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It is very common for people to confuse shamanism with the type of work done by medicine men and medicine women in tribal societies Whereas not all medicine people are shamans In fact most medicine men and women are not shamans Many shamans fill social roles more like that of priests To most Native people the shaman is seen as an all-around sacred practitioner healer herbalist doctor mystic storyteller dancer and singer of songs Hopefully the information in this paper will help to eliminate some of the Western misinterpretations about who the shaman really is and the role in which they truly play within their society The Native American Shaman The Source of Sacred Knowledge The first thing that comes to mind to most Westerners when the word Shaman is used is witch doctor magic medicine man medium or psychic Each of these words has its own certain connotation or implication some of which is filled with superstition and negativity But if we truly want to understand who the shaman really is it is important to understand first that the word shaman was chosen from the language of the Tungus tribe in Siberia And it is not a Native American term Beck et al pg96 The word shaman was specifically chosen by anthropologists in order to accurately describe certain individuals in native societies who perform specific responsibilities in their community Doore pg7 The shaman was often seen as an all-around sacred practitioner a mystic a doctor an herbalist a diagnostician a hunter a dancer a singer a storyteller an artist and a person of knowledge Beck et al pg100 It is very common for people to confuse shamanism with the type of work done by medicine men and medicine women in tribal societies Whereas not all medicine people are shamans In fact most medicine men
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