As Kim E. Nielson notes in A Disability History of the United States, Native American conceptions of disability are unique in that they don’t really exist. There is no language equivalent or even translatable concept for the word disabled, the closest translatable phrase is simply “being different.” … Native Americans do not prescribe to ideas of othering simply because there can be no other in their concepts of reality. Nature is constantly changing so “normalcy is an ever changing process of coming to balance.” Disability is therefore seen as a difference that can be integrated into society. Disability is “only an element of the individual’s existence, not the defining element.”
This week my husband and I are celebrating our five-year anniversary on the beach boardwalk in Ocean City, MD! You can find me listening to my copy of Kim Nielson’s A Disability History of the United States.
Here’s an interesting essay introducing how disabilities are conceptualized in Native American culture.