Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social Work

First Advisor

M. Alex Wagaman

Second Advisor

Mary Katherine O'Connor

Third Advisor

Sarah Kye Price

Fourth Advisor

Maghboeba Mosavel


Little is systematically known about the collective health and well-being of Virginia American Indian people. This study sought to explore the meaning of health and healing among Virginia American Indian people in the context of a reservation-based, non-federally funded health clinic. Using an emergent approach to qualitative research grounded in a constructivist inquiry paradigm and guided by Indigenous research principles, a total of 24 in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 17 American Indian service-users of the Clinic. Through an inductive thematic analysis of participant stories, a framework for understanding responsive and responsible health and healing was derived. The framework includes seven dimensions: spirituality, physical processes, mental and emotional processes, social relationships, access to resources, contextual factors, and the interconnection among the dimensions. Personal and collective identity was a significant element woven through the dimensions. From the stories told by participants, health seems to be a continuum and healing seems to be a cycle. With constant motion in each of the dimensions, health has to do with sustained engagement in healing processes that continually seek to bring about functional balance in one’s whole health system. Ill health has to do with when a change in any one of the dimensions overtakes one’s ability to bring about a functional balance in the whole health system. The framework is context-dependent, true for the people who participated in the study at the time of the study.


© Amy J Prorock-Ernest

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Date of Submission