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Culture, Colonization and Policy Making: Issues in Native American Health

To improve health care, education, and prevention, a larger cultural and historical contextual framework is needed which pays heed to the impact of colonization and its effects on Native peoples. Such a holistic framework evaluates the long-term impact of introduced diseases and the cultural trauma caused by the removal of Indians to reservations (Jaimes 1992), the boarding school era (Johansen 2000), and the forced sterilizations of Native women (Carpio 1995; Torpy 1998). Racism and discrimination in mainstream medical systems and American culture continue to impact Native health, but are rarely addressed in wellness programs and health policies. The struggles of Native people to have treaty rights honored for land, hunting, and fishing also have repercussions for health and cultural wellness. It follows that health care policies for Native Americans should also include reparations policies, as Canada has done by setting up a $350 million healing fund for the survivors of the boarding school era (Macqueen 2000). This fund is meant to deal with the emotional, physical, and cultural trauma that came from the sexual and emotional abuse within those institutional contexts purporting to “educate” Native Americans.


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Citation / Reference: 
Olsen, B. (2002). Culture, Colonization and Policy Making: Issues in Native American Health. Paper presentation for the Symposium on Politics of Race, Culture and Health