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NHNA » NHNA http://www.nativehealthnews.com Thu, 30 Jun 2016 17:24:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Healthy Diné Nation Act http://www.nativehealthnews.com/healthy-dine-nation-act/ http://www.nativehealthnews.com/healthy-dine-nation-act/#comments Thu, 30 Jun 2016 13:16:45 +0000 http://www.nativehealthnews.com/?p=3193

Advocates call for proposals for Navajo community wellness projects

The Navajo Nation has collected more than $1 million in tax revenue through the Healthy Diné Nation Act to support community wellness projects

Healthy Dine Nation Act Web

By Mallory Black / Native Health News Alliance

SAN DIEGO — More than a year after a 2 percent tax on unhealthy foods, snacks and drinks was approved on the Navajo Nation Reservation, tribal communities can now begin submitting their ideas for health and wellness projects supported by the tax revenues.

This week the Navajo Nation Council Budget & Finance Committee gave final approval in a 3-1 vote to establish guidelines to distribute the revenues as part of the Healthy Diné Nation Act, a law that went into effect in 2014. The tax works in tandem with a policy that made healthy foods tax-free on the reservation to combat high rates of obesity and diabetes among adults and youth.

Health advocate Denisa Livingston with the volunteer-based Diné Community Advocacy Alliance, which proposed the tax five years ago, said it’s been a long road, but one worth pursuing for the health of Native Americans.

“This is something that shows grassroots efforts can actually have that power to achieve change in our communities,” Livingston said. “This really puts the finishing touches on what the group has been working to accomplish for the past few years.”

According to the Office of the Navajo Tax Commission, approximately $1 million to $1.3 million in tax revenue has been collected so far.

Those funds will support eligible community wellness projects, including food and fitness classes, biking or walking trails, parks and recreation facilities, youth clubs, and garden and clean water initiatives, among others.

The tribe was among the first governments to enact taxes on unhealthy foods and drinks. In May, a 1.5-cent per ounce tax on sugary beverages was approved in Philadelphia. Its revenues will be distributed across various sectors, including the city’s general fund, early education initiatives, and to repair aging park and recreation facilities.

In the same month that the Navajo Nation’s tax was approved, Berkeley, California, became the first U.S. city to impose a penny-per-ounce tax on sodas and sugary drinks in November 2014.

Navajo Tax Commission Executive Director Martin Ashley said it’s too early to say what impact the tax will have on health, but he expects to see results in the coming years.

“I believe the tax has some potential,” Ashley said. “It’s supposed to be a discouragement from junk food.”

A 2012 report published in Health Affairs estimated a nationwide tax of at least a penny per ounce could cut sugary drink consumption among adults by 15 percent.

If those people instead drank water and other healthy drinks, researchers estimate that could prevent 26,000 premature deaths, 95,000 coronary heart events and 8,000 strokes while saving more than $17 billion in medical costs, according to the report.

Any one can propose to initiate or improve an existing community wellness project. Once a chapter resolution in support of the project is passed, an application must be submitted to an Administrative Service Center within the Navajo Division of Community Development for further approval.

Although the process to distribute funds has been streamlined, Livingston said there’s still work to be done in changing attitudes toward healthy foods on the reservation.

“It’s not the tax that’s causing the damage — it’s the unhealthy food that’s causing the damage,” Livingston said. “ We really need to change our perspective on healthy foods and refocus on accessing healthy foods and making that available to our community.”

Rethinking healthy behaviors, coupled with creating opportunities for physical activity, are two areas Livingston said she has noticed Navajo youth becoming more involved in.

17-year-old Kelly Charley is a member of the Nataanii Youth Council at Navajo Preparatory School in Farmington, New Mexico. She said the tax is a positive way to encourage people to live healthier, balanced lifestyles.

“For me, I grew up in a household that said you have to be balanced, and my dad would always make me go run in the morning,” Charley said. “I used to hate it so much, but later on I realized that I needed that basis of physical fitness to really succeed in the classroom and to be awake, alert and open-minded to whatever was going to be taught that day.”

Charley said over the years she’s realized that health and wellness can show the strength of a person, but change has to start from within.

“Being Navajo, we have this legacy of being strong, resilient and independent, and if we want to continue that and push forward, we need to start taking care of ourselves,” Charley said. “That starts with caring for our bodies.”

This story was originally published by the American Heart Association.

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5 things to know about ICWA http://www.nativehealthnews.com/5-things-to-know-about-icwa/ http://www.nativehealthnews.com/5-things-to-know-about-icwa/#comments Wed, 01 Jun 2016 21:53:09 +0000 http://www.nativehealthnews.com/?p=3128

The Indian Child Welfare Act: 5 things families need to know

A child’s best interest and safety is at the heart of the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law created to strengthen Native American families and tribes. (Courtesy Photo: Nicole Adams, National Indian Welfare Association)

A child’s best interest and safety is at the heart of the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law created to strengthen Native American families and tribes. (Courtesy Photo: Nicole Adams, National Indian Welfare Association)

Experts share what families should know as they navigate the Indian child welfare system

By Mallory Black / Native Health News Alliance

SAN DIEGO — It’s been called an obscure law in some circles, far overreaching in its authority in others. There’s no doubt that the Indian Child Welfare Act has garnered more attention — and controversy — in recent months, much to the detriment of the children and families it’s designed to protect.

Passed by Congress in 1978, the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA, is a federal law created to prevent the breakup of Native American families. It was established after a series of congressional hearings proved that large numbers of Indian children were systematically removed from their families by state, county and private child welfare agencies, then placed into non-Indian homes — often without cause.

While ICWA doesn’t remove the states’ obligation to act on child abuse or neglect, advocates say the law is necessary because it protects the child’s right to their cultural identity and to be raised within their own community, given the history of federally-mandated removal and assimilation of Native children into mainstream American culture, and its effects on child well-being and cultural connectedness.

The goals of ICWA, as stated by Congress, are to achieve the best possible outcome: reuniting children safely with their family.

Kathryn Fort, an attorney with the Michigan State University Indigenous Law and Policy Center, said that all Native American parents and families should be aware of their rights under ICWA, especially considering how quickly a case can move through the courts.

“I think most people, if they went to see a state child welfare proceeding, particularly an Indian child welfare proceeding, they would be surprised at how routine and quick it is,” Fort said. “There’s very little explanation of what’s going on, especially in our large urban settings. Parents don’t usually know what’s happening, and they have court-appointed attorneys who maybe meet them before the hearing or maybe not.”

While ICWA applies to state child welfare (abuse or neglect) cases and adoption involving Indian children, it does not apply in divorce or custody disputes between parents.

