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How Age-Old Cultural Tenets Complicate the Care of Premature or Sick Navajo Newborns 

How Age-Old Cultural Tenets Complicate the Care of Premature or Sick Navajo Newborns
Chapter:
How Age-Old Cultural Tenets Complicate the Care of Premature or Sick Navajo Newborns
Author(s):

Maureen Trudelle Schwarz

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780190636852.003.0010
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date: 23 April 2021

Each of the hundreds of indigenous groups in Native North America has its own beliefs about the body, personhood, health, and illness, which directly influence care and treatment of premature and sick newborns. This chapter is limited to how members of the Diné Nation (more commonly known as the Navajo) think about these issues. Differences of opinion invariably exist between biomedical practitioners’ and Navajo family members’ understandings of the causes, treatments, and appropriate care for the child. Several factors will be at play: among them are differences acknowledged between Navajo and non-Navajo people; notions of contamination; and medical and religious pluralism. Also relevant are numerous age-old Navajo tenets on the body and personhood, including relational notions of personhood; beliefs about how detached body parts retain lifelong influence; assumptions regarding the malleability of a newborn’s body; prohibitions against cardiopulmonary resuscitation and blood transfusions; and convictions about the power of language.

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