Stories from the Journey: A Blog (formerly titled Healing Totem Journey) is produced by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) to chronicle the traveling version of the Native Voices: Native Peoples’ Concepts of Health and Illness exhibition and the creation, journey, and installation of the Healing Totem at the Library in Bethesda, Maryland. It is also intended to serve as a venue for new voices, new perspectives, on health and healing in tribal communities. As the traveling exhibition makes its way across the country, we invite exhibition visitors and interested others to share their own stories with us through comments and discussion here.
The Native Voices Exhibition
The NLM developed the Native Voices exhibition in consultation with Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. The full-size exhibition premiered at NLM on October 5, 2011, and closed on July 17, 2015.
Through a combination of interviews with Native people, artwork, objects, and interactive media, the exhibition explores the connection between wellness, illness, and cultural life.
The traveling version of the exhibition aims to share the collected health stories of Native people with groups and communities across the country. Like the original, it addresses five distinct themes–Individual, Community, Nature, Tradition, and Healing–and delivers videos and interviews that support and elucidate those themes.
The National Library of Medicine spent four years collecting over one hundred interviews with Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian tribal leaders, healers, physicians, and other health care professionals, along with clergy, educators, and students. Their stories serve as the centerpiece of the exhibition. They explore elements from both the past and the present and reveal how epidemics, loss of land, and the inhibition of Native cultures in the 19th and 20th centuries affect the health of Native individuals and communities today. This interweaving of stories creates a colorful tapestry revealed panel by panel in the traveling exhibition.
Those unable to visit the traveling exhibition can find most of the exhibition content on the Native Voices website. The exhibition’s many videos and interviews are also available via the free Native Voices app for Android and for iPad