While not exhaustive, here are some key things for parents to know when exercising their rights under ICWA:

Low-income parents have a right to court-appointed representation

Under ICWA, indigent parents (those who are unable to afford legal representation) are entitled to state court-appointed counsel, be it an attorney or a legal aide volunteer. Each state uses a formula to determine who is eligible for legal assistance.

Chrissi Ross Nimmo, senior assistant attorney general for the Cherokee Nation, said the reality is that ICWA cases are legal cases, and the decisions made are made in court.

“The best defense a parent can have is an attorney who is knowledgeable about the Indian Child Welfare Act,” Nimmo said. “Reunification can depend on whether the Indian Child Welfare Act was followed in a case.”

However, some parents and families may choose to navigate the child welfare system alone, said David Simmons, director of government affairs and advocacy for the National Indian Child Welfare Association. He recommends finding someone who can explain what ICWA is and to help talk through what might be best for their family.

“Children in many Native communities need help when they’re growing up, and it isn’t just the mom and the dad doing the work,” Simmons said. “Oftentimes it’s extended family members and other community members, so think about who could be your advocate or friend that can help you with some of those really difficult decisions and situations.”

Parents and tribes can request a case be transferred to tribal court

Under ICWA, biological parents involved in a state child welfare case can request their case be transferred to their tribal court — say, if the family is situated on tribal lands, and tribal programs would be the primary provider of reunification services.

In certain situations, however, tribes can decline to hear an ICWA case in their court, said Elizabeth Eggert, an attorney with the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

Generally, most tribes won’t accept a transfer if it will reduce the likelihood of parents reuniting with their children, due to the distance between the children and parents that would be required in most transfers. Occasionally, limited resources could also cause a tribal court to decline a case.

Though when a tribe decides to intervene, Eggert said it doesn’t mean that the tribe will automatically side with the parents; rather, the tribe tries to do what it perceives is in the children’s best interest based on the laws and the circumstances of each case.

“Even though we might agree with the children’s removal by the state or agree that the parents’ rights should be terminated, we also fight throughout the case that parents get the services that the agency is providing,” Eggert said. “It’s important to us to make sure that parents rights under ICWA are followed.”

Parents have a right to ‘active efforts’

Some Native American parents may not be aware that the agencies overseeing their case must provide ‘active efforts’ to help the parent create a safe environment where they can reunite with their child.

Under ICWA, active efforts are defined as a higher standard of effort to prevent the breakup of an American Indian family prior to removing a child, during and afterwards, to increase the chances of the child returning home safely.

These efforts can include remedial and rehabilitative programs and services, such as increased family visitations or substance abuse treatment programs, and other services like transportation assistance when geography is an issue.

“That’s a huge right due to the parent, which is to ensure they receive appropriate services so they can be successful at reunifying with their child,” Fort explained.

States must provide culturally appropriate services for Indian families

As part of active efforts, states are required to provide culturally appropriate family preservation services, which not only includes in-home and traditional native practices, but also parenting classes or mental health services, among others. This could also include services through tribal agencies and providers.

“If parents want to have their supervised parenting time with their child at an urban Indian center, they have a right to ask for that,” Fort said. “[Parents] have a right to say, ‘Has my social worker figured out if there’s a counselor I feel more comfortable with? Has my social worker contacted my tribe?’ because they have a right to that.”

There is growing evidence that culturally appropriate services are more likely to result in effective resolution on behalf of the child and family. A 2014 report by the U.S. Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence found Indian families simply do better when exposed to traditional tribal cultural resources and practices.

This right also requires caseworkers must also cooperate with tribes to find appropriate services and work to remove any barriers that families might have in accessing them.

But for agencies less familiar with ICWA, the considerations for Indian children may slip through the cracks. Simmons said not all caseworkers receive cultural or ICWA-specific training in their state, in which case he encourages parents to feel empowered to share their culture and how their tribe might approach certain issues.

“Silence sometimes in the child welfare system means that you’re acquiescing or agreeing, so speak up a little bit if they’re not understanding how your community does things and why,” Simmons said.

Non-Native relatives can be considered for placement

Out-of-home placement preferences for a child are outlined under ICWA as first with an extended family member, a member of the tribe or another Indian family. But that doesn’t necessarily exclude non-Indian relatives of Indian children, granting them certain protections under ICWA as a possible placement option.

“Let’s say mom is Cherokee, dad is not, and the child is taken into custody,” Nimmo explained. “The dad’s mother — the child’s grandmother — is just as protected under the Indian Child Welfare Act as mom’s mom who might be Indian.”

Though relatives are still subject to a home study to evaluate if they are a good placement option. Non-Native relatives can also become a certified foster home by their state, a process that often takes several months, though may make them eligible for state assistance and resources for children with transitional or special medical or emotional needs.

Nimmo said in her experience, placing Indian children with family members and relatives — Native or non-Native — tends to yield the best possible results.

“More often what you see is children, without question, that do better when they’re placed with relatives, especially where these are grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins who have an ongoing relationship with the child where it’s not such a traumatic event for them being taken from their home and placed with a complete stranger,” Nimmo said. “Getting a child in a relative placement immediately is really important.”

© Native Health News Alliance
This story was produced with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation as part of a series focusing on child and youth welfare in Native America.
NHNA creates shared health coverage for American Indian communities at no cost. Registered users can download additional print, web and audio content at http://www.nativehealthnews.com and publish as is or add their own reporting, highlighting important issues within the local Native community. NHNA services are free to all those who think good journalism has a positive impact in the lives of all of our readers, listeners, and viewers.
How to use our content: Our news coverage is meant to be shared across Indian Country and beyond. Below, you can download the story and other elements at no cost to publish in your media outlet. Registration is required, and we ask that you give NHNA credit in some way. If you have a story you want to share on NHNA, please email the executive editor at tlamsam@nativehealthnews.com or the managing editor at rlandsberry@nativehealthnews.com

Top 10 ICWA myths

Myth 1: ICWA was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. False.

ICWA still remains law and still applies to private adoptions and child welfare cases. However, the decision limited ICWA’s protections for unwed fathers without custody when their children are voluntarily placed for adoption and changed how ICWA’s placement preferences are applied in voluntary adoptions.

Myth 2: ICWA is a race-based law. False.

ICWA, like other federal Indian legislation, is based on the unique political status of tribes and Indian people, not race. This status — established by Congress, the Constitution, statutes, and treaties — has been affirmed and reaffirmed by U.S. Supreme Court decisions for 200 years.

Myth 3: ICWA applies in divorce proceedings and custody battles between two biological parents. False.

ICWA only applies in child welfare proceedings and adoption proceedings.

Myth 4: ICWA applies to all children who identify as Native American. False.

