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Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Good Medicine

 National Native News

Yéil Yádi Olson is Lingít Raven from the Kaa Shaayi Hit (Severed Head House) and is also of Nordic descent. He constructed this seclusion hut in collaboration with curator and healer Meda DeWitt. Olson wanted to use his skills as a carpenter to educate others about Indigenous cultures. (Photo: Rachel Cassandra / Alaska Public Media)


The knowledge work and art of Indigenous healers and medicine people in Alaska is being featured at the Anchorage Museum.

“Good Medicine” is a multidisciplinary exhibit.

Alaska Public Media’s Rachel Cassandra has more.

“Good Medicine” features paintings, illustrations, a women’s house, and a men’s house.

Those houses are traditionally used for healing, teaching, and meetings.

Meda DeWitt’s Lingít names are Khaat kłaat and Tśa Tsée Naakw.

She’s a healer and the curator.

DeWitt says the show is both about healing and is healing in itself.

She says it holds space for traditional healers to be seen and to speak.

That’s in contrast to colonization’s attempts at erasure of Alaska Native culture.

She says healers and spiritual leaders were targeted during colonization because of how they protected people.

“Many folks were sent to insane asylums, or penitentiaries. Or they were just taken out into the woods and, you know, just went missing, never came back or out into the ocean.”

For decades, Alaska Native people were forbidden from practicing traditional healing, so she says people are choosing ways to adapt practices.

“We have to first fully articulate who we were pre contact… to understand how to adapt it so that we are… 21st century Indigenous people on our own terms.”

Ultimately, DeWitt says that acknowledging the trauma of colonization is part of cultural healing.

“Let’s not… whitewash history, let’s… work as a community together to seek healing and repair… so that way, our future generations don’t have to carry on that burden any longer.”

The exhibit “Good Medicine” will be up through the spring.

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