George Amiotte, an Ogalala Lakota from Pine Ridge, became a healing professional after a near death experience as a marine in Viet Nam. Upon his return home George searched for ways to restore his own wounded spirit and for a direction in life, when he was guided by Lakota elders to pursue a career in medicine. This was a tall order to fill as George had only just gotten his GED in the Marine Corps, but he was able to enter and successfully complete a graduate program as a physician's assistant. At the same time George studied medicine with Lakota elders. He, therefore, has a unique background that combines modern and traditional healing modalities.
Amiotte specializes in helping veterans overcome post traumatic stress disorder, a term used to describe combat fatigue. Most of his patients are Native Americans although he sees non-Native people as well. As a guardian of the sun dance, part of George's work involves the use of the sun dance ceremony in healing. As a result, George has been able to achieve success where standard Veteran's Administration programs have failed.
When an interested doctor from UCLA visited one ceremony, and was confused by what he saw, George explained to him that healing is more than a physical manifestation. Healing takes place on the physical, mental and spiritual levels, and a medical practitioner needs to consider all three aspects for optimum success. This is something western medicine fails to do.
Amiotte was then invited to see patients with gastrointestinal disorders who weren't responding to contemporary western medicine. In a year's time, his four patients responded beautifully to therapy, and the UCLA Medical Society woke up to the advantages of healing from a Native American perspective. George is now a member of a team of doctors that study and incorporate alternative healing methods into their western medical practices.
HEALING of NATIONS
In a recent interview, George shared with me his philosophy of working with patients. His approach is to look at an individual on three levels. First, he checks to see that there are no physical problems, such as an organic disease; second, he interviews the patient to assess their state of mind; and, third, George looks at a person's spirituality. Analyzing these factors helps him to put together an effective healing protocol.
"I don't have one way of working," George says. "If a Native American wants to be treated by ceremony, I will set one up. That requires setting the stage for the individual to come to an alter, a physical area that is represented by earth, wind, fire, and water. Sometimes we use drum music. We acknowledge the universal laws, natural laws, our ancestors, the earth that we stand on. And we call in the healing aspect of this psychologically, physically, and spiritually.
Although trained as a healer, George acknowledges that healing depends upon God's will and a patient's receptivity: "I am a healer. But the reality of healing is in God's hands. I'm a conduit, a hollow bone, if you will. For a patient to be healed, he or she must be receptive to a higher power. A person needs a relationship to God or a belief in a greater force."