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Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert

My Life among the Navajo People

Foreword by Joan Borysenko

• Details the author’s time living with the Navajo people as a teacher, sheepherder, and doctor and her profound experiences with the people, animals, and spirits

• Shows how she learned the Navajo language to bridge the cultural divide

• Reveals the miracles she witnessed, including her own miracle when the elders prayed for healing of a tumor on her neck

• Shares her fearsome encounters with a mountain lion and a shape-shifting “skin walker” and how she fulfilled a prophecy by returning as a doctor

In 1971, Erica Elliott arrived on the Navajo Reservation as a newly minted schoolteacher, knowing nothing about her students or their culture. After a discouraging first week, she almost leaves in despair, unable to communicate with the children or understand cultural cues. But once she starts learning the language, the people begin to trust her, welcoming her into their homes and their hearts. As she is drawn into the mystical world of Navajo life, she has a series of profound experiences with the people, animals, and spirits of Canyon de Chelly that change her life forever.

In this compelling memoir, the author details her time living with the Navajo, the Diné people, and her experiences with their enchanting land, healing ceremonies, and rich traditions. She shares how her love for her students transformed her life as well as the lives of the children. She reveals the miracles she witnessed during this time, including her own miracle when the elders prayed for healing of a tumor on her neck. She survives fearsome encounters with a mountain lion and a shape-shifting “skin walker.” She learns how to herd sheep, make fry bread, and weave traditional rugs, experiencing for herself the life of a traditional Navajo woman.

Fulfilling a Navajo grandmother’s prophecy, the author returns years later to serve the Navajo people as a medical doctor in an underfunded clinic, delivering numerous babies and treating sick people day and night. She also reveals how, when a medicine man offers to thank her with a ceremony, more miracles unfold.

Sharing her life-changing deep dive into Navajo culture, Erica Elliott’s inspiring story reveals the transformation possible from immersion in a spiritually rich culture as well as the power of reaching out to others with joy, respect, and an open heart.

Erica M. Elliott, M.D., is a medical doctor with a busy private practice in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Referred to as “the Health Detective,” she has successfully treated patients from across the country with difficult-to-diagnose health conditions. She served in the Peace Corps in Ecuador and lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.