Richard Katz on Indigenous Psychology and Allyship (#132)

About the Guest

After receiving his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Harvard, Richard Katz began a journey that has taken him beyond the confines of psychology, and indeed Western perspectives and prescriptions, into a world of experiences nourished by Indigenous knowledge.  With Ph.D. in hand, he traveled to the Kalahari Desert to work with the Ju/’hoansi, Indigenous peoples who were primarily hunter-gathers, and therefore offering us a view into the fundamental evolutionary roots of our human behavior.  In the Kalahari, he experienced the Ju/’hoan healing dance, and learned how their healing energy displayed synergy, as that healing energy expanded and became renewable, so that all at the dance were healed and the healing of one became the healing of all.  At the root of this healing energy is a spiritual energy, a powerful spiritual dimension that pervades everyday life, and is therefore more ordinary – and life-giving — than extraordinary, as existing apart from daily life.

After the Kalahari, Katz has spent periods of time over the past 55 years living and working with Indigenous elders and healers among Lakota people in Rosebud Reservation, Indigenous Fijians in the Fiji Islands, and Cree and Saulteaux people in Saskatchewan.  And always, there is this spiritually nourished expanding and renewable healing energy.

At the request of the elders and healers he’s lived and worked with, Katz seeks to fulfill the responsibility they imparted to him:  to bring their Indigenous teaching into contact with Western health care so as to make it more appreciative of diversity, more committed to social justice so the underserved are better served, and more respectful of the importance of community and spirituality in health and healing.  

In addition to his clinical and community work to help fulfill that responsibility, he’s written 7 books on Indigenous approaches to health and healing.  His latest, Indigenous Healing Psychology:  Honoring the Wisdom of the First Peoples is a culmination of his work.  Author royalties from that book will be given back to the Indigenous elders and healers whose teachings animate it.

Throughout his work, Katz stresses the importance of respect for Indigenous knowledge, and an appreciation of the need for exchange.  Though that knowledge is always offered freely – it cannot be sold on a fee-for-service basis – there is a cost.  That knowledge has been nurtured through centuries of colonization and oppression; Indigenous peoples have paid for nurturing their knowledge, at times with their lives.  If we are to share in that knowledge we must commit ourselves to a path of service to others, not ego-enhancement or power.  And that can be a very demanding, but fulfilling cost.

Presently, Katz is a Professor Emeritus at the First Nations University of Canada.  He can be reached at:  [email protected]

In this Episode, We Discuss:

  1. Contemplative practices, popular approaches to alternative wisdom, psychedelics and indigenous healing.
  2. The irreplaceable role of community in spiritual transformation.
  3. Comparing western concepts of psychology to healing from indigenous points of view.
  4. Notions of cultural appropriation and procedures for the transmission of teachings.
  5. Orienting our purpose in passing on teachings and performing ceremonies in a context of service.
  6. Principles of allyship.
  7. The roles and responsibilities of elders.

Quotes from the Episode

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