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Day 1 of Australia 2013: The Autobiographical Narrative

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Taking care of you works, I said.   Exercising, eating well, having fun, spending time with friends, laughing, doing yoga, and on and on, all work, though it's usually hard to convince patients to do these things when they're not.   All these things work.


I closed with a summary of what Coyote had done in the last 5 years in Australia.   I talked about what had worked that we had done.   We began as a vision that an aboriginal cooperative that had little culture in their programming and health care could change that.    During the first year, we spent time with their leadership and proposed a healing camp in the spirit of Richard Harris, who brought ceremony to the Canadian prairies.   Harris was a Shoshone man from Wyoming who came to the prairie people in the 1960's once ceremony was legal again and taught them his ceremonies.   He was convinced that if the people started doing ceremony, in their dreams and vision, their ways would return to them.   All that was necessary was to start.   He advised them to start doing his ceremonies and assured them that there's would come.   The proposal was to do a healing camp.   We would offer some of our ceremonies.   They would invite some of their colleagues from the Northern Territories who culture was more intact to come.   Elders from their community would come.   The question arose of where to do the camp.   They realized that they owned a run-down house on a peninsula of a brackish lake opening into the ocean next to one of their ancient burial grounds.   They had the inspiration to fix-up this house for the event.   They began the work using people's labor who had been court ordered to do community service.   Many of these aboriginal men continued to work on the property long after their community service was over for it gave them a sense of value and meaning.   Some prejudice of non-aboriginal staff for aboriginal staff began to dissipate.


The first healing camp was a grand success and a wonderful time and marked our second year of coming to Australia.   We shared our ceremonies and the people from the Northern Territories shared theirs.   The local elders began to admit to their own memories of healing practices and began to remember.   This cultural sharing continued after we left and the next and third year was even fuller of meaning.   After this year, they began to organize smaller healing camps with other aboriginal colleagues from around the country, including some from Alice Springs, Western Australia, and more Northern Territory folks.   By our third healing camp and fourth year in Australia much had changed, though the challenge remained to incorporate culture into health care.   One of our group, Rocky Crocker, has been coming a second time each year by himself to meet with the medical staff to accomplish that.


This year is our transition year.   We may no longer be needed for healing camp for it can be now an entirely Australian aboriginal event.   Perhaps a role will continue for us with the medical staff or in other areas of programming, but the goals for which we began coming have been reached.   Time will tell if there will be a sixth year, but much has been accomplished in these five years for which we are grateful.   With that, I ended my presentation and returned to the Catholic spiritual retreat where we have stayed for some brief time each year for a lively discussion with the sister and father who run it about diversity and spirituality.

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Lewis Mehl-Madrona graduated from Stanford University School of Medicine and completed residencies in family medicine and in psychiatry at the University of Vermont. He is the author of Coyote Medicine, Coyote Healing, Coyote Wisdom, and (more...)
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