Aboriginal Medical Instruments

Although objects used in aboriginal healing practices are seldom defined as "medical instruments" according to the Western medical model, the heritage of aboriginal healing practices is represented in a variety of artifacts. Objects such as drums, rattles, medicine bundles, scarification instruments, and mortars and pestles for mixing medicines were often used by medicine men in their healing practices. Several American tribes, including the Houmas and Cochimis of California in the early to late 18th century, were known for their use of hollow bones for sucking out or removing disease. Bulbed syringes made of animal bladder and bone were also used during this period for medicating wounds or for administering enemas. Pierre Charlevoix, for instance, observed the use of syringes in Canada in 1721, noting that the northern tribes treated "bloody flux" by means of a liquid gained from the boiled tips of cedar branches applied with "glisters" (enemas) made from a bladder. This device is thought to have been an independent invention of aboriginal peoples, used prior to colonial contact.

Canadian Heritage Information Network
Canada Museum of Science and Technology, Musée de la civilisation, Stewart Museum, Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, Museum of Health Care at Kingston, University Health Network Artifact Collection, University of Toronto Museum of Scientific Instruments, University of Toronto Museum Studies Program

© CHIN 2001

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