ICWA covers any child who is either a member of a federally recognized tribe/Alaska Native village or is eligible for membership in a federally recognized tribe/Alaska Native village and is the biological child of a member of a federally recognized tribe/Alaska Native village.

Myth 5: ICWA ignores the best interests of Indian children. False.

ICWA is designed to promote the best interest and unique needs of the Indian child. ICWA is not just considered good practice for Native children by experts and practitioners, but the principles and processes ICWA embodies were recently described by 18 national child welfare agencies as the “gold standard” for child welfare practice for all children.

Myth 6: ICWA favors Indian family members over non-Indian family members. False.

Nowhere in ICWA does it indicate placement preferences favor placement with a Native relative over placement with a non-Native relative.

Myth 7: ICWA only requires efforts to protect Indian children after they are removed from their home. False.

ICWA requires something called “active efforts”. This means that the state must work closely with the family to ensure they receive any services necessary before a child is removed to prevent removal from the home, or — if removal was necessary — they receive services and support so that the child can be safely returned.

Myth 8: ICWA applies only to involuntary proceedings. False.

ICWA was designed to also protect Indian children in voluntary proceedings. While some of the provisions of ICWA do not apply in voluntary proceedings, many important provisions still apply, including those provisions that speak specifically to procedures for voluntary adoptions and foster care placement.

Myth 9: ICWA funnels Indian children into placements on reservations that are bad places for children. False.

ICWA has no such requirements regarding reservations. Unfortunately, issues of child abuse and neglect — and the need to place children into foster care that result — are a nationwide problem, and not relegated to any specific community. In fact, NPR recently reported that when it comes to child maltreatment, “statistically, tribes are no different from many other communities nationwide.”

Myth 10: ICWA was important in the 1970s but it’s no longer needed now. False.

ICWA still provides much-needed protections for Indian children and families. Statistics tell us that Indian children today face many of the same issues as when ICWA was enacted.

To learn more about NICWA, visit www.nicwa.org.

Source: National Indian Child Welfare Association

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May 27th, 2016|0 Comments

Keepseagle fast-track process begins, details for $38 million grants distribution now available 
Initial, one-month eligibility application window closes June 24
Media Release

WASHINGTON D.C. – The application process is now open for § 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations, § 7871 non-profit organizations […]

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are funding […]

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Keepseagle fast-track process begins, details for $38 million grants distribution now available http://www.nativehealthnews.com/keepseagle-fast-track-process-begins-details-for-38-million-grants-distribution-now-available/ http://www.nativehealthnews.com/keepseagle-fast-track-process-begins-details-for-38-million-grants-distribution-now-available/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 21:46:04 +0000 http://www.nativehealthnews.com/?p=3122 Keepseagle fast-track process begins, details for $38 million grants distribution now available 

Initial, one-month eligibility application window closes June 24

Media Release

WASHINGTON D.C. – The application process is now open for § 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations, § 7871 non-profit organizations chartered under the tribal law of a state or federally recognized tribe, educational institutions, and instrumentalities of state or federally recognized tribes to seek grants under the Native American Agricultural Fast Track Fund (NAAFTF).

As of May 25, prospective applicants can find full details about eligibility, application requirements, allowable use of funds, review process overview, and timeline at www.indianfarmclass.com/NAAFTF.aspx.

The website provides specific guidance on the initial application, which involves the submission of a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) with documentation by June 24.  It also offers FAQs, sample resolution language, and other tools for prospective applicants, and is the vehicle for submitting applications online.

Additionally, a technical assistance webinar will be offered on Wednesday, June 1, at 11:00 a.m. MDT for prospective applicants.  Registration for the webinar may be made through the website.  The webinar will be recorded and available on the website for reference.

A dedicated email address and telephone hotline have been established to provide technical assistance: keepseaglefasttrack@echohawkconsulting.com and (877) 544-9145.

NAAFTF was created as a one-time distribution of $38 million to qualified tribes and organizations as part of the Keepseagle v. Vilsack Settlement.

Eligible applicants must have provided business assistance, agricultural education, technical support, or advocacy services to Native American farmers or ranchers between January 1, 1981, and November 1, 2010; and plan to use grant monies to provide support to Native farmers and/or ranchers and assist those who are interested in becoming farmers or ranchers.

Eligible applicants are encouraged to begin the process as soon as possible.  A brief LOI with appropriate documentation must be submitted no later than Friday, June 24, 2016, by5:00 p.m. MDT.  The LOI must be accompanied with a resolution adopted by the relevant tribal council or organization’s board.

This one-month window for the submission of LOI applications is the first step in the fast-track process.  After LOIs are reviewed by an advisory committee, applicants which meet eligibility requirements and align with the purposes of NAAFTF will receive an invitation onJuly 28 to submit full proposals, due September 2, 2016.  With the further assistance of the advisory committee, Class Counsel will submit award recommendations to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on October 17, 2016.

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UNM receives $1.5 million to establish Center for Native American Health Research http://www.nativehealthnews.com/unm-receives-1-5-million-to-establish-center-for-native-american-health-research/ http://www.nativehealthnews.com/unm-receives-1-5-million-to-establish-center-for-native-american-health-research/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 21:31:06 +0000 http://www.nativehealthnews.com/?p=3120 UNM receives $1.5 million to establish Center for Native American Health Research

EPA / University of New Mexico Health and Sciences Center

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are funding research to the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in Albuquerque, N.M., to better understand ways to improve environmental conditions for vulnerable populations.

The university will use $1.5 million to establish a Center for Native American Health Equity Research. The center will examine how contact with metal mixtures from abandoned mines affects rural Native American populations.

EPA regional administrator Ron Curry said, “This innovative research will provide new approaches to evaluate public health in underserved areas. This knowledge will also help us more effectively protect against exposures to multiple environmental chemical contaminants  and understand the effects of social stressors in relation to these exposures.”

EPA and NIH awarded $25 million to five other universities to establish a Center of Excellence on Environmental Health Disparities research. This research will focus on understanding the relationships between biological, chemical, environmental, genetic and epigenetic and social factors. EPA and NIH issued the request for applications on Oct. 31, 2014, with a deadline for submissions on Jan. 13, 2015.

The abstract for the grant details the long history of mining’s impact on Native Americans: “Nearly half of the Native American population of the United States lives in 13 western states where there are an estimated 161,000 abandoned hardrock mines, more than 4,000 are abandoned uranium mines. These communities have been inextricably linked to their environments for millennia. Because of their reliance on natural resources to maintain traditional diets, lifestyles, customs and languages, these tribal communities have direct and frequent contact with metal mixtures from unremediated mine sites, creating exposures through multiple pathways, including inhalation, drinking water, and ingestion of food sources either directly or indirectly contaminated by migration of the wastes.”

