Chapter

Traditional Navajo Health Beliefs and Practices

Stephen J. Kunitz

in Disease Change and the Role of Medicine: The Navajo Experience

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 1983 | ISBN: 9780520049260
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520909649 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520049260.003.0005
Traditional Navajo Health Beliefs and Practices

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This chapter discusses traditional Navajo beliefs regarding disease causation, patterns of utilization of traditional healers, and changes from Navajo religion to peyotism and Christianity. In the opinion of most observers, Navajos classify disease by etiologic agent, and each healing ceremony is known by the causal factors it is thought to cure. Though there are differences between peyotism, traditional Navajo religion, and Navajo Christianity, it is doubtful that these differences reflect corresponding differences in health concepts. There are insufficient data to determine whether ceremonial cures have either a beneficial or deleterious effect on any specific diseases. The Navajo predilection for using modern and traditional therapy collectively shows that a poor utilization of services is less the result of adherence to native beliefs than of difficulties of access to hospitals and of poor communication between patients and medical staff.

Keywords: traditional Navajo beliefs; traditional healers; disease causation; peyotism; Christianity

Chapter.  10678 words. 

Subjects: Medical Anthropology

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