This book places the revival of Indigenous ceremonialism in a new light. The author aims at dispelling misconceptions and negative opinions by showing the traditional rituals to have well-defined and integrated therapeutic effects. The guardian spirit ceremonial of the Coast Salish First Nations combines the Spirit Quest of the Plateau bands with the rich ceremonial life of the Northwest Coast cultures. In this book, the author draws upon personal observations and upon information obtained in years of close contact with the Coast Salish Peoples, as a physician and psychiatrist, as well as upon ethnographic literature. He witnessed the revival of the ceremonial after decades of suppression and shows that, besides its complex traditional functions, it now provides the local Indigenous population with an annual winter treatment program in which several types of well-defined therapeutic procedures are integrated. These procedures compare favorably with Western medical management of psychophysiological conditions and with Western correctional measures in behavior disorders. Initiation into spirit dancing permits an alienated Indigenous person, suffering from what the author describes as 'anomic depression', to reidentify with the culture of his ancestors and obtain the traditional guardian spirit power in order to grow with it into a more rewarding and healthier existence. In presenting a scientific analysis of the ceremonial, the author aims at dispelling misconceptions and negative opinions. It is hoped that the Indigenous elders and healers who have generously shared their knowledge with the author will be encouraged by this book to continue with their efforts in the service of the Indigenous Peoples of the Northwest Coast.
About the author
Wolfgang Jilek received his medical education in Vienna, Innsbruck, Munich, and Chicago. He trained as a psychiatrist in hospitals affiliated with the medical schools of the Universities of Vienna, Zurich, New York State, McGill and the University of Montreal; and did graduate studies in anthropology and sociology at McGill and the University of British Columbia. Dr. Jilek is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, a member of the Board of Advisors of the Transcultural Psychiatric Research Review, McGill University and of the Journal for Interdisciplinary Research "Ethnomedicine", Hamburg. He was active as Chairman of the Section on First Nations Peoples Mental Health, Canadian Psychiatric Association, organizing transcultural workshops in which First Nations representatives from Canada and the USA participated together with health professionals. With his wife, Dr. Louise Jilek-Aaall, who is a psychiatrist, anthropologist, and specialist in tropical medicine, he has conducted ethnopsychiatric investigations in East Africa, Haiti, South Ameria, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, and Western Canada.