The Centers of Excellence on Environmental Health Disparities Research program is a collaborative effort supported by the EPA, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. The program encourages basic, biological, clinical, epidemiological, behavioral and social scientific investigations of disease conditions in low socioeconomic and health disparate populations.

More information about these grants: https://www.epa.gov/research-grants/currently-funded-grantees-centers-excellence-environmental-health-disparities

Information about EPA’s health research: https://www.epa.gov/healthresearch

This story was published by KRWG.

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Finding the antidote: Tribal programs use culture to combat substance abuse http://www.nativehealthnews.com/finding-the-antidote-tribal-programs-use-culture-to-combat-substance-abuse/ http://www.nativehealthnews.com/finding-the-antidote-tribal-programs-use-culture-to-combat-substance-abuse/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 20:52:30 +0000 http://www.nativehealthnews.com/?p=3113 Finding the antidote: Tribal programs use culture to combat substance abuse

The crisis of addiction hasn’t spared any demographic or any state, including Oklahoma.

The Trust for America’s Health ranked Oklahoma fifth-highest for drug overdose mortality in the U.S., based on 2013 numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The same report said the that rate tripled from 1999-2010.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, M.D. came to Oklahoma this week, holding meetings with communities and addressing the dual plagues of prescription drug abuse and opioid addiction.

He made a stop in Shawnee at the Citizen Potawatomi Cultural Center Wednesday during a meeting of the Southern Plains Tribal Health Board to have a town hall meeting with Native American youth who are developing prevention programs in their own communities.

He also held a listening session with tribal leaders, parents and youth.

It was the first-ever meeting between a U.S. Surgeon General and tribal leaders.

The tribal participants emphasized that emotional well-being and mental health are two important components of prevention in general but Native communities, like many traditionally disadvantaged groups, have added burdens.

One woman said Native communities also deal with poverty, abuse, sex trafficking and limited Indian Health Service resources in addition to addiction.

All factors have to be addressed for any strategy to be effective, she said. Historical trauma, the transmission of chronic trauma and unresolved grief across generations through behaviors and thought patterns, is also a concern for Native people.

It all combines in a toxic stew, resulting in nonmedical prescription drug use rates among Native youth higher than the Oklahoma average, with the amount varying by tribal area, and 65 percent higher than the national average.

“The prescription opioid epidemic is sweeping across the U.S. that has hit Indian country particularly hard,” Murthy said.

Addressing the deficit in mental health care is important, almost more important than any other factor for improving public health, he said.

He applauded the community’s efforts to integrate traditional culture into treatment and prevention through programs like IAMNDN, a culturally-centered youth substance abuse prevention program developed with young people from the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribe, Absentee Shawnee Tribe, Chickasaw Nation and Comanche Nation.

Culture and identity are powerful things, he said. Problems become worse when people are feeling disconnected from others and themselves, losing their sense of identity and self worth.

“When we strengthen culture and identity we strengthen our communities,” Murthy said. “Community is an antidote to isolation.”

He told the students he wants them to know that we shouldn’t be defined by others, we should be defined by who we know we are.

He said during an exchange with one young woman, she told him she wants people “to know that we matter.”

“Your lives do matter,” Murthy said. “You matter. I see you and will do everything I can to help. We cannot be strong unless our people are healthy.”

This story was published by the Stillwater News Press.

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Fertile Ground II http://www.nativehealthnews.com/fertile-ground-ii/ http://www.nativehealthnews.com/fertile-ground-ii/#comments Thu, 19 May 2016 15:36:28 +0000 http://www.nativehealthnews.com/?p=3089

Fertile Ground II grows dialogue of traditional Native foods to empower Indigenous communities

By Rebecca Landsberry / Native Health News Alliance

Janie Simms Hipp addresses attendees of the Fertile Ground II plenary panel on health advocacy and policy in Minneapolis May 3. Panelists included (pictured left to right) moderator Wilson Pipestem, Nick Tilsen, Denisa Livingston, Simone Senogles and Valory Wangler.  (Bryan Pollard / Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative)

Janie Simms Hipp addresses attendees of the Fertile Ground II plenary panel on health advocacy and policy in Minneapolis May 3. Panelists included (pictured left to right) moderator Wilson Pipestem, Nick Tilsen, Denisa Livingston, Simone Senogles and Valory Wangler. (Photo: Bryan Pollard / Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative)

MINNEAPOLIS — If the saying is true: “You are what you eat,” then good nutrition is imperative for healthy communities.

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) and American Heart Association (AHA) co-hosted Fertile Ground II: Growing the Seeds of Native Health in Minneapolis, Minn., May 2-4, creating targeted dialogue between tribal representatives, funders and government agencies aimed at raising awareness of the food crisis in Indian Country.

Fertile Ground I was an initial gathering of more than 40 tribal, nonprofit and funding organizations Oct. 14-15, 2015. The success of the first event spurred the creation of Fertile Ground II only six months later.

The Seeds of Native Health campaign to improve the nutrition of Native Americans was launched in March 2015 with a $5 million contribution from the SMSC. Through the campaign, the tribe has brought together top experts and philanthropists in an effort to develop permanent solutions to this problem.

Event organizers saw the conference as a way to continue defining the scope of the issue and joining forces to address the impact of historical trauma as it relates to food systems in a way that supports tribal sovereignty.

More than 200 tribal members, health care providers and philanthropy representatives attended panel presentations, participated in targeted work groups and exchanged best practices for Native communities when it comes to developing food policy and programs at the local, tribal, state and federal levels.

Addressing “diabesity” in Indian Country

According to the Centers for Disease Control, rates of death due to stroke and heart disease are higher among American Indians and Alaska Natives than any other racial or ethnic group.

“Diabesity” is a term Denisa Livingston (Navajo) came up with to describe what’s happening in the Navajo Nation where it is estimated that one out of every three citizens is diabetic.

As a community health advocate for the Dine Community Advocacy Alliance, she sees firsthand how her community is affected by healthy foods, or a lack thereof.

“It’s the first time in history that we’re dying from ‘diabesity’ and not starvation,” Livingston said.

Evidence indicates that diet has a direct connection to health and wellness, moving beyond diabetes to other diseases and multiple types of cancer, including colon cancer, in Indian Country.

Executive Director of the American Indian Cancer Foundation Kris Rhodes (Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa) said cancer mortality rates in Indian Country continue to rise, despite decreases across other racial and ethnic groups.

To each of the advocates, providers and tribal members in attendance at the event – the ones working toward creating healthier communities – the task is clear: create healthier foods, better access to those foods and an improved production process for Native nations.

