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Coyote’s Swing

A Memoir and Critique of Mental Hygiene in Native America

David Edward Walker

$34.95

Using a traditional Yakama tale as a motif, Coyote’s Swing combines the author’s firsthand experiences as a consulting psychologist with rare history and sociocultural critique, revealing how the U.S. mental health system reframes Native American reactions to oppression and marginalization into “mental disorders” and “mental illness,” and how the Indian Health Service’s contemporary practices echo historical injustices.

“In the IHS, dissension is often suppressed as blasphemy and whistleblowers are rarely tolerated. Walker is to be commended for his thorough research and timely recommendations for reform of the agency’s delivery of mental health services in Indian County…I join him in praying that this period of tribal history comes to an end.”—Toobshudud Jack Fiander (Yakama), attorney

Illustrations / notes / bibliography / index / 6″ x 9″  / 360 pages (2022)

Available in DECEMBER 2022

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Description

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.

David Edward Walker served as the sole psychologist with a U.S. Indian Health Service (IHS) clinic from 2000 through 2004. After leaving IHS, he continued to provide consulting services to the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. His 2015 and 2016 essays critiquing the U.S. mental health system in Native America for Indian Country Today were widely viewed and shared on social media. Visit the author’s website.

“In the IHS, dissension is often suppressed as blasphemy and whistleblowers are rarely tolerated. Walker is to be commended for his thorough research and timely recommendations for reform of the agency’s delivery of mental health services in Indian County…I join him in praying that this period of tribal history comes to an end.”—Toobshudud Jack Fiander (Yakama), attorney

“A great piece of work… I can’t emphasize that enough. As a community how do we begin to dialogue with each other and encourage our people to speak up, especially given the power imbalance between ‘professionals’ and ‘clients’ as to who knows what is best?…Incorporating his personal experiences of adversity and willingness to acclimate into our community was greatly appreciated.”—Lucy Smartlowit, MSW (Yakama Mexican), Interim Executive Director, Peacekeeper Society

“David Walker’s Coyote’s Swing is a tour de force. It is an extraordinary work of heart, spirit, incisive intelligence, and unflinching truth telling. I highly recommend it.”—Steven Newcomb (Shawnee-Lenape), author of Pagans in the Promised Land and co-producer of the documentary, “The Doctrine of Discovery”

“An engaging and highly informative read that expertly weaves a much-needed counterpoint to the prevailing narratives of the mental health profession. Walker brings his story to life with the unheard voices and stories of those marginalized by the mental health system…[yet] it is also a story of survivorship, resilience, and, at the end, a humble and heartfelt hope.”—Dr. Amber Logan, psychologist, public health professional, Indigenous historian, and traditional Kahungunu Maori wahine

“A comprehensive account of how Native Americans, first assaulted by the U.S. government, continue to be re-traumatized by a U.S. mental health profession that has exacerbated rather than reduced violence, suicide, and substance abuse. Original and compelling, Coyote’s Swing is Walker’s personal and professional odyssey to becoming a dissident psychologist.”—Bruce E. Levine, author of A Profession Without Reason

“To medicalize human suffering through psychiatric language is to strip it of political and historical meaning…Walker’s book is at once a humble, heartfelt personal tale and a rigorously researched, incisively academic critique of the consequences of the ‘mental health’-ization of Indigenous people in the United States. While Coyote’s Swing carefully catalogues the harms that have been done, it is also a clarion call of hope.”—Laura Delano, Executive Director, Inner Compass Initiative, author of UNSHRUNK

This is a story that must be told…This vivid, personal and very moving account has much to teach us all.”—Lucy Johnstone, PsyD, consultant clinical psychologist (UK) and a lead author of The Power Threat Meaning Framework

DECEMBER 2022

Illustrations / notes / bibliography / index / 6″ x 9″  / 360 pages (2022)

