Research Manuscript Series


Nader R. Yasin

Document Type


Publication Date



Santa Clara, Calif. : Santa Clara University, Department of Anthropology and Sociology


Western medical specialists attempt to treat pathological phenomena by using synthetic drugs. These synthetic drugs can be costly and time consuming to manufacture, distribute and prescribe. Only recently has the mainstream medical community begun to acknowledge the possible benefits of traditional medicinal curing, much of which utilizes inexpensive organic compounds for treatments. Furthermore, native peoples throughout the world have an extensive knowledge of disease and of disease treatment (Vogel 1970, Densmore 1974, Margolin 1978, Heizer and Elsasser 1980). Relying on centuries of botanical experimentation, native peoples have been able to treat a vast number of medical ailments utilizing floral and fauna) species (Vogel 1970, Bocek 1984, Heizer and Elsasser 1980) . Some systems of traditional medicine have received much public attention in recent years. Chinese traditional medicine and indigenous peoples' traditional medicine represent two noteworthy examples. Certain medical authorities have made the observation that traditional medicines can offer valuable treatments of certain pathological ailments for which 'western' medicine can do very little (Manning 1981, Liu 1989).

This study investigates Ohlone medicinal treatments in the broader sociocultural context of Ohlone health, disease and healing. Like many of the cultures of California, the Ohlone had various methods of resolving issues of pain and of disease. Through both shamanistic-ritual treatments and floral treatments, the Ohlone maintained both their mental and physical health (Margolin 1978, Heizer and Elsasser 1980, Bean 1991). Understanding Ohlone healing may be valuable to pharmaceutical researchers, to the medical community and, ultimately, to those in society who suffer from various pathologies. Furthermore, understanding traditional medicine is important for indigenous peoples in terms of understanding their past.

In the following chapters, I first discuss the geography (Chapter 2) and social organization (Chapter 3) of the Ohlone. It is critical to understand the physical environment in which the Ohlone lived when attempting to understand the ethnomedical relationships which the Ohlone had with their surroundings. Next, I present an overview of the cultural position of the shaman in Ohlone society (Chapter 4), before examining in detail their use of medicinal plants for curing (Chapt er 5). Since Ohlone culture was dramatically transformed by its confrontation with the Spanish mission system, I explore both changes and continuity of this period of the latter eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (Chapter 6). Here, I am particularly concerned with the impact of new disease on the Ohlone and the evidence of persistent healing traditions. Finally, I close by examining the revitalization of Ohlone culture, and healing traditions, through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to the present (Chapters 7 and 8) .

Part of

Research Manuscript Series; 5


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