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Understanding American Indian Healing

Across tribal nations, there are many different ceremonies used for healing, giving thanks, celebrating, clearing the way, and blessing. The underlying goal of these ceremonies (from a Native perspective) is almost always to offer thanks for, create, regain, and maintain a strong sense of connection through harmony and balance of mind, body, and spirit with the natural environment. The healing ceremonies are designed to “keep oneself in good relations”, which can mean a number of things. Keeping in good relations can mean honoring or healing a connection with oneself, between oneself and others (e.g., family, friends, community), between oneself and the natural environment, or between oneself and the spirit world. Sometimes healing ceremonies involve all of these. (Portman, A., A., & Garrett, T., M (2006). Native American healing traditions. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education Vol. 53, No. 4, December 2006, pp. 453–469)

One of the functions of Native American ceremonial practice through the group is to reaffirm one’s sense of connection with that which is sacred. In U.S. mainstream ideology, the purpose of life consists of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. From a traditional Native perspective, a corollary would be “life, love, and the pursuit of harmony”. Given that healing is interconnected with harmony and balance, it is common for healing practices to include active participation by the person seeking help and, often, their friends and family. Among the various traditions of healing ceremonies utilized by Native people are the sweat lodge, vision quest, smudging, blessing way, pipe, and Sun Dance ceremonies. (Portman, A., A., & Garrett, T., M (2006). Native American healing traditions. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education Vol. 53, No. 4, December 2006, pp. 453–469)

IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your school community gain an understanding of one’s sense of self, as well as developing an understanding of students’ and parents’ values; having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown that it is linked to better well-being, less stress, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed.


Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally sustaining practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. To learn how you can create a dynamic youth-centered environment that honors the unique values of your students and parents, visit our website at www.iinii.org, or contact us at iinii@iinii.org or 1800-507-2502.



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