An intimate look at the mystical world of the Navajo people
• 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 “skinwalker” 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 “skinwalker.” 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.
About the Author
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.
“The most valuable lessons learned from Dr. Elliott’s writing come from her cross-cultural experiences while living and working among the Navajo people. It is a true adventure with many valuable lessons learned from another cultural lifestyle.”
— Johnson Dennison, Navajo medicine man practitioner
“Erica gives a perspective on the Navajo people that could not be authentic without her having taken a deep dive into our way of life. Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert is a recounting of experiences and everyday life in the beginning of tribal self-determination. She delves into the mindset as Navajos reach to the surface of a fresh new start. Erica captures the period with accuracy and detail. Her story is now a permanent part of the historical annals of the Navajo people.”
— Deswood Tome, business consultant and member of the Navajo Nation
“Dr. Erica Elliott’s account of her life among the Navajo people is a story of high adventure that surpasses the wildest fiction. Elliott’s willingness to transcend her cultural conditioning and enter another complex society is an act of great courage--one that reveals her boundless empathy and compassion. This book is sorely needed at this moment in America, when divisive voices incessantly warn us of the other, the foreigner, those who ‘are not like us.’ Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert: My Life among the Navajo People reveals how diversity and inclusiveness can enrich our own society--a lesson on which our future may depend.”
— Larry Dossey, M.D., author of One Mind: How Our Individual Mind Is Part of a Greater Consciousness a
“What a wonderful book! Elliott’s voice mesmerized me. For weeks after I read this, I thought about her time with the Navajos. Such an inspiring, life-affirming, yet tough tale, woven through with a strong drive to realize her life path. Beautifully written. Elliott is an exciting new voice.”
— Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones
“Erica Elliott writes fearlessly, with an original voice that grabbed me from the first page. Her true adventures on the Navajo Nation as a teacher, a shepherd, an emergency room doctor--and best of all, an open-hearted student immersed in a spiritually rich culture--make a great story. She leaves the reader with something to ponder: the abiding importance of reaching out to others with joy and respect. I love this book.”
— Anne Hillerman, New York Times bestselling author of the Leaphorn, Chee, and Manuelito mystery serie
“This is a powerful and personal book about courage and compassion. Reading it, we are drawn into the web of Dr. Elliott’s extraordinary life of service and learning with the Navajo people of the American Southwest. We are fortunate for the chance to accompany her on her remarkable journey.”
— Rev. Joan Jiko Halifax, Ph.D., abbot of Upaya Zen Center and author of Standing at the Edge