Intended for healthcare professionals

Fillers My elective

The silent sentinels

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 08 May 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:1245
  1. David Cummins, clinical tutor
  1. Harefield Hospital, Middlesex.

    The air outside was warm and sultry, with no wind. Dark clouds covered the mountains, and mist lay over the forest and nearby hills. The scattered wooden houses seemed empty and derelict; the dusty roads were deserted. “Take a look around,” he had said, “but be back by five.”

    The doctor visited the reservation once a fortnight. His patients were Gitksin Indians. Traditionally the Gitksin were hunters and skilled wood carvers, but those we had seen in the clinic were sad and smelt of whisky. The doctor said that when it all gets too much the Gitksin walk out on to the highway to join the Great Spirit.

    I strolled to the settlement's northern edge, where the road to Alaska …

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