on-line book icon

table of contents

National Historic Site
NPS logo

medicine man medicine man
Two aspects of Apache strength; a typical Mescalero warrior of the 1870's (left), and a Mescalero medicine man of a decade later (right). This tribal savant was named Na-buash-i-ta.
Laboratory of Anthropoloty, Santa Fe

Medicine Men

The role of the medicine men in the western tribes was assessed in these words by Capt. John G. Bourke, frontier army officer and ethnologist whose observations ranged from the Apaches of the southwestern deserts to the Sioux of the northern plains:

The medicine-man of the American tribes is not the fraud and charlatan many people affect to consider him; he is, indeed, the repository of all the lore of the savage, the possessor of knowledge, not of the present world alone, but of the world to come as well. At any moment he can commune with the spirits of the departed; he can turn himself into an animal at will; all diseases are subject to his incantations; to him the enemy must yield on the war-path; without the potent aid of his drum and rattle and song no hunt is undertaken; from the cradle to the grave the destinies of the tribes are subject to his whim.


top of page

History  |   Links to the Past  |   National Park Service  |   Search  |   Contact

Last Modified: Fri, Oct 18 2002 10:00:00 pm PDT

ParkNet Home