Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Graduate Nursing

First Advisor

Barbara Goddard


The purpose of this study was to explore the definition of health from the perspective of selected Native American women through the identification of their beliefs and practices. Utilizing grounded theory methodology, this investigation considered the import of the traditional oral education system in concurrence with lifestyles accommodating the mainstream culture. Many cultures define health through various influences such as technology, religion, cultural values, kinship, politics, economics and education. Women in almost all ethnic groups are the earliest providers of education, health, values and expected behaviors. This is true for Native American/Alaska Native women. It is from this perspective that the researcher gained a better understanding of the health beliefs and practices of Native American women from the Northern Plains Tribes. Research of the Native American is important for diverse reasons. First because very little is actually known about the Native American, and second, less is known about the Native American woman. Third, the intrinsic differences between the health care provider and the Native American client make knowledge of culturally appropriate individualized assessment, diagnosis, treatment and evaluation crucial. This group's particular vulnerability to a number of health problems suggests that a broader knowledge base and modern research through contemporary experience is timely in order to promote an improvement in the current health status of the Native American. In order to provide meaningful health care service to every culture, it is necessary to have a clear understanding of the intended recipient's perspective of health and health care provision. In this study, focus was on Native American women of several Northern Plains Indian Tribes to provide their personal insights and definitions of health across their lifespans through an open dialogue format. The outcome themes of this study were divided into Childhood Recollections of Health/Illness, Native American Use of Plant and Animal Byproducts for Healing, Contemporary Health Practices and Passing on the Ways of Health Living. These groupings best describe the meaning of health and illness to these Native American Women. The most remarkable outcome of this study is the perception of the older woman regarding health and illness. Each one of these women live with, what Western or white medicine labels a chronic health problem; yet it is NOT seen as a hindrance to living a full life. Health is not only a state of mind, in each of these cases, health is an attitude. Another essential finding is demonstrated in the relationship between health and activity. The relationship would suggest that Native American women are not so different from the mainstream culture which advocates individual ability to remain active as synonymous with being healthy.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Indian women -- Health and hygiene -- Great Plains
Health attitudes
Health behavior
Health and race -- United States




South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright