffer!
Writhe! I thought as I excused myself for dinner.
Just before the next evening’s twilight concert, the young
woman came up to me and told me that she had cried most
She never went back.
of the night. “I cried for your pain,” she said softly.
But her words made me flash in anger, so I snapped back
at her, “Cry for your sins!”
Her firm, quiet reply was not the least bit defensive. “I am
not guilty for the sins of my father.”
Her words sparked an echo in my mind. It was the same
thing I had said to Basil ten years earlier.
When the concert began, I retreated again into my
of Hasidic stories. This time I felt their messages about tender-
ness, about miracles, about human possibilities in the face
of suffering. They were tales not just of horror, but of hope.
But I rejected any positive aspects of the horror stories be-
cause I had not wanted to assuage my anger. Like so many men
and women, I had been replaying an old script to reexperi-
ence old suffering. I would wear it like a faded badge of honor.
When the concert ended, I made the
young German
woman a gift of my book of Hasidic tales. On the inside cover
I inscribed, “Thank you for helping me to continue my work.”
Millions of years ago volcanic eruptions from the
San Francisco peaks in north-central Arizona covered
Hopiland with a hard, dry crust. Rocks eroded by age and
water became mesas and canyons, some so deep that they
remain dark even in sunlight.
At least one thousand years ago, an ancient farming peo-
ple who called themselves the Peaceful Ones settled here after
a migration that, according to their stories, lasted for thou-
sands of years. Like others who wandered in the desert, the
Hopis believed themselves to be a chosen people.
The Great Spirit, Masauwu, the guardian of this, the
Fourth World, guided the Hopi to a land where settled
humans could exist only by the most delicate of margins, rais-
ing nourishment in a dry and difficult land. The Hopi were
instructed to stay here, and they established Oraibi and Shun-
gopavi, the oldest continually inhabited villages in North
Under the inspiration of Masauwu the Hopi were
divided into clans, each with its own legends and rituals
that would enable them to maintain balance and harmony
The work is never over.

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