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Native American Health Care
Native American Health Care

Like their contemporaries, ancestral Pueblo patients relied upon medicine men and societies, prayer and ceremony to maintain health. Believing that illnesses occur when relationships with other people and one’s surroundings are out of balance, ceremonies, along with carefully prepared medicinal plants, were critical to stabilizing an ailing patient.

When Spaniards arrived in the Albuquerque area, they found that the Tiwa were highly skilled in the use of medicinal plants; many grew along the terraces and in the mountains near the Río Grande. The Pueblo people introduced a number of medicines to the newcomers, including oshá, a mountain herb related to parsley. It was one of the most powerful plants and cured fever, coughs and colds. A universal remedy, oshá was traded up and down the valley through the pueblos.

Inmortal, a relative of the milkweed family that grows in north central New Mexico, relieved internal bruises and abdominal pain. Globe mallow, an orange-flowered plant that grows on the terraces and deserts above the Río Grande, relieved headaches, pneumonia and swollen glands. Twigs and branches from juniper trees in the Sandia foothills reduced pain and swelling and eased childbirth.

Indian populations in the Middle Rio Grande steadily declined, however, as a result of introduced diseases such as measles and smallpox. Pueblo people died in large numbers. As their populations dwindled, they moved to larger pueblos.

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