ISBN 978-0-87422-420-7 Paperback

Recognition

“In the Indian Health Service, dissension is often suppressed as blasphemy and whistleblowers are rarely tolerated.  Author David Walker is to be commended for his thorough research and timely recommendations for reform of the agency’s delivery of mental health services in Indian County.  In Native humor, exposing another’s disguised beliefs or hypocrisy is called “pulling off their blanket.”  Walker’s banishment from the IHS community could be expected as a result of his authorship of this groundbreaking work.  I join him in praying that this period of tribal history comes to an end.”—Toobshudud  Jack Fiander (Yakama), attorney, former councilman, Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation

“A great piece of work… I can’t emphasize that enough. As a community how do we begin to dialogue with each other and encourage our people to speak up, especially given the power imbalance between ‘professionals’ and ‘clients’ as to who knows what is best? I firmly believe that systems need to continuously be questioned. Incorporating your personal experiences of adversity and willingness to acclimate into our community was greatly appreciated and provided a better understanding of how you came to question the U.S. mental health system. I hope that you are able to continue adding significant lessons to the time ball of your life as you continue to walk beside us to fight for our survival.”—Lucy Smartlowit, MSW (Yakama Mexican), Interim Executive Director, Peacekeeper Society

“David Walker’s Coyote’s Swing is a tour de force. It is an extraordinary work of heart, spirit, incisive intelligence, and unflinching truth telling. I highly recommend it…Coyote’s Swing is a well-researched and highly accessible book. It is remarkable, poignant, and long overdue. It’s a deeply personal tale. Walker is a culturally sensitive psychologist who has dealt first-hand with the heartbreaking and tragic ripple effects of intergenerational trauma in Indian Country. Among other things, Coyote’s Swing calls into question the Western European and pharmaceutical bias of the U.S. Indian Health Service, and the effort to medicate rather than address the institutionalized oppression that has resulted from Native nations and peoples experiencing centuries of domination and dehumanization. I consider Coyote’s Swing a “must read.”—Steven T. Newcomb (Shawnee/Lenape), author of Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery and co-producer of the documentary, “The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code”

“An engaging and highly informative read that expertly weaves a much-needed counterpoint to the prevailing narratives of the mental health profession. Dave Walker guides the reader along a path that few have traveled, bringing his story to life with the unheard voices and stories of those marginalized by the mental health system. Within this story is another, that of Dave Walker’s own path from an angry youth rebelling in pain and anger and addiction, to a respected mental health professional who feels a duty to expose the failings of the system he has devoted his adult life to. His ability to take complex source material and create from it an engaging story that captures a reality of contemporary indigenous mental health is exceptional. He has clearly worked to honor those about whom he writes, and does so with grace, dignity and understanding. Whilst this book recounts a past of marginalization and oppression of a Native people, it is also a story of survivorship, resilience, and, at the end, a humble and heartfelt hope.”—Dr. Amber Logan, psychologist, public health professional,  Indigenous historian, and traditional Kahungunu Maori wahine

“The U.S. mental health system has failed many individuals, and David Walker paints a vivid picture of how it has dramatically failed Native peoples. Coyote’s Swing provides a comprehensive account of how Native Americans, first assaulted by the U.S. government, continue to be re-traumatized by a U.S. mental health profession that has exacerbated rather than reduced violence, suicide, and substance abuse. Original and compelling, Coyote’s Swing is Walker’s personal and professional odyssey to becoming a dissident psychologist…Dr. Walker’s book is valuable for the general public and should be required reading for undergraduate and graduate students in psychology, sociology, native studies, political science, and history.”—Bruce E. Levine, author of A Profession Without Reason

“To medicalize human suffering through psychiatric language is to strip it of political and historical meaning, and nowhere is this more evident, as Coyote’s Swing reveals, than in Native America. David Edward Walker’s book is at once a humble, heartfelt personal tale and a rigorously researched, incisively academic critique of the consequences of the ‘mental health’-ization of Indigenous people in the United States. While Coyote’s Swing carefully catalogues the harms that have been done, it is also a clarion call of hope urging all of us to reclaim our emotional pain from psychiatry’s atomizing, reductionist worldview.”—Laura Delano, Executive Director, Inner Compass Initiative, author of UNSHRUNK