The first step on the path is re-thinking and enhancing existing food policy.

Janie Sims Hipp (Chickasaw) is the founding director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas School of Law. As part of the initiative, she works to develop nutrition policies that are in alignment with tribal sovereignty.

“If you want to destroy a people, you take away the power of their food,” Hipp said. “If you want to build a people back up, you build them up through their food.”

She believes tribes are the best administrators of their own food programs and that no two will be identical, given the unique attributes and available resources of each nation. Since policy development transcends intertribal, federal, transportation and geographic issues, the challenges are great.

“In order for tribal governments to really form that protection around our people and achieve some of these health goals that we have, we really have to think about what we chew,” Hipp said.

Escaping the silos of Native food policy

Despite the challenges, Indigenous people are continuing to discover how developing policy at the tribal level with input from citizens can create healthier communities.

Rhodes spoke about the tendency of leadership to strategize without consulting or input from tribal members.

“Our communities are kind of fed up with us [healthcare providers] working in silos,” Rhodes said.

According to Rhodes, instead of developing health policies inside a program-specific vacuum, which can be void of participation by key stakeholders, effective policy should be created outside of the silo. She emphasized that when it comes to Native health, a holistic approach must engage youth, elders, clinical staff and policymakers under a unified framework.

Nick Tilsen (Oglala Lakota) is the executive director of the Thunder Valley Community Development Corp. He agreed that the way to transformation is through the tribal community members themselves.

“The architects to change Indian Country are the people in those communities that have been there for the long haul, who are going to be there for the long haul,” Tilsen said.

Valerie Segrest, project coordinator for Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty Project, spoke on how sharing traditional food and knowledge benefits tribal nations through connecting citizens with their history.

“The environment is what shapes and forms our culture, so if we can start taking better control and empowering ourselves with our own wellness by eating our [Native] foods, by being active on the land – all of those things – reciprocity happens,” Segrest said.

She stressed that culture is the best medicine for treating historical trauma in Native communities.

“Those are all the ingredients we need to treat and prevent addiction, which is the true root cause of heart disease, diabetes, suicide, cancer – all of those things are just symptoms of the larger problem,” Segrest said.

Moccasins on the ground

The Seeds of Native Health campaign includes grant-making, education, and research efforts related to Native nutritional health. During the conference, event chair and SMSC member representative Lori Watso announced the establishment of the Native Policy Innovation Fund (NPIF), which is an initiative aimed at addressing key issues in Native food through awareness, advocacy and implementation.

Through the fund, tribes, organizations and nonprofits can apply for grants, which would be awarded to develop policy, infrastructure and data reflective and inclusive of Indian Country for food sovereignty initiatives.

“I’m hopeful that funders will have a keen interest soon, because we already have things to jump off of. There are amazing ideas here and amazing people ready to take this forward,” Watso said.

The American Heart Association was the first to join SMSC in establishing the fund.

Midge LaPorte Epstein, executive vice president of the Southwest Affiliate at the AHA, said a partnership with the SMSC was a natural fit because of the existing intertribal support base for sharing resources, information and best practices.

“These Ideas have come from the community, so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel; we just have to pick which of these wonderful ideas we can start with,” LaPorte Epstein said.

The NPIF continues to expand its support base to by identifying and including more foundations, health organizations and funders from outside of Indian Country with missions seeking to empower Native communities to assert their tribal sovereignty by taking the reins of food programs.

Conference materials are available on the Fertile Ground II Resource Page provided by event organizers from Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the AHA and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The inaugural Conference on Native Nutritional Health is set for Sept. 26-27 at Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in Minneapolis, Minn.

With the establishment of deeper research supporting policy development in Indian Country, the next step is to mobilize.

“With those things in place, I don’t think we’ll be lacking for moccasins on the ground,” Watso said. “People are empowered and they want to get their hands dirty.”

© Native Health News Alliance. This story was produced with support from the American Heart Association.

NHNA creates health coverage for American Indian communities at no cost. Registered users can download print, web and audio content at http://www.nativehealthnews.com and publish as is or add their own reporting. Our news coverage is created to be shared across Indian Country and beyond. Download the story and other elements at no cost to publish in your media outlet. Registration is required, and we ask that you give NHNA credit in some way if you use our content. If you have a story you want to share on NHNA, please email managing editor Rebecca Landsberry at rlandsberry@nativehealthnews.com.

Fertile Ground II: Growing the Seeds of Native Health – Work Group Goals

1. Increase and diversify economic development for the good of our people and whole country

2. Revitalize our indigenous food culture

3. Revitalize culture as a pathway to health

4. Empower multigenerational families and communities to incorporate physical activity rooted in culture into daily life

5. Support the success of Native students

6. Produce our own food for our own tribal people on our own terms

7. Empower healthy environments in childcare

  • Healthy Dine Nation Act Web

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EPA / University of New Mexico Health and Sciences Center

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Fertile Ground II: Seeds of Native Health http://www.nativehealthnews.com/fertile-ground/ http://www.nativehealthnews.com/fertile-ground/#comments Sat, 30 Apr 2016 17:39:50 +0000 http://www.nativehealthnews.com/?p=3077 80% of #NativeAmericans suffer diet-related disease.

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RWJF funds tribal food policy study http://www.nativehealthnews.com/rwjf-funds-tribal-food-policy-study/ http://www.nativehealthnews.com/rwjf-funds-tribal-food-policy-study/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 14:46:25 +0000 http://www.nativehealthnews.com/?p=3066 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funds tribal food policy study

The study, conducted by the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, will examine the link between tribal food policy and community health.

Media Release / University of Arkansas School of Law

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has awarded a $189,983 grant to the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, based in the University of Arkansas School of Law, to study the link between tribal food policy and community health.

The study will analyze the effects of tribal food policy on community health, diet and food access in tribal communities. Data compiled in the study will be available for tribal governments to use in guiding future food policy decisions.

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“Tribal nations are moving toward reclaiming healthy food access and food production, and an important part of exercising this sovereign power is through policy development,” said Janie Simms Hipp, the initiative’s director.

Researchers will study how tribal communities use food sovereignty assessments and analyze current and historic food systems to determine the effectiveness of federal feeding programs and local tribal laws and policies in reducing food insecurity, and improving food systems and health in tribal communities.

Crystal Echo Hawk (Pawnee) of Echo Hawk Consulting, Wilson Pipestem (Otoe-Missouria) of Pipestem Law, and Valerie Segrest (Muckleshoot) of the Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty Project are key partners in this effort.

