Book Review: Powwowing Among the Pennsylvania Dutch

Powwowing Among the Pennsylvania Dutch: A Traditional Medical Practice in the Modern World, by David W. Kriebel; published 2007 by The Pennsylvania State University Press; ISBN 978-0-271-03213-9; 6.25 inches x 9.25 inches hardbound; 295 pages, black and white images.  $30.00 in the Museum Store at the Historical Society of Berks County.

Being new to the world of the Pennsylvania Dutch, I am always eager to read something that will help me understand the history of this area.  My volunteers love throwing “new” words at me with a little smile however, the one word they have not successfully explained was the Pennsylvania term Powwow.  Even my parents assumed, as did I, that it had something to do with the Native American Tradition in Pennsylvania.  David Kriebel’s book, Powwowing Among the Pennsylvania Dutch: A Traditional Medical Practice in the Modern World is an historic look at this early form of medicine.  Kriebel not only provides descriptions of actual powwow doctors, but also provides an in depth look at the rituals used through successful cases.  Kriebel relies on past histories, oral tradition and personal experience to bring understanding to the practice of Powwow.  The reoccurring theme is that this practice is not medical based, but faith based and if one truly believes, it will be successful.  In an age where we are turning to a holistic model of medicine, and look for natural remedies for our ailments, the Pennsylvania Dutch Powwow is ahead of the curve.  While many tout this practice as old or uneducated, Kriebel makes a case for the relevance of Powwow in today’s society.

Powwowing Among the Pennsylvania Dutch is an interesting analysis on a practice that was once believed to be dead in today’s society.  Anyone interested in learning more about this practice should definitely read this book.