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Indigenous Topics

What is Traditional Healing?

Traditional healing and medicine are difficult concepts to define, as many Indigenous people refer to local practices within the context of their community. The World Health Organization provides a general definition of traditional medicine:

  • "Is the sum total of knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences Indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement of treatment of physical and mental illness."

    World Health Organization. (2021). Traditional, Complementary and Integrative Medicine. World Health Organization.

Use these terms to help guide your research:

Traditional Healing Land-based Healing
Traditional Medicine Land-based Medicine
Holistic Healing Healing


Traditional Healing

Select resources from the U of C Catalogue

Robbins, Julian A, & Dewar, Jonathan. (2011). Traditional Indigenous Approaches to Healing and the modern welfare of Traditional Knowledge, Spirituality and Lands: A critical reflection on practices and policies taken from the Canadian Indigenous Example. International Indigenous Policy Journal2(4), 2.

Marsh, Teresa Naseba, Marsh, David C, Ozawagosh, Julie, & Ozawagosh, Frank. (2018). The sweat lodge ceremony: A healing intervention for intergenerational trauma and substance use. International Indigenous Policy Journal9(2).

Moorehead Jr, Virgil D, Gone, Joseph P, & December, Damia. (2015). A Gathering of Native American Healers: Exploring the Interface of Indigenous Tradition and Professional Practice. American Journal of Community Psychology56(3), 383–394.

Spirit Doctors by Marie Burke

National Film Board of Canada

"This short documentary journeys into the spiritual world of traditional Indigenous medicine, a world inhabited by Mary and Ed Louie. With a lifetime of experience in the ways of spirituality, they are committed to practices that keep them accountable to the spirit world, their people, and Mother Earth. When one of the crew members get sick while shooting, his subsequent care is recorded for the purposes of this film."

Burke, M. (Director). (2005). Spirit Doctors [Film]. National Film Board of Canada. 

Indigenous Plant Diva by Kamala Todd

National Film Board of Canada

"Kamala Todd's short film is a lyrical portrait of Cease Wyss, of the Squamish Nation. Wyss is a woman who understands the remarkable healing powers of the plants growing all over downtown Vancouver. Whether it's the secret curl of a fiddlehead, or the gentleness of comfrey, plants carry ageless wisdom with them, communicated through colour, texture, and form. Wyss has been listening to this unspoken language and is now passing this ancient and intimate connection down to her own daughter, Senaqwila."

Todd, K. (Director). (2008). Indigenous Plant Diva [Film]. National Film Board of Canada. 

University of Saskatchewan Research Guides: Indigenous Health

The University of Saskatchewan provides access to their Indigenous Health Research Guide, housing resources related to FNMI health and wellness. 

  • Use the left-hand menu to guide your search. 
  • Note the specific section titled, Traditional Knowledge