The Scalpel and the Silver Bear Essay

1353 WordsNov 12, 20146 Pages
The Scalpel and the Silver Bear The Navajo creation story explains that medicine was brought to the people by an ancient owl. This owl sent down a magic bundle containing the powers of healing to the new world. For thousands of years Navajo people have used this knowledge to heal and live in harmony with each other. As a product of two worlds, Dr. Lori Alvord was one of the first people to combine modern medicine with Navajo beliefs by overcoming cultural differences. The Scalpel and the Silver Bear follows Lori Alvord on her journey from humble beginnings on the Navajo Reservation to a surgeon in the operating room. She was raised in a small community…show more content…
The culture conflicts that plague Alvord throughout her life start from the day she was born. She was literally born out of two worlds: her mother was white, while her father was a full-blooded Navajo. Her identity was “split in between cultures.” In Navajo she would be called an ‘alni meaning “a person who is half.” Her identity is very much affected by language so when she is labeled as an ‘alni and consequently accepted by neither whites nor Navajos. She was rarely invited to play with the Navajo girls her age and faced racial prejudice from non-Navajos. Early in life she learned, “to be Navajo meant to be downtrodden and broken, treated like a lesser human being by white people.” Unlike Richard Rodriguez who wished to be white, she was ashamed of her Caucasian maternity and longed to be a full-blooded Navajo. The difference in the two cultures became even more apparent when she left the Navajo Nation to study at Dartmouth and then later at Stanford. Alvord explains every Navajo was strongly discouraged from drawing attention to him or herself and was taught very early on to be modest and not to boast. This becomes very problematic for her in classes where she is expected to participate and be competitive. In Navajo culture it is even considered rude to look someone in the eyes. So, Alvord would sit in class, staring down at her desk, trying to make herself invisible. Many of her teachers took her avoidance and lack of

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