Strong Hearts and Healing Hands
Southern California Indians and Field Nurses, 1920–1950
Over time, field nurses and Native people formed a positive working relationship that resulted in the decline of mortality from infectious diseases. Many Native Americans accepted and used Western medicine to fight pathogens, while also continuing Indigenous medicine ways. Nurses helped control tuberculosis, measles, influenza, pneumonia, and a host of gastrointestinal sicknesses. In partnership with the community, nurses quarantined people with contagious diseases, tested for infections, and tracked patients and contacts. Indians turned to nurses and learned about disease prevention. With strong hearts, Indians eagerly participated in the tuberculosis campaign of 1939–40 to x-ray tribal members living on twenty-nine reservations. Through their cooperative efforts, Indians and health-care providers decreased deaths, cases, and misery among the tribes of Southern California.
“Clifford Trafzer brings his many years of experience and unique set of knowledge to uncover the understudied role of field nurses from the Progressive Era to the 1950s as they collaborated closely with a multitude of Native Americans in Southern California to promote public health and counter the onslaught of tuberculosis and other Western diseases that afflicted them as a result of being confined to reservations.”—Andrae M. Marak, co-author of At the Border of Empires