In the late 1890s, the Methodist Church of Canada established medical missions among the two largest Indigenous settlements of the Central Coast: the Heiltsuk village of Bella Bella, and the Nuxalk village of Bella Coola. These medical missions emphasized the provision of biomedical care as an evangelization strategy, since the Methodists believed that God’s grace and power manifested through their integrated medico-spiritual work. Although missionaries attempted to impose Euro-Canadian notions of health and healing, their assimilatory efforts resulted in an unexpected outcome. Rather than abandoning Indigenous healing, the Heiltsuk and Nuxalkmc recognized the limitations of biomedicine but also its advantages, and thus incorporated biomedical care into their cultural beliefs and practices. This thesis examines the convergence of Euro-Canadian and Indigenous healing systems and how it resulted in the emergence of medical pluralism, and considers how this reciprocal process of exchange affected both missionaries and Indigenous peoples.
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Thesis advisor: Kelm, Mary-Ellen
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