This week the Supreme Court heard arguments on the Constitutionality of the Obama Healthcare plan challenged by 26 states. The Healthcare Law is over 2,000 pages! Today, I want to turn the pages back 2,000 years and talk about another healthcare plan. A plan based on OUR constitution, not the THE Constitution. And a plan supported by the state of “wellness”!
The idea of “wellness” was common to most of the ancient Native Americans. The Cherokee word for health was “tohi” which was also their word for “peace”. Wellness was a state of harmony between the mind, the body, and the spirit. The person responsible for the wellness of their community is often referred to today as the “medicine man” or “shaman”. But a more accurate description would be physician/priest/counselor. The Cherokee word was “Didanawisgi”. The Didanawisgi focused on the person as opposed to the modern-day doctor that focuses on the disease. A modern-day Didanawisgi, Dr. C. L. Rogers, M.D., explains it this way:
“ … Modern medicine seemingly is focused on the chemical elements that can be recreated in a laboratory and fed to the patient. Unfortunately, this approach usually results in many side effects and therefore the need for more pills or treatments. What’s wrong with this picture? Where is the concern for the patient’s balance or harmony? Where is the ceremony? Where is the understanding of the power of our immune system that is controlled by our minds, by what we think? Where is the complete healing?”
For the ancient Cherokee, the emphasis was on maintaining wellness – balance and harmony in one’s life – rather than focusing on curing symptoms. They just didn’t see it as coming down with a disease or illness. They often spoke of something “being placed under them”. When a Didanawisgi would examine someone with an illness, they might ask “have you broken any taboos?” It was important to follow the “white path” to maintain wellness or balance. They believed that there was a strong connection to all things natural to achieve or maintain harmony within. To the Didanawisgi, the ceremony and the conjure were just as important as the medicine for healing.
James Mooney spent 26 years with the Cherokee starting in 1885 and his works remain the most comprehensive and authoritative on Cherokee Lore. In his book “Myths of the Cherokee”, he features “Origin of Disease and Medicine” which gives us an interesting insight into Cherokee medicine. Here is an excerpt:
In the old days the beasts, birds, fishes, insects, and plants could all talk, and they and the people lived together in peace and friendship. But as time went on the people increased so rapidly that their settlements spread over the whole earth, and the poor animals found themselves beginning to be cramped for room. This was bad enough, but to make it worse Man invented bows, knives, blowguns, spears, and hooks, and began to slaughter the larger animals, birds, and fishes for their flesh or their skins, while the smaller creatures, such as the frogs and worms, were crushed and trodden upon without thought, out of pure carelessness or contempt. So the animals resolved to consult upon measures for their common safety.
… They began then to devise and name so many new diseases, one after another, that had not their invention at last failed them, no one of the human race would have been able to survive …
… When the Plants, who were friendly to Man, heard what had been done by the animals, they determined to defeat the latter's evil designs. Each Tree, Shrub, and Herb, down even to the Grasses and Mosses, agreed to furnish a cure for some one of the diseases named, and each said: "I shall appear to help Man when he calls upon me in his need." Thus came medicine; and the plants, every one of which has its use if we only knew it, furnish the remedy to counteract the evil wrought by the revengeful animals. Even weeds were made for some good purpose, which we must find out for ourselves. When the doctor does not know what medicine to use for a sick man the spirit of the plant tells him.
If the Supreme Court decides that Obamacare is unconstitutional and throws it out so that congress has to start over, do you think there is any chance they might consider the Cherokee plan?