The Urban American Indian Traditional Spirituality Program: Promoting Indigenous Spiritual Practices for Health Equity

Am J Community Psychol. 2020 Dec;66(3-4):279-289. doi: 10.1002/ajcp.12436. Epub 2020 Jun 29.


Beginning in 2009, Detroit's urban American Indian health center entered into a collaborative and participatory partnership with a university research team. The purpose of the partnership was to incorporate Indigenous traditional healing practices into the health and wellness services at this center. Following extensive consultation with stakeholders at the center, we were commissioned by local decision-makers to develop a program tailored for members of the urban American Indian community that would introduce and orient these individuals to meaningful participation in Indigenous traditional spirituality. The Urban American Indian Traditional Spirituality Program is a structured curriculum for American Indian community members that introduces and orients participants to meaningful engagement with sacred practices associated with the sweat lodge ceremony. The signature innovation of this program was the recasting of traditional socialization practices into a structured, didactic curriculum that could initiate an enduring spiritual devotional life for American Indian participants toward improved health and well-being. Created primarily "by Indians, for Indians," the collaboratively designed curriculum draws on cultural strengths and spiritual empowerment to advance health equity for these marginalized populations.

Keywords: American Indians; Health inequities; Indigenous spirituality; Integrative healthcare; Participatory research; Sweat lodge ceremony.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • American Natives*
  • Community-Based Participatory Research
  • Community-Institutional Relations*
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Health Equity*
  • Health Services, Indigenous
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Traditional
  • Michigan
  • Program Development
  • Spiritual Therapies*
  • Spirituality
  • Universities*
  • Urban Population