Echo Hawk has nearly 18 years of social justice experience in Indian Country and was instrumental in publishing “Feeding Ourselves,” an examination of the challenges Native Americans face in accessing healthy food. Pipestem, an attorney and sovereignty advocate, has dedicated his career to assisting tribal governments to increase sovereign authority on tribal lands and expand tribal land bases. Segrest, a nutritionist and project coordinator for the Muckleshoot project, works to educate others about the importance of a traditional, nutrient-rich diet. She co-authored the 2010 book Feeding the People, Feeding the Spirit.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has committed to helping all Americans have an equal opportunity to pursue a healthier life. Funding is directed toward issues that include child and family well-being, the improvement of health coverage and health care systems, and the promotion of healthy communities and healthy weight among children.

Obesity and diabetes in Indian Country

The study of the linkage between tribal food policy and the health in tribal communities comes at a time when the health disparities related to food insecurity in Indian Country are at crisis levels.

According to the 2015 report “Feeding Ourselves,” Native Americans continue to suffer from serious health problems and their average life expectancy is nearly five years less than other Americans. In addition:

  • More than 80 percent of Native American and Alaska Native adults ages 20 to 74 are overweight.
  • Childhood obesity often exceeds 50 percent in tribal communities.
  • Nearly 30 percent of Native American and Alaska Native adults are pre-diabetic.
  • Nearly 50 percent of Native American and Alaska Native children will develop Type 2 diabetes.
  • Higher incidences of obesity and diabetes lead to greater rates of related illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, amputations, strokes and other health traumas.

About the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative: The initiative enhances health and wellness in tribal communities by advancing healthy food systems, diversified economic development and cultural food traditions in Indian Country. The initiative empowers tribal governments, farmers, ranchers and food businesses by providing strategic planning and technical assistance; by creating new academic and professional education programs in food systems and agriculture; and by increasing student enrollment in land grant universities in food and agricultural related disciplines.

LL.M. Program in Agricultural and Food Law: The first advanced law degree in agricultural and food law was founded at the University of Arkansas School of Law more than 30 years ago. The LL.M. Program in Food and Agricultural Law was also the first to offer a fully integrated opportunity for face-to-face and distance education options. With the LL.M. Program as the foundation, the University of Arkansas School of Law publishes the nation’s first student-edited specialized journal devoted to food law and policy issues and sustains outreach efforts such as the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative and the Food Recovery Project, which connect academic scholarship with critical legal and policy issues.

About University of Arkansas School of Law: The University of Arkansas School of Law prepares students for success through a challenging curriculum taught by nationally recognized faculty, unique service opportunities and a close-knit community that puts students first. With alumni in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, two territories and 20 countries, it has been ranked among the top 10 “Values in Legal Education” by the National Jurist magazine for three consecutive years and is among the top 46 public law schools, according to U.S. News and World Report.

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Improving food access http://www.nativehealthnews.com/food-access/ http://www.nativehealthnews.com/food-access/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 16:05:43 +0000 http://www.nativehealthnews.com/?p=3021

Two birds, one stone: Tribes look to improve food access through economic development

By Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton / Native Health News Alliance

TULSA, Okla. — Groceries do not come cheaply.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, the average weekly cost of food for a two-parent, two-child family is anywhere from $131 to $300, depending on the age of the children and how tight the family’s budget is.

For the 27 percent of Native families who are living at or below the federal poverty line, even $131 per week for food is a challenge without some form of assistance.

With American Indians and Alaska Natives disproportionately qualifying for federal nutrition assistance programs, several tribes are trying to improve food access on their own while providing an economic stimulus for their communities. Some have opened food-focused businesses, including grocery stores and an organic produce wholesaler, while another has amended its tax code to make it less expensive to buy produce and bottled water.

Attention CPN shoppers…

Found in central Oklahoma, Pottawatomie County is within the jurisdictional area of four tribes: Absentee Shawnee, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Kickapoo and Sac and Fox. According to a 2015 report issued by the Oklahoma Policy Institute, almost one-third of its residents receive SNAP benefits and 27 percent of children countywide live at or below the poverty line.

With the average cost of a week’s worth of groceries for a family of four starting at $131, fresh produce is often too expensive for families who rely on SNAP benefits and do not live in a food desert. (Photo by Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton)

With the average cost of a week’s worth of groceries for a family of four starting at $131, fresh produce is often too expensive for families who rely on SNAP benefits and do not live in a food desert. (Photo by Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton)

For the last 15 years, the largest of the county’s four tribes, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, has attempted to address some of those issues through one of its non-gaming entities: FireLake Discount Foods.

Despite the industry’s typically tight profit margin of 3 percent or less per store, the tribe sees value in operating three grocery stores within its jurisdictional area: an 84,000 square-foot full service store on the south side of Shawnee, Oklahoma, and two smaller locations in Tecumseh, Oklahoma, and McLoud, Oklahoma. Additional expansion plans are in place for a fourth store. Between its three grocery stores alone, the tribe employs almost 400 people.

“The most important quality any local economy can create is turnover of their payroll and vendor-purchase dollars,” said Chairman John “Rocky” Barrett. “If an employee of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation purchases his or her groceries and gasoline at a tribally-owned store, that dollar has generated both a profit from operations and a profit from taxation.

“Grocery stores are great traffic builders for other retail businesses…even if we don’t own them, the community benefits.”

With local SNAP participation rates exceeding the state average, the three stores see a substantial surge in business on the first, fifth and 10th of each month when benefits are distributed.

SNAP benefits account for up to 30 percent of the total business on distribution days, prompting Richard Driskell, the general manager for FireLake Discount Foods’ flagship store in Shawnee, to bring in extra employees and tweak the store’s weekly sales to focus more on items covered by SNAP benefits.

“We make sure we have more staff on hand (on distribution days),” he said. “Our perishable department’s staffed pretty heavily, plus we have more people on the floor to answer questions.”

Two other Oklahoma tribes have also waded into the grocery business. In late 2014, the Osage Nation’s legislature appropriated $300,000 for equipment and structural improvements to facilitate the re-opening of a grocery store in Fairfax, Oklahoma, the site of one of the tribe’s annual ceremonial dances. Prior to the investment, local residents had to drive 30 minutes or more each way to access fresh produce and other perishables.

More recently, in early 2016, the Choctaw Nation opened Choctaw Country Marketplace in Clayton, Oklahoma, a community that had previously gone more than two years without a grocery store. In 2014, the Choctaw Nation became the first tribe to be named a federal Promise Zone, in part because more than half of its jurisdictional area – including Clayton and other communities in Pushmataha County — meets the USDA’s definition of a food desert.

One bell pepper at a time

Eight hours east-southeast of Clayton, another federally recognized Choctaw tribe is attempting to make fresh fruits and vegetables more readily available.

