Study examines faith healing in a cell phone age

As a Navajo chanter or traditional medicine man travels Navajoland in his pickup truck, he contacts people in need of healing prayers and ceremonies by his cellular phone.

Where encroachment of western ways has destroyed other cultures, technology enables the Navajos to preserve their traditions in the modern world, says Thomas Csordas, professor of anthropology.

For the past five years, Csordas has been the principal investigator on the Navajo Faith Healing Project, funded by National Institute of Mental Health. The NIMH recently awarded Csordas a three-year, $763,762 grant to follow up on research begun in the past study.

Csordas has examined the interactions among three principal forms of contemporary Navajo religious healing -- traditional Navajo ceremonies or chants, the ritual use of peyote by Native American Church (NAC), and the Pentecostal faith healing.

Collaborating with Navajo and Anglo researchers on the project staff, Csordas will report on the role of faith healing in the lives of the contemporary Navajo for a special issue of Medical Anthropology Quarterly currently under review.

In addition to six articles for Medical Anthropology Quarterly, the Navajo Healing Project has prepared a report for the Navajo Nation Division of Health on the perceptions of the Hantavirsus and articles for Natural History and American Ethnologist.

Approximately 155,000 Navajos live on the reservation, which is about the size of West Virginia. Another 50,000 live in other parts of the country and keep close ties to Navajoland. The reservation is located in the "four corners" region joining New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado and aligns with the compass of four sacred mountains that correspond to the cardinal directions, an important orientation in Navajo culture.

The federal government established this home for the Navajos with a 1868 treaty after the Native Americans were released from four years of captivity near Fort Sumner in eastern

Contact: Susan Griffith
Case Western Reserve University

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