July 13, 2018
American Indians Forge New Paths to Build Healthy Communities
The American Indian experience is rooted in a history of genocide and colonialism. This experience, notes Indian Country Today, has now been medically shown to have been “woven into the DNA of Native Americans.” As Mary Annette Pember notes in the article, “Trauma experienced by earlier generations can influence the structure of our genes, making them more likely to ‘switch on’ negative responses to stress and trauma.”
In this context, the health disparities affecting American Indians are dispiriting but not surprising. Especially in Indian Country, it is important for healthcare providers to address social determinants of health—that is, a recognition that creating health requires making the community healthier, not just one individual at a time.
A paper written by Rachelle Barraza, Jami Bartgis, PhD, and the Fresno Native Youth Council in a special 2016 issue on “Strength-based Approaches to Wellness in Indian Country,” published in the Journal of American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research, reports on the work of the Fresno American Indian Health Project to develop and pilot “a strength-based, holistic, and youth-friendly self-assessment tool grounded in the Medicine Wheel.” In the tool, as developed by the group, “the four directions—east, south, west, north—represent the lifespan (i.e., infancy, childhood, adulthood, elderhood); the area of health (i.e., mental, physical, emotional, spiritual); and the GONA [Gathering of Native Americans] themes (i.e., belonging, mastery, interdependence, generosity).”
In other health related news...
There is growing awareness that women of color—particularly African American women—bear the additional burden of institutional racism, which negatively affects their wellbeing even when they enjoy protective factors like high income. Although there is little research or media attention on American Indian and Alaska Native maternal and infant health, evidence suggests parallels to African American women’s experiences.
Conserve Native American sites by listening to tribal descendants
Steve Barg, Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation’s executive director, happens to be Swedish by heritage. At a recent meeting about the Native American heritage sites on JDCF properties, Jim Nepstad, superintendent of Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa, asked him, “How would you feel if you went to a Swedish museum and everyone who worked there — all the collectors and interpreters of the artifacts — were Native American?”
That captures the essence of a Native American’s experience visiting most Native American history museums, he said. Those who interpret their heritage often don’t have any personal knowledge of it.
Steve is determined, however, that such will NOT be the case with JDCF Native American heritage sites. These sites constitute the largest private collection in the state. They include five land and water preserves that contain intact effigy mounds, hundreds of burial mounds as well as village sites and artifacts, some of which predate Columbus’ discovery of the “new world” by thousands of years.
Putting Together New Poets of Native Nations
HEID E. ERDRICH writes:
Native nations are our homelands, our political bodies, our heritages, and the places that make us who we are as Natives in the United States of America. More than 566 Native nations exist in the U.S. and yet “Native American poetry” does not really exist. Our poetry might be hundreds of distinct tribal and cultural poetries as well as American poetry. The extraordinary poets gathered in New Poets of Native Nations have distinct and close ties to specific indigenous nations—including Alaskan Native and island nations. Most are members or citizens of a tribe: Dakota, Diné, Onondaga, Choctaw, and Anishinaabe/Ojibwe (my tribe), and more than a dozen others.
The idea for this anthology came to me when I noticed a prominent poet and literary critic’s social media post asking for names of contemporary Native American poets. A few good answers were offered eventually. But responses also suggested the names of 19th-century tribal orators and worse—the names of known ethnic frauds, of which there are several, and even those who use American Indian-sounding pen names who are white. I looked at all the poetry lovers following the post on social media and it struck me that if an important critic of American poetry asked for general input about Native American poets and got very few names of poets from specific Native nations in response, then we Native Americans writing poetry are dangerously obscure and—worse again—obscured by poets who are not Native to any indigenous nation.
Today's History Lesson:
His journey to being one of the first African-American explorers and frontiersmen of the West and eventually a Crow Nation chief began in 1805 in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
North Carolina’s latest historical highway marker commemorates the Lumbee Tribe driving the Ku Klux Klan out of their county in 1958. The marker honors the confrontation between the Lumbee and Klansmen who showed up for a rally on a January day 60 years ago. The outnumbered Klansmen fled in the face of gunfire from the Lumbee. There were no casualties on either side.
In the era before the Civil War, a large number of the mighty Sioux were encamped at the confluence of the Root and Mississippi Valley lowlands under the shadow of a high bluff.
There are two sides to every story. The version of history we hear is the one told by the country that comes out on top, and these days, American media is so ubiquitous that the American side of the story is usually the only one we know. But for every moment in American history, there’s another side to the story we rarely get to hear.