Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Social Science Indigenous Studies

Medicine Unbundled

A Journey through the Minefields of Indigenous Health Care

by (author) Gary Geddes

Heritage House Publishing
Initial publish date
Feb 2017
Indigenous Studies, Discrimination & Race Relations, Public Health
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2017
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Feb 2017
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


"We can no longer pretend we don't know about residential schools, murdered and missing Aboriginal women and 'Indian hospitals.' The only outstanding question is how we respond." —Tom Sandborn, Vancouver Sun

A shocking exposé of the dark history and legacy of segregated Indigenous health care in Canada.

After the publication of his critically acclaimed 2011 book Drink the Bitter Root: A Writer’s Search for Justice and Healing in Africa, author Gary Geddes turned the investigative lens on his own country, embarking on a long and difficult journey across Canada to interview Indigenous elders willing to share their experiences of segregated health care, including their treatment in the "Indian hospitals" that existed from coast to coast for over half a century.

The memories recounted by these survivors—from gratuitous drug and surgical experiments to electroshock treatments intended to destroy the memory of sexual abuse—are truly harrowing, and will surely shatter any lingering illusions about the virtues or good intentions of our colonial past. Yet, this is more than just the painful history of a once-so-called vanishing people (a people who have resisted vanishing despite the best efforts of those in charge); it is a testament to survival, perseverance, and the power of memory to keep history alive and promote the idea of a more open and just future.

Released to coincide with the Year of Reconciliation (2017), Medicine Unbundled is an important and timely contribution to our national narrative.

About the author

Gary Geddes was born in Vancouver and raised mostly on the west coast, where he gill netted, loaded boxcars at BC Sugar Refinery, stocked shelves at Woodwards, worked as a fishing guide at Whytecliffe, taught on Texada Island, and drove water-taxi. After doing graduate studies at Reading University in England and at the University of Toronto, he embarked on a varied career as a writer, teacher, editor, and publisher. Gary taught for twenty years at Concordia University in Montreal before returning to the west coast, where he was appointed Distinguished Professor of Canadian Culture at Western Washington University (1998-2001) and served as writer-in-residence at Green College (UBC), and the Vancouver Public Library. He has written and edited more than thirty-five books of poetry, fiction, drama, non-fiction, criticism, translation and anthologies, including 20th Century Poetry & Poetics and 15 Canadian Poets Times 3. His literary awards include the E.J. Pratt Medal and Prize (1970), the National Poetry Prize (1981), the Americas Best Book Award in the 1985 Commonwealth Poetry Competition, National Magazine Gold Award (1987), the Writers Choice Award (1988), Archibald Lampman Prize (1990 and 1996), the Poetry Book Society Recommendation (1996) and the Gabriela Mistral Prize (1996), which he shared with Nobel laureates Octavio Paz and Vaclav Havel and with Rafael Alberti, Ernesto Cardenal, and Mario Benedetti. Gary Geddes lives on Vancouver Island, where he divides his time between Victoria and French Beach.

Gary Geddes' profile page

Editorial Reviews

"This book deserves to be widely read and should be acted upon boldly. Anyone who cares about human decency and social justice owes a debt to Gary Geddes and to his indigenous informants."—Tom Sandborn, Vancouver Sun

"Newcomers to these topics—especially casual readers—will discover a welcome overview, while seasoned researchers will find ample food for thought, a thorough bibliography and notes, and an index."—Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail, Canada's History

"[Geddes'] account of his own journey will help to nudge Canadians into the difficult in-between spaces where a different Canada can be made in the decades to come."—Roger Epp, Alberta Views

"Despite all this pain [Medicine Unbundled] is gentle and full of humour."—Fish Griwkowsky, Edmonton Journal

"I absolutely love this book. Geddes has done a simply amazing job of drilling deeply into this matter, and the end results are nothing less than spectacular. I congratulate him on a remarkable and remarkably important achievement."—Paul Barnsley, Aboriginal People’s Television Network

"The book reiterates the power of memory to keep history alive and suggests reconciliation as a means to a more open and just future for Canadian society."—Canadian Indigenous Books for Schools

"This is part of my story too, a great and necessary story Canadians need to read."—Richard Wagamese, author of Embers: One Ojibway's Meditations, Indian Horse, and One Native Life

"The resilience of the speakers of these stories and Geddes' compassionate and precise rendering of these shadowed narratives are hopeful medicine."—BC Studies

"Medicine Unbundled is not only smart, passionate, and humble, infused with respect for the people and their history, but also an important and inspiring work."—Maureen Lux, professor of Aboriginal and Canadian history, Brock University

"By collecting first-hand testimonies from survivors of Indian Hospitals, primarily in Western Canada, Geddes has generated a valuable and necessary work to complement Dara Culhane Speck's ground-breaking An Error in Judgement: The Politics of Medical Care in an Indian/White Community, Yvonne Boyer's Moving Aboriginal Health Forward: Discarding Canada's Legal Barriers (which Geddes reviewed for the Vancouver Sun), Maureen K. Lux's Medicine That Walks: Disease, Medicine and Canadian Plains Native People and her newly released academic study, Separate Beds: A History of Indian Hospitals in Canada, 1920s-1980s."—Mary-Ellen Kelm, Ormsby Review

Other titles by Gary Geddes

Related lists