“Turning Poison into Medicine”: Creating Space for the Sacred and Decolonizing Health Care
This thesis explores a number of intertwined stories. The main story is written from an auto-ethnographic perspective exploring my recent experience with cancer, seeing an Indigenous Traditional Healer, as well as an oncologist as part of my health care. I also narrate the collision of two approaches to health care: biomedicine, which tends to strip the mind from the body and prioritizes the physical, in contrast to approaches which integrate mind, body, spirit, and take the wider social, historical, biographical environment into consideration. These latter approaches often get driven underground, marginalized or erased by biomedical domination and profit motives. I engage in storying1 my own experience of finding and holding space for the sacred2 amidst fear of a serious illness and its recurrence and how Etuaptmumk/Two-Eyed Seeing can be drawn upon to theorize the integration of Indigenous knowledges/medicines into health care in Canada more broadly. Etuaptmumk is a Mi’kmaq guiding principle that posits that we learn to see with one eye the best of Indigenous Knowledges and with the other the best of Western knowledges for the betterment of all. I argue here for the need to highlight the imbalance in power that might afford more weight to one eye than the other when Etuaptmumk is taken up in health related research due to biomedical dominance. I further suggest drawing on critical political economy when engaging with Etuaptmumk to be able to destabilise this potential imbalance in power, so that the application of the Etuaptmumk principle results in seeing with both eyes equally. As such, I posit that instead of integrating and trying to smooth out tensions between Indigenous and western Euro-centric knowledges, we need to explore these potentially generative spaces while also considering how industry and capitalism increasingly are shaping knowledges and approaches to health and health care, particularly in the realm of biomedicine.