Doctor wants traditional healing on First Nations reserves

A Manitoba doctor is calling for more traditional healing on First Nations reserves.

A Manitoba doctor is calling for more traditional healing on First Nations reserves.

Marlyn Cook has worked on many northern Manitoba reserves where she sees people addicted to prescription drugs.

"People are in a lot of pain so they're looking for ways of dealing with that pain. We need to set up alternative methods of coping and dealing with that pain and just handing them a prescription is not the answer," she said.

Once, when she refused to fill a prescription, the response left her fearing for her life.

A drug-addicted woman wanted Percocet, a pain killer, and began threatening Cook when the prescription was refused. Cook talked the woman down and got her to agree to a blood test that ultimately revealed five different prescription drugs in her system.

Cook told the story while speaking at the Retrieving the Spirit Conference put on by the Sagkeeng First Nation this week in Winnipeg.

The conference is being held to try to find a way to deal with the rampant problem of presription drug addiction on reserves.

Cook wants to see more traditional aboriginal healing centres similar to what there is in Ontario, where Aboriginal Health Clinics have to have an aboriginal healer on staff.

"Manitoba's nowhere near that and you know, we keep spending millions and millions of dollars on these drugs and that's not what's going to help the communities heal," she said.

The problem is, people are in real pain, both physical and psychological, she said.

Unless that is dealt with, the addictions and the violence will continue. And that fear of violence is part of what keeps doctors from practicing in those communities, Cook said.

Organizers of the conference hope to see more traditional health care on reserve to stem the tide of addiction.