Message #254:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: A Medicine Man, An Auto Mechanic, And A Lawyer...
Date: Mon, 14 Jul 1997 22:53:57 -0700


Navajos battle fraudulent medicine men 
Time, population growth and the lure of easy money are eroding one of
the most traditional sources of help and authority on the Navajo
Reservation: the medicine man. Every month, several highly respected
medicine men meet as officers of the Dineh Spiritual and Cultural
Association to monitor their people's traditional health concerns. In
recent years, more and more of their time is being taken up listening to
Navajos complain that they have been "ripped off" by fake medicine men,
said Daniel Deschinny, secretary of the association. 

Indians facing charlatans in medicine
By Bill Donovan The Arizona Republic July 14, 1997 

WINDOW ROCK - Time, population growth and the lure of easy money are
eroding one of the most traditional sources of help and authority on the
Navajo Reservation: the medicine man. 

Every month, several highly respected medicine men meet as officers of
the Dineh Spiritual and Cultural Association to monitor their people's
traditional health concerns. 

In recent years, more and more of their time is being taken up listening
to Navajos complain that they have been "ripped off" by fake medicine
men, said Daniel Deschinny, secretary of the association. 

The problem is becoming so bad that the medicine men have petitioned the
tribal government to step in and require all people participating in any
form of traditional medicine to be certified. 

"There are many Navajos and non-Navajos claiming to be medicine men by
deceit and misapplication of known procedures," the association members
said in a resolution approved last month. 

The problem has gotten worse in recent years as the number of practicing
medicine men has gotten smaller and smaller and the Navajo population
has exploded. 

Where once, at the turn of the century, there were estimates of one
medicine man for every 150 Navajos, the ratio now is about one for every
2,200 -- with the average age of a practicing medicine man now
approaching 65. 

Deschinny said so many people are complaining that time is set aside at
each meeting to hear the complaints, even though the association really
has no power to correct the problems. 

"That's really the problem," he said. "There is no one that Navajo
consumers can go to if they have a complaint and want to get their money
back because there is no one with regulation authority." 

Traditionally, a young Navajo apprentices himself to a medicine man who
conducts one of the 29 or so ceremonies still being practiced. After
undergoing one-on-one training, for as long as 14 years for some
ceremonies, the apprentice is permitted to conduct the ceremony on his
own. 

The ceremonies, which include the Blessing Way and the Yei-Bei-Chei, are
used by Navajos who are ill or who have come in contact with something
in their life that could cause them serious problems in the future. The
ceremony is done then to bring them back into harmony with nature or
society. 

Prices for ceremonies range from $200 for smaller ones that last about a
day to as much as $4,000 for a nine-day healing ceremony. But in many
cases nowadays, tribal members say essential parts are left out of the
ceremony for which they contracted. This often means that the family has
to pay another medicine man to do the ceremony correctly. 

In some cases, medicine men in the association have tried to verify
whether the person to whom the family went first was actually
apprenticed to a certain medicine man and had been certified as able to
conduct the ceremony. 

Often, the association is told that although the man was an apprentice,
he stopped his training halfway through. 

There have also been complaints that there are people -- some Navajo and
some not -- who claim to have healing powers. 

"People flock to them in the hopes that they have the power to cure them
and are upset when they find they are no better off," Deschinny said. 

In most cases, he said, there isn't much the association can do for
those who come with complaints, except to urge the family to take more
care in the future. 

 Navajos are advised many times to put the selection of medicine men in
the same category as choosing an auto mechanic -- taking a distrustful
attitude until they know from experience or from friends that the
medicine man really knows what he says he knows. 

Navajo President Albert Hale said he also has heard complaints from
friends and relatives about medicine men. 

"You have that same kind of complaint lodged against people in my
profession," said Hale, who was a lawyer before being elected president
of the tribe. 

But Deschinny said his group can't take away the right of anyone to
proclaim themselves to be a medicine man, and definitely doesn't have
the resources to compensate families who claim to have been deceived. 

The association's only source of income is the $10 dues that members pay
every four years. Currently, the total membership is 67. 

Hale said he is receptive to the idea of setting up a certification
process, using the association as the group to do the actual certifying.


However, the tribal government is leery of taking this step because of
the issue of separation of state and religion. 

"We have to be very careful how we do it so it doesn't compromise this
separation,"                 Hale said. 

Jack Jackson, an Arizona state representative who has worked to help
preserve Navajo traditions, said Navajos don't go to medicine men as
part of of a religion. 

"It's a health-care system," he said. "Navajos go to a medicine man when
they are sick, not when they want to pray." 

He said he has tried with little success for years to get the Navajo
Nation Council to recognize the tribal healing sciences as a reservation
health-care system. 

"We need to get that recognition from the council before we can start to
try and clear up some of the problems facing Navajo consumers today,"
Deschinny said. 

http://www.azcentral.com/news/0714navajo.shtml



[ er...... Floating up in the clouds above the San Francisco Peaks...  A
 Medicine Man, an Auto Mechanic and a Lawyer are greeted by St. Peter at
the Pearly Gates.... ]