This volume is part of the "Native American Life" series, which seeks to dispel common misrepresentations of Native Americans. The senior consulting editor, Dr. Troy Johnson, describes the goals of the series in an introduction. Five chapters present information concerning: the role of medicine men, the Native American philosophy of medicine, types of healers, medicinal plants and other healing methods like sweat lodges and dance. The use of many inserts, sidebars, color photos and drawings mixed with a moderate amount of text help give the book an appealing, reader-friendly appearance. The conversational text is unusually lively, with second-person questions and dramatic anecdotes beginning and throughout each chapter. The tone of the writing is respectful, and the author carefully avoids portraying Native American practices as strange or negative. Ethno-botanist, Kevin Jernigan, finds the information presented as fairly accurate, although there is a probably unavoidable tendency toward over-generalization because of the wide scope of the book, which is all of North and South America. In spite of this flaw, the book should be useful for student research and browsing. A chronology, glossary, index, bibliography and Internet resources list are included. 2003, Mason Crest Publishers,
Children's Literature - Sharon M. Himsl
Throughout history religion has been an important part of Native American life. Orr explains that while religions varied, there were some shared characteristics between tribes. For one, religious leaders were mostly men. A leader’s main responsibility was to heal the sick, ward off evil, prophesize, and bring good fortune to the tribe. These religious leaders were generally known as medicine men, but sometimes called shamans or Sacred Helpers (Crow) and Buffalo Doctors (Omaha). All shared a belief in the Great Spirit and had a vast knowledge of nature and the earth. Because of this knowledge, they learned how to treat wounds and illnesses with different plants, dance rituals and special ceremonies. Medicine men believed in a natural remedy for all physical, mental, and spiritual conditions. Orr describes the philosophy behind Native American medicine and the different practices among the tribes, as well as the legends that fostered such beliefs. For instance, in the Pacific Northwest, the tribes believed that babies came from a special place called “Babyland.” Readers learn about actual rituals and the importance of dreams and visions, and how a person became a medicine man. It was not an easy process, nor was their life as one. Some even lost their lives when failing to bring positive results. Other means of healing are also described, such as the sweat lodges used for cleansing the body and soul. Orr lists the various herbs that medicine men used, many of which are used in some form today, such as cherry bark for cough medicine and willow bark for aspirin. Traditional medicine is slowly regaining importance and respect today and Native American reservations are growing. Native American Medicine is a good general source for young researchers, complete with photos, illustrations, glossary, chronology and index. Part of the “Native American Life” series. Reviewer: Sharon M. Himsl; Ages 10 up.