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Outliers: Native American healers sought

By Modern Healthcare
Posted: February 9, 2013 - 12:01 am ET

Not-for-profit Sanford Health system is getting ready to possibly use Native American healing practices in an effort to make its American Indian patients feel more welcome.

Sanford Health is hiring a Lakota/Dakota and an Ojibwe to serve as consultants as part of a three-year $12 million CMS grant, says Read Sulik, Sanford's senior vice president for behavioral health services, speaking to the Associated Press.

Sulik, based in Fargo, N.D., says the traditional healers will act as advisers to healthcare workers to develop training and curriculum about the American Indian culture, and will consult with medical staff on when it may be appropriate to use traditional healing techniques.

Some ceremonies and traditions might seem odd to non-Natives, such as the smudging of sage and sweet grass to purify the area around the patient, says Oitancan Mani Zephier, a Yankton Sioux tribe member. When a baby is born, the Yankton Sioux believe that wiping out the newborn's mouth with sage can help the infant better transition from the spiritual realm of the womb.

Some patients also wrap tobacco in cloths of red, black, yellow or white and hang them on their bedposts as prayer offerings. “It's for the spirits, or the angels, if you will, who are coming in to help heal,” Zephier says.

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