Briggs Library Hosts Native Voices Exhibit

Briggs Library Hosts Native Voices Exhibit

By Evan Douville, Staff Writer

Health and Healing are two things that are directly interwoven into Native culture. Beginning February 28 in Briggs Library, students, staff, and faculty were treated to the Native Voices: Native People’s Concepts of Health and Illness interactive exhibit, discussing the many aspects of Native health, medicine, and illness.

The exhibit was divided into five sections: Individual, Community, Tradition, Nature, and Healing, each one featuring the rich histories and stories of Native Americans, their views on the interconnectedness of community and medicine, as well as the challenges of balancing Native healing and Western medicine. Each of the five boards present also featured a set of headphones and a tablet linked to the Native Voices website, complete with a staggering amount of interviews and videos on the subject, from doctors to tribe leaders and even some children’s voices. Kellie Meehlhause, a librarian at Briggs, was able to offer some insight into the creation of this event.

“Native Voices is a traveling exhibit created by the National Library of Medicine and the American Library Association, and for the past three years it’s been traveling to various institutions throughout the country,” Meehlhause told us. “UMM was one of four nationwide recipients to host the Native Voices exhibit.”

The exhibit also explores cultural wellness practices through the interviews. There are interviews about land sovereignty, epidemics, federal legislations, and cultural appropriation of Native American communities. Additionally, this exhibit encouraged students to consider the ways that healing is present in our daily lives, and how we can use these practices to improve our own well-being. The boards talk a lot about the widespread applications of Native healing in many different fields, such as biology, psychology, history, and sociology among others.

“There’s so many other facets that go into this beyond how you’re feeling physically,” Meehlhause said.

The Community board has a harrowing story about Kalaupapa and the Hansen’s Disease epidemic in the 19th century, and how healing was done from within the quarantined island, as well as a story of the Navajo Code Talkers, soldiers in the United States military during World War II who relayed indecipherable messages away from enemy ears. The Tradition board talked about many physical activities the Natives did to maintain both physical and mental acuity, including activities such as Surfing and Lacrosse, as well as competing in Olympic events such as the High Kick.

The Nature and Healing boards spoke of the intersection between Native practices and Western Medicine, how American healthcare works hand in hand with traditional healing from tribal communities, and the expansive ecological aspect of their medicine.

With the interactivity and haunting stories of the National Library of Medicine’s archive, the Native Voices exhibit presents us with a clear, yet harrowing, picture of Native medicine and healing. It encourages onlookers to pay attention to their wellness, and with it, the wellness of those around them.

The Native Voices exhibit is open until April 11, 2019.

photo above courtesy of Briggs Library