A Native American woman gets screened for
The numbers are staggering.
"If we do not find a way to change this epidemic," says Dr. Ann Bullock in Spiral of Fire, "we will have done what the bullets, the treaties, the boarding schools did not do. We will have succeeded in probably eliminating Indian culture in a meaningful way because there just won't be very many of us left who are healthy enough to pass it on."
Health problems are decimating the cultures of Native tribes by killing Indians before their times. The problem is made worse because the federal government's Indian Health Service, until recently, concentrated almost all of their resources on reservations.
Today, almost two-thirds of Native Americans live in urban areas far from their home reservations. The Indian hospitals, clinics and programs are on the reservations. The people are not.
Many Native leaders believe that the solutions for the diseases that are threatening tribal culture will have to come through strengthening that same culture.
Cherokee Choices, the diabetes prevention program on the Eastern Band reservation, is teaching children to have pride in their heritage as a way of breaking the cycle of generational trauma. On the federal level, the Indian Health Service is turning over control to individual tribes, recognizing that a program that might work with one tribal culture might not with another.
More and more tribes are turning back to traditional tribal spirituality and rituals to cleanse the bodies and souls of their members. Sweat lodge ceremonies have been used to treat alcoholism, post traumatic stress disorder in both white and Native veterans. Prisons in several states have allowed Native American inmates to practice sweat lodge and other tribal religious ceremonies as part of their rehabilitation.
In the pages that follow, we look at some of the major health problems facing Native Americans and the ways they are working toward healing.
|© 2006 Native American Public Telecommunications. All Rights Reserved.||Published September 2006