“This is a story that must be told. The hidden history of the use of psychiatric theories and practices to further abuse, oppress and alienate Native Americans has been vividly brought to life by David Walker through his account of working alongside them. Just as importantly, he shows how ancient wisdoms can help us heal from much that is wrong in our Westernized worlds. This vivid, personal and very moving account has much to teach us all.”—Lucy Johnstone, PsyD, consultant clinical psychologist (UK) and a lead author of The Power Threat Meaning Framework

“Walker knows that the end of overt genocide is not the end of a perpetrating society’s ongoing violence against a people. Societal institutions, like psychiatry and psychology, conserve much of the pejorative labeling, disempowerment, and self-serving historical amnesia that paved the way for genocide. Psychology and psychiatry have a long and shameful history of collusion with colonialism and neo-colonialism. Rather than help a society understand and cease its genocidal thinking and action, many mental health practitioners erase the historical and present-day context of oppression by medicalizing the after-effects of violence. Cultural traumas are turned into individualized psychiatric diagnoses, which are presumed to call for psychopharmacological intervention rather than societal transformation and accountability. This beautifully written and researched book enables readers to understand and witness this tragic state of affairs, while pointing to the social and theoretical transformations that are sorely overdue.”—Mary Watkins, author of Accompaniment and the Creation of the Commons, co-author of Toward Psychologies of Liberation and Up Against the Wall: Re-Imagining the U.S.-Mexico Border, Chair, M.A./Ph.D. Depth Psychology Program, and Professor, Community Psychology/Liberation Psychology/Ecopsychology Specialization, Pacifica Graduate Institute

“Dr. David Edward Walker grounds his critique of Euro-Western pseudoscience-based behavioural practices in a long-awaited and needed perspective couched in integrity and careful scholarship. He makes a courageous and laudable case that, at the behest of the U.S. Indian Health Service and by the actions of mental health practitioners in ‘Indian Country,’ contemporary behavioural procedures have become new tools for the neo-colonization and oppression of First Peoples. Dr. Walker’s book transcends borders. It is destined to become a valuable and critical treatise for an international Indigenous audience in New Zealand, Australia, South America, and Pacifica.”—Joseph B. Stone, Ph.D. (Blackfoot); Licensed Clinical Psychologist – Washington State, USA; Registered Psychologist – New Zealand; Senior Lecturer: Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia

“A wonderful book, and an important one, that intertwines past and present in a way that tells of the ongoing oppression and abuse of Indigenous society.“—Robert Whitaker, award-winning author, Psychiatry Under the Influence Anatomy of an Epidemic, and Mad In America

“This beautifully written and researched book enables readers to understand and witness [a] tragic state of affairs, while pointing to the social and theoretical transformations that are sorely overdue.“—Mary Watkins, Chair, M.A./Ph.D. Depth Psychology Program, Professor, Community Psychology/Liberation Psychology/Ecopsychology Specialization, Pacifica Graduate Institute, and author, Accompaniment and the Creation of the Commons, co-author of Toward Psychologies of Liberation and Up Against the Wall

“Walker’s book transcends borders. It is destined to become a valuable and critical treatise for an international Indigenous audience.“—Joseph B. Stone, Ph.D. (Blackfoot); Licensed Clinical Psychologist – Washington State, USA; Registered Psychologist – New Zealand; Senior Lecturer: Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia

“Walker vividly brings to life the hidden history of using psychiatric theories and practices to further abuse and alienate Native Americans.”—Lucy Johnstone, PsyD, consultant clinical psychologist (UK) and a lead author of The Power Threat Meaning Framework

“Walker’s mix of personal anecdotes and scholarly research make the topic of how mental health professionals have oppressed American Indians come alive [and] should be required reading for undergraduate and graduate students in psychology, sociology, native studies, political science, and history.”—Bruce E. Levine, author of A Profession Without Reason

 

 

 

 

 

Additional information

Dimensions 6 x 9 in
Format

Paperback