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Community Health

Tous Beisiihi’! Hello Relatives! I hope this blog finds you all well. When I write my blogs, by no means do I feel they are given enough time or discussion that they need to convey our struggles as indigenous peoples. And by no means are these blogs meant to solve these issues entirely. In a perfect world that would be great, but in reality these issues have unhindered tribal nations since the inception of colonial habitation on this continent.

Our ideas of community health were historically about living in connection with the cycles of land/nature. That past world for tribes didn’t have “clinical, or Western medicine, western theory, western ideas”. Today, we use this language because we have to seek out physical help to cure illnesses that have come because of the disconnect we have to the land. Historically we had our ways in believing and understanding what being healthy meant; it didn’t just include physical health. Being healthy back in the day meant being in unison in relationships close to our community; it meant being able to work together in a community without jealousy and lateral oppression. It meant having humbleness and respect. We as tribal people have forgotten how to live this and we have been, more or less, told by greater society that it doesn't benefit us as tribal people to live that way anyway. Today I wanted to scratch the surface of talking about community health. When I think about community health, the thing that comes to mind is my mom. I’m the youngest of my family, but I've also been around long enough to say I have observed many things. Women's health care has gotten better and has the potential to do more. Watching my mom age and seeing the ailments she deals with, I see glimpses of how the health care system has poorly treated her. My parents and relatives in this community have taught me that we are a collective of thinkers and leaders; we all have a role to play because one person cannot run a community. We are all unique and we are all in life together and that’s what makes us a community. In general society, a person is an individual and when they have a family it is a “nuclear family”. But as tribal people, we are multi-generational homes, full of elders and youth. Yet there have been policies to try to turn our homes into nuclear homes (Boarding Schools, ICWA, 50’s/60’sScoop). Without tribal multi-generational families, we are not who we are meant to be as a community– existing outside of perspectives and ideas about who tribes have to be. Reclaiming indigenous ways has been a rugged path, and today we need to continue finding what works for us to make life feel like a community again. Tribal health encompasses our relationships; we are meant to live in close relationships with each other. Today we don’t visit each other. We don’t know who we are related to. We don’t know how people are doing. Relationships are vital to the health of a community as tribal people. When we lose elders, we say we lose a book of knowledge. When my dad passed on I would say, “I lost my Arapaho Google”. My dad was my Arapaho search engine. He could tell me stories, learn the language, and share history and accounts, songs and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). I knew he couldn’t live forever. He lived to be 90. Our elders are seen as sacred, our elders have very important roles in our tribes. They have experience in life, some are veterans, some are school teachers, ALL are leaders. Community Health to me as an indigenous person is about whether community connections, activities, and environments are safe. Are they healthy? Are my relatives ok for the upcoming seasons? Community health this time of the year also has me thinking about food sovereignty. Food Sovereignty was a lived practice with my dad. He used to be an avid hunter, always providing food for us. My dad hunted game–not for the sport of it– he hunted to feed his family. I grew up on backstraps, elk roasts with potatoes, etc. The ability for him to feed his family was important. Our diets have changed as indigenous people. Our history on the land included us moving to winter camps when it got cold. We moved around as tribal people for a reason. My dad would say if you stay in one area for too long you deplete that environment's game and plants. Well, here we are, a stagnant tribe sitting in one spot for so long that it’s impacting our health. We used to eat healthy and be around people who loved us and kept us safe all the while taking care of ourselves in a way that generated respect from cultural mechanisms geared towards tribal self-preservation. Today we have high rates of diabetes and high rates of mortality. High rates of everything because as indigenous people we had to conform to staying in one spot backed by policy. Yet, here we are….. In closing, I want to say that again that this is scratching the surface of community health. When you think of community health, what do you think about?

Hohou! Nohuusoho'. Thank you! Yufna Soldier Wolf

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