Taking Medicine
248 pages, 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
15 b&w photos, 1 map
Release Date:01 Jul 2011
Release Date:28 Oct 2010
Release Date:01 Jul 2011

Taking Medicine

Women's Healing Work and Colonial Contact in Southern Alberta, 1880-1930

UBC Press

The buffalo hunter, the medicine man, and the missionary continue to dominate the history of the North American west, even though historians have recognized women’s role as both colonizer and colonized since the 1980s.

Kristin Burnett helps to correct this imbalance by investigating the convergence of Aboriginal and settler therapeutic regimes in southern Alberta from the perspective of women. Although the imperial eye focused on medicine men, women in Treaty 7 nations – Siksika, Kainai, Piikani, Tsuu T’ina, and Nakoda – played important roles as healers and caregivers, and the knowledge and healing work of both Aboriginal and settler women brought them into contact. As white settlement increased and the colonial regime hardened, however, healing encounters in domestic spaces gave way to more formal, one-sided interactions in settler-run hospitals and nursing stations.

Taking Medicine presents colonial medicine and nursing as a gendered phenomenon that had particular meanings for Aboriginal and settler women who dealt with one another over bodily matters. By bringing to light women’s contributions to the development of health care in southern Alberta between 1880 and 1930, this book challenges traditional understandings of colonial medicine and nursing in the contact zone.

This book will be of interest to students and scholars of western Canadian history, the history of medicine and nursing, and Aboriginal and women’s history.

Kristin Burnett is a member of the Department of History at Lakehead University.


1 Niitsitapi: The Northwestern Plains

2 Setting the Stage: Engendering the Therapeutic Culture of the Siksika, Kainai, Piikani, Tsuu T’ina, and Nakoda

3 Giving Birth: Women’s Health Work and Western Settlement, 1850-1900

4 Converging Therapeutic Systems: Encounters between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Women, 1870s-90s

5 Laying the Foundation: The Work of Nurses, Nursing Sisters, and Female Attendants on Reserves, 1890-1915

6 Taking over the System: Graduate Nurses, Nursing Sisters, Female Attendants, and Indian Health Services, 1915-30

7 The Snake and the Butterfly: Midwifery and Birth Control, 1900s-30s





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