Coyote's Swing: A Memoir and Critique of Mental Hygiene in Native America (Paperback)
A Native foster youth brings a completed Pfizer Corporation's "PTSD Self-Quiz" she found in a U.S. Indian Health Service clinic waiting room to her psychologist, hoping a new diagnosis will allow her to discontinue her current stimulant medication. After advocating on her behalf and that of other Native clients in his care, the psychologist is put on a "performance improvement plan" by clinic supervisors. Subsequently, a nurse practitioner at the clinic sends a letter to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regarding concerns over poor medical care and infection control, only to be transferred out shortly after.
Coyote's Swing reveals how the U.S. mental health system reframes Native American reactions to oppression and marginalization into "mental disorders" and "mental illness." Contemporary practices of the Indian Health Service echo historical "Indian lunacy" determinations, false imprisonment in the Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians, stigmatizing of Native children kidnapped to federally- and mission-run boarding schools as "feebleminded," sterilizing of Native people evaluated by white psychologists as "unfit to reproduce," and long-standing doctrines of impairment and deficiency foreign to Native values of spiritual balance and wellbeing.
Immersed in this system and its history for two decades, David Edward Walker develops provocative connections between past and present while using a traditional Yakama tale as a motif. Combining narrative ease and a scholar's eye, he exposes how the "white man's Cat" continues to push Coyote, Sacred Trickster, on a "swing" of Western mental health ideology that has threatened Native lives and culture for over 150 years. Coyote's Swing combines Walker's firsthand experiences as a consulting psychologist with rare history and sociocultural critique.