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Dancing Healers, The

Product no.: 0-06-250395-2
A Yale-trained psychiatrist interweaves autobiography with stories of the Native Americans who challenged his medical school assumptions about their methods.

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Publisher's Synopsis

While working in a Native American hospital in the Southwest, Carl Hammerschlag was introduced to a patient named Santiago, a Pueblo priest and clan chief, who asked him where he had learned how to heal. Hammerschlag responded almost by rote, rattling off his medical education, intership and certification.

The old man replied, "Do you know how to dance?"

To humor Santiago, Hammerschlag shuffled his feet at the priest's bedside. Despite his condition, Santiago got up and demonstrated the proper steps. "You must be able to dance if you are to heal people", he admonished the young doctor. "I can teach you my steps, but you will have to hear your own music."

Hammerschlag synthesizes his Jewish heritage with his experience with Native Americans to produce a practice open to all methods of healing. He discovers the wisdom of the Pueblo priest's question to his Western doctor, "Do you know how to dance?"


"Carl Hammerschlag joined the Indian Health Service (IHS) in 1965 to avoid being drafted for the Vietnam War. He came to the IHS with a respect, typical of his day, for 'the uncorrupted people,' but he was still accustomed to thinking in the certitudes of Western science. Reality chiseled away at Hammerschlag's resolve, however, as he faced dozens of mortalities daily and came across traditionalist Indians who would die mysteriously on ceremonial days of their own choosing.

Eventually, Hammerschlag becomes a holistic healer. While visiting a young woman filled with anger toward her body after a miscarriage, for instance, he starts talking to the broccoli on her lunch tray: 'I told it to cleanse Patty's insides with its fuzzy brush head... She started to get well.'

If all of this sounds a bit too simple and pat, it is: While Hammerschlag's respect for holistic healing seems sincere, his journey from science to spirituality seems devoid of conflict or struggle. We never know how much of the Western medical tradition he has renounced, for instance. By the end of the book he is asking patients to 'breathe in healing lights' and 'visualize power animals,' but he never lets us in on the difficult decision of when to use Western medicine."     ~Los Angeles Times

Author Hammerschlag M.D., Carl A.
Book Type Trade Paperback
Page Count 170 pp.
Publisher HarperCollins 1989
Browse these categories as well: Sioux, Hopi and Intertribal Wisdom, Alternative Medicine, Medicine Men and Crazy Heyokas, Spiritual Biography and Autobiography

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