In 2012, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians launched Choctaw Fresh Produce, which grows and sells organically raised fruits and vegetables in and around the tribe’s 35,000-acre reservation.

According to the USDA, Mississippi has one of the highest state-wide rates of food insecurity in the country, with almost one-quarter of its residents not having consistent, dependable access to food.

The impetus for Choctaw Fresh Produce came in part from a series of community meetings but also from a request from the food and beverage director of the tribe’s casino.

“Our tribe runs a vocational rehabilitation program and for the last 10 years or so, it’s been raising the flowers for our resort,” said John Hendrix, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians’ director of Economic Development. “The casino’s food and beverage director came to me, pointed out that we were shipping in tons of fruits and vegetables and asked if there was any way we could grow some of those crops here instead.”

Fast-forward four years and Choctaw Fresh Produce’s crops are found at a few more sites than just a casino salad bar.

Along with selling to an area Whole Foods and a local co-op, Choctaw Fresh Produce has wholesale agreements with some of the tribe’s programs, including its diabetes prevention program and elementary schools.

“The kids get to come out, pick some vegetables, get reconnected with what they eat and hopefully, start eating healthier,” Hendrix said.

Its crops are also sold at a tribally run farmers market in the summers and through a mobile market run by the tribe’s Department of Natural Resources that makes the rounds each week to some of the reservation’s communities.

The business operates farm sites in Bogue Chitto, Mississippi; Conehatta, Mississippi; Pearl River, Mississippi; Red Water, Mississippi; and Tucker, Mississippi. Along with produce for Choctaw Fresh Produce’s clientele, each site has a local component based on the community’s needs.

“Several of those towns are very rural,” Hendrix said. “We wanted to bring in some economic development and this was meant to create some work opportunities there in those outlying areas.”

In previous years, the business offered a subscription service, with participants receiving a weekly box full of organic zucchini, kale, bell peppers, bok choy and other in-season produce. However, with the December death of Choctaw Fresh Produce’s lead farmer and general manager, Dick Hoy, the subscription service is suspended at least temporarily as Hendrix and the farmers regroup.

“It’s so hard and it is such a commitment that we just didn’t feel right taking people’s money for subscriptions in advance,” Hendrix said. “For now, we’re focusing on our wholesale and retail pieces instead.”

Hold the sales tax

With 10 grocery stories scattered across an area roughly the size of West Virginia, the Navajo Nation is considered a food desert by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Although some reservation residents without a nearby grocery store are able to be self-sufficient, far more are relying on convenience stores and trading posts as their main source of food.

In response to the high rates of diabetes, obesity and poverty among its citizens, the tribe adopted the Healthy Dine Nation Act of 2014, which removes a 5 percent sales tax on fruits, vegetables and bottled water purchased on reservation-based stores. It also imposes a 2 percent junk food tax on sodas, chips, candy, pastries and other foods deemed to have little to no redeeming nutritional value.

Under the terms of the law, which took effect on April 1, 2015, any revenue generated by the additional 2 percent junk food tax is automatically earmarked for community wellness projects overseen by the tribe’s 110 chapters, such as gardens, greenhouses, exercise equipment and classes on nutrition, food preparation or traditional Navajo crafts.

The tax is slated to expire in 2020, but can be extended by a vote of the Navajo Nation’s legislature.

However, implementation has been slow going, with the community distribution guidelines still being finalized as of April 1. Until those guidelines are in place, no checks from the tax’s revenue stream will be cut.

Retired teacher Gloria Begay is a spokeswoman for the Dine Community Advocacy Alliance, a grassroots organization that helped draft the bill and get it through the tribe’s legislature.

Over the course of two years, Begay put more than 30,000 miles on her pickup truck just by driving to chapter meetings across the Navajo Nation’s reservation to talk up the bill. She will be racking up even more miles this spring as she and other DCAA members go back to those community meetings to train chapter officials on what projects can be funded by junk food tax revenue.

For DCAA members, the tax change is a step toward improving the food system within the tribe’s reservation. It has also been a bit of a reality check, as not everyone on the reservation shared their enthusiasm for making it a little more expensive to buy a can of Mountain Dew or a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

“When we were presenting this to the chapters and the legislature, more than one grandma told us that the only way she could show love for her grandkids was by buying them a candy bar or a soda,” Begay said. “It’s been a wake-up call not only for the Navajo Nation, but for us too, as it (the Healthy Dine Nation Act) was a tough sell.

“We’ve had to remind people that we’re not asking them to go cold turkey. We just want them to cut back on their sugar, salt and fat.”

© Native Health News Alliance 

Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton’s reporting on hunger and food insecurity was undertaken as a project for the Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism and the National Health Journalism Fellowship, programs of the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.

NHNA creates shared health coverage for American Indian communities at no cost. Registered users can download additional print, web and audio content at http://www.nativehealthnews.com and publish as is or add their own reporting, highlighting important issues within the local Native community. NHNA services are free to all those who think good journalism has a positive impact in the lives of all of our readers, listeners, and viewers.

 How to use our content: Our news coverage is meant to be shared across Indian Country and beyond. Below, you can download the story and other elements at no cost to publish in your media outlet. If you have a story you want to share on NHNA, please email the executive editor at tlamsam@nativehealthnews.com.

Shoppers peruse the selection at a grocery store owned by the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. With local SNAP participation rates exceeding the state average, the tribe operates three grocery stores in central Oklahoma. (Photo by Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton)

Shoppers peruse the selection at a grocery store owned by the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. With local SNAP participation rates exceeding the state average, the tribe operates three grocery stores in central Oklahoma. (Photo by Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton)

By the numbers: food insecurity         in Indian Country

Although American Indians and Alaska Natives account for about 1 percent of the total US population, they are disproportionately represented among participants in federally funded food and nutrition programs.

  • As of the 2010 Census, 27 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native families were living at or below the poverty line. Nine states had AI/AN poverty rates at or above 30 percent.
  • SNAP participation rate among Native households is at 24 percent compared to 13 percent of the general non-Indian population.
  • As of 2012, more than 12 percent of all WIC participants are American Indian or Alaska Natives, including 9.8 percent of all participating infants and 13.7 percent of all participating children.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as of 2014, an estimated 14 percent of all households are considered food insecure, or struggling to consistently access adequate food.

The USDA’s most recent report on food security among Native households, presented to Congress in January 2012, placed the food insecurity rate at about 23 percent. That figure was based on data collected between 2006 and 2008, before the Great Recession.

As sovereign entities, tribes have the authority to contract with the federal government to run programs that benefit their citizens and other eligible people.

For example, as of 2015, 100 tribes and inter-tribal organizations administer FDPIR benefits. More than 30 tribes, inter-tribal organizations and pueblos nationwide administer WIC benefits.

