Journey to Wellness in Indian Country

Duluth Public Schools/Facebook

Parsing the difference between "equality" and "equity" is the kind of thing you might expect in a school assignment.

Howl Arts Collective Montreal/Flickr

Duluth's ongoing conversation about Earned Safe and Sick Time is a critical one for people who risk their jobs if they take time off to care for a sick child or are seeking help in instances of domestic abuse.

In Duluth's Native American community, over 30% of the population is homeless.  80% of mothers are the primary breadwinners for their families. And 46% - compared to 26% of the general population here - are living below the poverty line.

So as you might imagine, issues surrounding income and job security - not to mention aid for victims of violence - are big deals.

Melissa Boyd

When Melissa Boyd started her Ojibwe language studies with elders, she discovered she was learning more than words.

For one thing, her studies were teaching her things about herself as an Anishinabe person; things that weren't included in public school or even tribal school curricula.

She believes that part of low Native graduation rates have to do with missing pieces of their education: students don't learn about themselves, their issues, their community, their strengths and their history.

©Dakota Wicohan

Sixth grade in Minnesota traditionally means a lot of learning about lakes and iron ore and Scandinavian immigrants, and usually there's a field trip to the State Capitol thrown in.

But the part of the state's history that deals with its first nations is either glossed over or skipped altogether, and in addition to leaving non-native students clueless about a large part of Minnesota's past - and a large part of our population - it makes Native students feel as though their experience has been erased.

National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC)

The folks at the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center in Lame Deer, MT knew representatives from the movie Wind River would be coming to visit.

After all, they were shooting a new TV series, Yellowstone, nearby and had promised to help host a fundraiser.

National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition

The boarding school era for Native American children in America began with the opening of the Carlisle School in 1879. It was considered a more "merciful" solution to what was then thought of as "the Indian problem." 

It continued until the passage of the Indian Child Welfare act in 1978, when Native parents finally gained the legal right to deny their children's placement in off-reservation schools.

©Native American Fatherhood & Families Association

Terry Medina knows a thing or two about fatherhood.

The father of seven has been working in counseling and corrections more than 45 years, including 17 spent teaching the Fatherhood is Sacred curriculum. That program has become so successful that one county wanted the program expanded to all fathers who come through the court system, even non-native ones.

Instead of the frequent assumption that fathers are responsible for many social ills, Medina says, "if you show them (fathers) the way, they can be a blessing." And that's despite, as he says the way "as men we're our own worst enemy."

©Wica Agli

Jeremy NeVilles-Sorell says, when it comes to the #metoo hashtag, for Native women it could be #metooX4.  Or X6.

He knows through his work at Mending the Sacred Hoop that Native women are more likely to suffer violence or sexual assault multiple times in their lives.

Center of American Indian & Minority Health

Christian Coffman can't stop beaming, just thinking about the student who came into his class this summer admitting that many of the sciences were not his favorite subjects.

Coffman, a grad student in Chemistry at UMD was teaching some STEM courses this summer as part of the Center of Minority and Indian Health's Native Americans in Medicine program.

Nathan Ratner

Nathan Ratner has always been a bit of an overachiever.

Not only did the med student help start Journey To Wellness in Indian Country here at KUMD, now he's one of 16 medical students (and the only one from North America!) invited to travel to Helsinki next month.

The 2017 Elsevier Hacks Hackathon will bring together programmers, coders and designers along with medical students to see if they can find solutions to some challenges in medical education.

Dick Thompson/Jay Smiley/Flickr

Navajo/Lakota psychiatrist Dr Melvina Bissonette on finding home thousands of miles from where she grew up, the need for native physicians and particularly psychiatrists in Indian Country, and the importance of holding your own with winter war stories.

Neil Parekh/SEIU Healthcare 775NW/Flickr

There's concern in Indian country, too, about what will replace the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. 

Dr. Mary Owen of UMD's Center for American Indian and Minority Health says the Indian Health Service is already critically underfunded ... and for people who are already experiencing a high rate of poverty, private insurance may be priced out of reach for them.

http://www.duluthmn.gov

The process to rename Lake Place Park Gichi 'ode Akiing (gih chee o DAY  ah king) or "Grand Heart Place" and  in so doing, recognize the Native community's long presence in what's now called Duluth continues.

Babette Sandman is the chair of the Duluth Indigenous Commission and she has big dreams for the project, including a naming ceremony that would bring all nations together, and opportunities for teachings and new beginnings.

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