In the Spirit of Medicine

Anne Nygård/Unsplash

    Some of you will be coming back home to our people. Some of you will never come back. Those
who stay need to make sure they teach those who come back to us. You need to leave prison life in
prison. Do not bring the way of life that got you into prison back home to our children. 

de Jesus Benitez/Unsplash

I know you’re worried about hurting me and I want you to feel this deep inside. I’m an old woman and I don’t have anything left to pass on to anyone. My opportunity to leave something permanent is gone. I want to know the first time you ever recognized cancer was here. You’re going to feel this again and you’re going to have to tell someone what it is. You need to know what this feels like so you catch it earlier than they did with me. If you’re going to be a doctor, you can’t be afraid.

Cristian Newman/Unsplash

Alvina died with her family at her side. No tubes. No ventilator. No machines keeping her alive. She died with dignity and in peace, just the way she wanted to.

Cristian Palmer/Unsplash

While I was at the hospital, my pager kept going off and I had to return multiple calls to patients, call in prescriptions, …and didn'’t get done with that until almost 11:30 PM.  I had to get up at 4:30 to catch my flight, go through security and check my luggage. 

Ivy Vainio

  Jim Northrup was a good friend and we used to visit him when he was finishing maple syrup in late winter.We would sit under a shelter around a big cast iron kettle.  The kettle was hanging from a tripod encircled by chairs. There was a pit under the kettle for the base of the fire and firewood was leaning against the kettle all the way around.  We sat there and Jim told stories and then he told more stories. Once in a while the boiling sap would rise and try to overflow the kettle.

Tony Goulding/Flickr

  I was sitting deeper in the barn and Jacob and Frank were silhouetted in the door with the rain falling hard beyond them. 

Arne Vainio

It seemed to me she was always old. She had long white hair and she tied it in a bun on the top of her head. 

Center of American Indian and Minority Health

Monica Argentina [via Flickr]

"Lowell would never say this, but deep in his heart he kept a lesson we all learn in childhood, but most of us forget. In order to find true love, you have to be true love. He was all of that to Joyce and he's ready to do it again."

Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College

  We live in a competitive world, but traditionally we are not a competitive people. Our heritage is to share our wealth. Our heritage is humility. Our ancestors shared their belongings and food when times were good and knew they could depend on others when times were bad. Having a “giveaway” and sharing your wealth is not uncommon with Native American people who have been honored in some way.

©Bob King. Used with permission.

 "Ernest knew that deep inside and he gave me something I didn’t even realize I needed. He gave me silence and he taught me in that silence. All of the fishing stories and his taking his sister back into his life and his sitting outside the art gallery working leather were in that silence. When I stood next to him I forgot the things I needed to do and those cares and stresses were a world away. All that mattered was friendship and the sounds of the powwow and the smell of the lake. For a brief moment I could let time slow down and simply stand next to a friend."

Ivy Vainio

I always think when you’re finding your family history, you want there to be a haunted Scottish castle on a moor and maybe some kind of lost treasure. Instead, we found poverty in the heart of Tampa and we found love and acceptance.

©Ivy Vainio. Used with permission

  I have something for you and for him. It’s the only Ojibwe song I know and it was given to me to sing in the American Cemetery in Luxembourg. I sang it there for my wife’s great uncle Johnny Mercer and everyone who died on that B-17 bomber and for every warrior there. It’s a Soldier Song and I want to sing it for you now.

  It’s the only thing I have left for you.  

©Ivy Vainio. Used with permission

The story of how I became a doctor has several beginnings and maybe the middle part has a few different versions depending on what part of being a doctor I’m thinking about.


   “I remember your stories and I appreciate what you tried to teach me.  I wish I could have gone ricing with you and heard you knocking rice as the flocks of redwing blackbirds rose and fell by the thousands in the rice beds. I’ve thought about you sitting by the fire on cold February nights with the stars bright above you and the trees popping and snapping from the cold as you cooked your maple syrup.  I want to learn some of our songs and I always hoped you would teach them to me.”