Medicine that Walks: Disease, Medicine, and Canadian Plains Native People, 1880-1940

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Overview

In this seminal work, Maureen Lux takes issue with the 'biological invasion' theory of the impact of disease on Plains Aboriginal people. She challenges the view that Aboriginal medicine was helpless to deal with the diseases brought by European newcomers and that Aboriginal people therefore surrendered their spirituality to Christianity. Biological invasion, Lux argues, was accompanied by military, cultural, and economic invasions, which, combined with the loss of the bison herds and forced settlement on reserves, led to population decline. The diseases killing the Plains people were not contagious epidemics but the grinding diseases of poverty, malnutrition, and overcrowding.

"Medicine That Walks" provides a grim social history of medicine over the turn of the century. It traces the relationship between the ill and the well, from the 1880s when Aboriginal people were perceived as a vanishing race doomed to extinction, to the 1940s when they came to be seen as a disease menace to the Canadian public. Drawing on archival material, ethnography, archaeology, epidemiology, ethnobotany, and oral histories, Lux describes how bureaucrats, missionaries, and particularly physicians explained the high death rates and continued ill health of the Plains people in the quasi-scientific language of racial evolution that inferred the survival of the fittest. The Plains people's poverty and ill health were seen as both an inevitable stage in the struggle for 'civilization' and as further evidence that assimilation was the only path to good health.

The people lived and coped with a cruel set of circumstances, but they survived, in large part because they consistently demanded a role in their own health and recovery. Painstakingly researched and convincingly argued, this work will change our understanding of a significant era in western Canadian history.

Winner of the 2001 Clio Award, Prairies Region, presented by the Canadian Historical Association, and the 2002 Jason A. Hannah Medal

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Lux (Hannah Institute for the History of Medicine) argues against the "biological invasion" theory that European diseases overwhelmed native peoples. She highlights, instead, the impact of military, cultural, and economic invasions, the extermination of bison herds, and forced relocation programs. Providing a social history of medicine from 1880 to 1940, she describes changing attitudes towards native peoples, from the time when they were considered a vanishing race to the period when they were thought a public health hazard. She also describes the ideology of colonialism, and its reliance on such "scientific" notions as racial evolution. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802082954
  • Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division
  • Publication date: 6/1/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.05 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Maureen K. Lux is a post-doctoral fellow at the Hannah Institute for the History of Medicine.
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Table of Contents

List of Tables
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Beyond Biology 3
1 'The First Time We Were Poisoned by the Government': Starvation and the Erosion of Health 20
2 'Help Me Manitou': Medicine and Healing in Plains Cultures 71
3 'I Was in Darkness': Schools and Missions 103
4 'Indifferent to Human Life and Suffering': Medical Care for Native People to 1920 138
5 'A Menace to the Community': Tuberculosis 189
Conclusion 225
Notes 231
Bibliography 267
Illustration Credits 285
Index 287
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