Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/56

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52
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

always prepared for a raid on her kitchen and store-room for bread, soup, sheets and bandages.

The old-time "medicine-man" was really better than the average white doctor in those days, for, although his treatment was largely suggestive, his herbs were harmless, and he did allay some distress which the other aggravated, because he used powerful drugs almost at random and did not attend to his cases intelligently. The native practitioners were at first suspicious of me as a dangerous rival, but we soon became good friends, and they sometimes came frankly to me for advice and even proposed to borrow some of my remedies.

Of course, even in that early period when the average government doctor feared to risk his life by going freely among the people (though there was no real danger unless he invited it), there were a few who were sincere and partially successful, especially some military surgeons.

Now that stage of the medical work among the Indians is past, and the agency doctor has no valid excuse for failing to perform his professional duty. It is true that he is poorly paid and too often overworked; but the equipment is better and there is intelligent supervision. At Pine Ridge, where I labored single-handed, there are now three physicians, with a hospital to aid them in their work. To-day there are two hundred physicians, with a head supervisor and a number of specialists, seventy nurses, and eighty field matrons in the Indian service.

 

Some Mistakes and the Remedies

Another serious mistake has been made in the poor sanitary equipment of Indian schools. Close confinement and long hours of work were for these children of the forest and plains unnatural and trying at best. Dormitories especially have been shamefully overcrowded, and undesirable pupils, by reason both of disease and bad morals, allowed to mingle freely with the healthy and innocent. Serious mishaps have occurred which have given some of these schools a bad name; but I really believe that greater care is being taken at the present time. It was chiefly at an early period of the Indian's advance toward civilization that both mismanagement and adverse circumstance, combined with his own inexperience and ignorance of the new ways, weakened his naturally splendid powers and paved the way for his present physical decline. His mental lethargy and want of ambition under the deadening reservation system has had much to do with the outcome.

He was in a sense muzzled. He was told: "You are yet a child. You can not teach your own children, nor judge of their education. They must not even use their mother tongue. I will do it all myself. I have got to make you over; meanwhile I will feed and clothe you. I will be your nurse and guardian."