Health | Opinion

Column: Charles Eastman introduced world to Indian health care

"Ancient cultures viewed health as a kind of oneness, a harmony between body, soul and mind, and between man and the cosmos. It involved a spiritual approach to physical life—one that perceived unseen, divine meaning pervading and ordering the material realm.

Charles Eastman, a highly-educated Dakota tribe member, served to translate the holistic ways of his people to a white culture that had no context for understanding them. In his book, The Soul of the Indian, he articulated this universal understanding of health.

“In the life of the Indian, there was only one inevitable duty,” he wrote. “The duty of prayer—the daily recognition of the Unseen and Eternal. His daily devotions were more necessary to him than daily food.”

“He wakes at daybreak, puts on his moccasins and steps alone down to the water’s edge. Here, he throws handfuls of clear, cold water into his face, or plunges in. After the bath, he stands erect before the advancing dawn, facing the sun as it dances upon the horizon, and offers unspoken orison.”

Why unspoken, and why in solitude? “Each soul must meet the morning sun, the earth and the Great Silence alone.”

The universality of this ritual would be obvious to Hindus along the Ganges, Taoist hermits on mountain crags, Jesus in the wilderness and centuries of Greek philosophers, no matter who today might brand it ridiculous, pagan or “uncivilized.”"

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