Sexuality-MW: The Spirit
The Medicine Wheel: Sexuality and Intimacy's
Impact on the Spirit

Medicine WheelSpritualPhysicalEmotionalMental

This section describes spiritual affects of sexuality and how some traditional Indian ceremonies need to be modified to help protect you.

Roseanne Wyman
Dx 1987 Cervix Cancer

"When I was about 5 months pregnant with my youngest son who's 21 right now, I had my pap smears was suspicious. They said I had, like, precursors to cancer. We went through all the medical stuff that okay the doctor told me that I was going to have a biopsy. I got right to the point where I was on the table, and then all of a sudden he tells me, well, I'm gonna do this, this, this. This little detail that he forgot to tell me, that you might lose your baby. Well, this was no little detail to me, it had an impact on my life. I figured, two children were plenty for me and this was going to be my last one, and hoping it was a girl. But a boy and he's been the light of my life too. But, anyway, the doctor says, you might lose the baby. He says, well the baby is abnormally small anyway, if you lose it, that's ok, you can have another one! I thought, what a cold person! Is this because, was I treated like this because am I Native? Is it because I'm Native? That, you know,like he didn't fully explain all the details? And just figured well bang, she's just going to go through with it, do what she wants, do what I want and that will be the end of it. But, I objected, no way, I'm not going to do that. I don't want to lose my baby, and I didn't. He got mad and refused to be my doctor. So, that was it. You know, I had to find another doctor, to get a, to have the baby delivered. And this abnormally small baby he's three hundred pounds today. He weight lifts, he's about 6' tall, and as healthy as they come. I'm glad, you know, I put my life on the line for him. He's certainly made every moment worth while. This was all from like basically, everything stems from my spirituality, my strong faith. The belief that the Creator was going guide me in the right direction. And He has."
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  • General Concepts
    • Every Native culture includes sexuality and intimacy as part of a healthy family life.
      • Some religious teachings say that any touching of one's body is evil and wrong.
      • Common sexual practices may often include touching private areas of one another's bodies.
      • Touching your own body is important for breast health. You need to know what your breasts feel like to know what is normal for you (see monthly breast self examinations in "Get on the Path to Breast Health" module 6 )
      • Touching your body does not cause cancer.
    • Most tribes have some traditional rules about talking about sexuality or intimate activities. Generally, it is discouraged.
      • This is to display modesty and show respect for the Creator's spiritual gift of sexuality.
      • Humor may be used, but not at another person's expense.
      • Crude talk and joking should not be used as it may violate spiritual sacredness
    • Mothers or Aunties are traditionally the sexual educators for their daughters / nieces.
    • Fathers or uncles are traditionally the sexual educators for their sons / nephews.
    • Healers are usually required to be of the same sex as the person if the problem is sexual. For example, a woman who is having a lot of bleeding after a mastectomy goes to an elder women healer for help as well as to the western medical provider.

  • Sexuality and intimacy usually are intertwined with spirituality.
    • Each Native culture includes specific beliefs of how the spirit, sexuality, and intimacy are intertwined.
    • Most include that the male and female roles within the family are related spiritually and those spirits become stronger with sharing intimately with one another. that the spirit of union and family is part of sexuality and that our spirits join
    • In the past, most if not all tribal traditional practices included several types of sexual or gender ceremonies, for example, puberty ceremonies. These are still conducted today by many tribes. Puberty ceremonies differ greatly for males and females. All are designed to instill respect for one's body and sexual functions. Many of the female puberty ceremonies emphasize the blessing the Creator grants to the body as a "life giver".

    "Punkin" Shananaguet
    Cancer Advocate

    "We believe in that sacred sense of touch, healing. We believe that touch is healing in itself. Traditional knowledge that has been debased and devalued by the influence of the church and boarding school area, the association of self exam for masturbation, therefore perceived as sinful to touch yourself. Therefore, our grandmothers lost their connection to their own body and personal health practice management."
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    • Even if a woman learns later in life that she cannot have children, once puberty ceremonies are completed, the woman's role in the community is of a protector of both the young and the elders.
    • Tribal female elders state that these ceremonies help young girls behave in more responsible ways in comparison to others who do not take part in these ceremonies.
    • Gender ceremonies include distinctive traditional naming ceremonies for males or females. Some tribes later in life also do two-spirited ceremonies to acknowledge and respect lesbian, gay, bisexual people. Those who are transsexual are treated differently by individual tribes.
    • Pregnancy ceremonies for a blessed and healthy child are also conducted with the entire family by individual tribes. There are ceremonies that include the placenta for spiritual practices or to protect the health of the infant and throughout life.
      • Ceremonies exist for the couple who have a miscarriage
    • Ceremonies also exist for people born with or who have physical, mental, emotional or spiritual problems.
    • Spiritual ceremonies are used by many for couples living together (same sex or mixed sexual relationships).
    • Wedding ceremonies include requests for the Creator to bless the union of the couple and for their families.
    • Some traditional tribal practices do/did not recognize divorce. However, divorce ceremonies are becoming more common. They may be contemporary or traditional. These ceremonies allow the former partners' spirits to separate without damage. Getting or being divorced does not cause cancer.
    • Any damage or removal of sexual organs usually requires some type of spiritual ceremony. This may be one or a series of related ceremonies conducted over 6 months period of time.
      • This may allow a woman to be intimate with or without sexual intercourse.
      • A woman who has a hysterectomy may also take part in a healing ceremony of her spirit.
      • Some traditional tribal beliefs specify that women cannot take part in sexual intercourse until they go through such a ceremony. This protects both the woman and their sexual partner.
      • A respected elder female healer from the woman's own tribe or a related tribe usually performs the ceremony.

  • Sexual behavior and spirituality are "NOT" always intertwined
    • Rape, molestation and incest are examples of violence, force and unhealthy forms of showing power over another. They are not about sexuality. Many tribes believe that the person who rapes or molests is possessed by evil spirits or is cursed by another.
    • These behaviors were not part of any Native historical traditional behaviors. They are not acceptable behaviors today.
    • Cancer patients who were victims of such behavior usually require a combination of ceremonies for both the violence and the cancer.
    • Rape, incest, molestation "fracture" the spirit of the victim.
    • When cancer occurs, even if the fracture was healed through traditional ceremony, the cancer spirit may open the wound.
    • Another ceremony may be needed for healing.
    • Cancer is not caused by violent sexual behavior
    • Sleeping with someone else's spiritually sanctioned partner may also have a similar wound effect. While this behavior may increase one's risk for cervix cancer, in and of itself, sleeping with someone else's partner does not cause cancer.

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