As of April 1, no response has been received to a Freedom of Information Act request for the terms of those agreements. The request was first filed in late July 2015.

However, tribes are currently unable to directly administer one of the most widely used nutrition programs in Indian Country: the National School Lunch Program.

An estimated 68 percent of Native children nationwide qualify for free and reduced school meals, compared to 28 percent of their white classmates. The 2014 incarnation of the Farm Bill includes provisions to allow sites to accept donated food and prepare traditional dishes but does not explicitly list tribes among the entities authorized to oversee school meals or other child nutrition programs. Instead, tribes have to first go through their state government to access the funds for those programs.

In August 2015, Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) filed legislation that would facilitate tribal participation in federal child nutrition programs, including the school breakfast and lunch programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program and the Summer Food Service Program.

The bill, which has not been scheduled for a committee hearing as of April 1, would eliminate that intermediary and count federally-recognized tribal governments among the entities authorized to directly oversee those programs. It would also increase the administrative funds paid out for overseeing the program.

Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Angus King (I-Maine) have signed on as co-sponsors, while an identical bill in the House of Representatives from Rep. Michelle Lujan Graham (D-N.M.) also is still at the committee level.

“Native American children are among the most vulnerable in the country to hunger, food insecurity and obesity,” Lujan Grisham said. “We need to remove barriers to child nutrition programs and make it as easy as possible for tribes to directly access funding and meet the needs of children in their communities.”

USDA supplemental nutrition programs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers several supplemental nutrition programs. Some of the more common ones, both among Native and non-Native families, are commonly referred to via acronyms.

FDPIR: Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations. Also known as “commods,” FDPIR participation is limited to low income households with at least one enrolled citizen of a federally-recognized tribe that do not have easy access to a licensed SNAP vendor. Families must also live either on or near a reservation or in certain areas of Oklahoma.

SNAP: Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. Formerly known as food stamps, SNAP is supplemental nutrition program available to low income individuals and families. Participants receive their benefits monthly and can only use them at licensed vendors.

WIC: Women, Infants and Children. A supplemental food program that also provides nutrition education, health care referrals and breastfeeding resources for pregnant and nursing women, infants and children younger than five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

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Powwow for Hope http://www.nativehealthnews.com/powwow-for-hope/ http://www.nativehealthnews.com/powwow-for-hope/#comments Tue, 19 Apr 2016 23:27:28 +0000 http://www.nativehealthnews.com/?p=3039

Powwow for Hope to celebrate fifth anniversary May 7

AICAF hosts the nation’s only cancer awareness powwow

By Julia Jacobson and Daanis Chosa for Native Health News Alliance

AIMS Team PFH

Photo courtesy of American Indian Cancer Foundation.

MINNEAPOLIS — While many cancer foundations organize 5K walks or relays to raise funds, the American Indian Cancer Foundation (AICAF) does things a little differently – by hosting an all-day powwow called Powwow for Hope™: Dancing for Life, Love & Hope.

Powwow for Hope is an annual community event and fundraiser for the American Indian Cancer Foundation. Teams secure a majority of donations before, after and during the event.

The powwow promotes cancer prevention by offering healthy food and drink options, physical activity through traditional dancing, lacrosse clinics and rock climbing and opportunities for people to learn about early detection and cancer screenings.

This year marks the fifth anniversary of Powwow for Hope, which began shortly after AICAF was founded.

“Every year, the support and contributions from Native communities grows and grows,” AICAF Executive Director Kris Rhodes (Bad River Chippewa and Fond du Lac Chippewa) said. “But even more importantly, Powwow for Hope has become a place to honor cancer survivors and loved ones who have passed from cancer in a way that resonates with so many people.”

Money raised at Powwow for Hope supports a variety of cancer initiatives, including community education, outreach, and new ideas. One of the programs that Powwow for Hope makes possible is an American Indian Cancer Support Circle, a monthly gathering of cancer survivors to discuss their battles with cancer.

Colon cancer survivor Margie LaMorie (Lac Courte Orielles Band of Ojibwe) was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2009 and joined the Cancer Support Circle shortly after. Since her involvement with the group, she has become an advocate of colonoscopies and has spoken to casino employees and the Indian Health Board about the importance of screening.

“I ended up talking some people into changing their minds about colonoscopies,” LaMorie said. “Just the word ‘colonoscopy’ in itself is a frightening word, let alone having it done. People have come to me letting me know that they changed their mind.”

LaMorie said the support circle has helped her talk about her feelings on colon cancer and has made cancer easier to handle.

As the only American Indian Cancer Support Group in the Twin Cities, the group has become a place for American Indians to talk about cancer with their own people who understand their struggles and triumphs.

“I believe we [Cancer Support Circle] are an important outlet for people to air their concerns, worries, experiences – everything,” LaMorie said.

Much of the money raised for Powwow for Hope comes from fundraising teams formed by families, organizations and schools. In 2015, there were 34 teams that participated in event fundraising.

Valerie LaFave (Red Lake Band of Chippewa) and her family have organized a fundraising team since 2013, raising money in creative ways such as selling pickles and raffles for Minnesota Lynx tickets.

Photo courtesy of American Indian Cancer Foundation.

Photo courtesy of American Indian Cancer Foundation.

“I did it because I love a challenge,” LaFave said. “I realized how many people cancer was actually affecting in the Native community and it’s really rewarding to know I am helping in some capacity.”

Powwow for Hope took on a new meaning for LaFave after cancer affected her family firsthand. Her father was diagnosed with cancer in early 2014 and passed away from the disease months later. At the 2015 powwow, the family honored her father by dancing in remembrance of him by taking part in an honor song.

“By honoring him during the powwow, it helped us deal with the grief and loss we had endured six months before,” LaFave said.

For other fundraising teams, Powwow for Hope is a way to unite their communities and bring people together to support a cause. One such team, the American Indian Magnet School in St. Paul, has invited students and faculty for the past three years to participate.

Students take on ownership of fundraising for their team through bake sales, coin drives, collecting and making silent auction items like earrings, and even creating unique canvas paintings to display and sell at the powwow.

Jason Bressette (Red Cliff Chippewa), the middle school’s American Indian Studies coordinator, says the powwow helps his students learn about cancer and healthy living. About 700 students attend the school and most participate in Powwow for Hope in some way.

“We think of it [Powwow for Hope] as a service learning project where we are teaching life skills to students, Bressette said. “How to work in a team, how to be humble about things, how to give back to the community without expecting anything in return.”

The AICAF Powwow for Hope will be held on May 7, 2016.

To learn more about the American Indian Cancer Foundation and Powwow for Hope, visit www.PowwowforHope.org.

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