Mike Myers: Indian Health Service carries out cultural colonization

A view of the Cass Lake Hospital in Cass Lake, Minnesota. Photo from Indian Health Service

A job posting for traditional healer at the Indian Health Service has Mike Myers (Seneca Nation) of the Network for Native Futures wondering who gets to define indigenous cultures and traditions:
I’m raising the question, “Who defines a culture,” because both settler governments (U.S. and Canada) have been pretty aggressive in trying to force out definitions of certain aspects of our cultures to their satisfaction, particularly in the areas of traditional health and healing.

The traditional people I work with across the continent have been very adamant in their refusal to commit to establishing definitions or allowing the settlers to impose definitions. Well, it seems the settlers have gotten around this position. For example, the Cass Lake Indian Hospital (IHS) has issued a job announcement for a Traditional Healer.

Now some folks are saying, “It’s only a job description” – but it’s not. It is setting out federal definitions for the requirements and qualifications for the job which include as Minimum Qualifications the following: “Your resume must demonstrate at least one (1) year of specialized experience equivalent to at least the next lower grade level in the Federal service obtained in either the private or public sector performing the following type of work and/or tasks:”

Clearly these are the qualification for someone who is already a federal employee or about to become one.

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Mike Myers: Who Defines a Culture? (Indian Country Today 5/7)

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