Navajo Cancer Symposium: A Student Perspective
My experience at the Navajo Cancer Symposium was positive. I
learned that there could be a lot of disconnect between western medicine and
the views of American Indians and how to treat illness, especially cancer.
Spirituality was mentioned frequently throughout the Navajo Cancer Symposium.
It was nice to be able to hear the commonalities of paying homage to ancestors
in the Navajo culture and being able to compare them to my own (African
American). This symposium was beneficial to those that have recently lost a
loved one or is acting as a caregiver to a loved one with cancer. The panel speakers
were able to speak on their experiences of what it was like having to tell an
elder (often times mom or dad) that they had cancer, sometimes not telling
elders that they were taking chemotherapy treatments, and being provided
hospice care that catered to cultural views (often times not).
Through the Navajo Cancer Symposium I learned that there is not a lot
of support for those that may live in rural areas of the Navajo Reservation.
Cancer can be a financial burden to anyone that may be experiencing it, especially
to those where resources are sparse and cultural views can sometimes prevent
people from receiving treatment. I also
learned that the jurisdiction of the State and Navajo Nation can become
blurred, people needing treatment can fall in between Arizona and Navajo lines,
making it unclear as to which party is responsible for treatment resources. I
felt that some of the doctors that spoke at the symposium presented heavily on
medications and did not speak on their experiences on working with American
Indian people and steps they have taken to be more accommodating to cultural
views. I was able to learn about the physiological effects of medications like
Morphine and what to do to help ease the discomfort sometimes associated with
Attending this symposium was validation for me to continue
with my goals of becoming a public health worker. I learned that it is
important to know the population that I may be working with in the future and
to also get to know the politics behind health and health decisions made. This
symposium has sparked my interest in health policy and what I can do to help
people get the resources that they need, in order to be able to make important
decisions with confidence.
New Investigator Projects
Community Involvement with Contamination of Navajo Lands
July 22, 2015
My name is Tommy Rock; I am a
member of the Navajo Nation from Monument Valley, Utah. Navajo use the maternal clan system, meaning
that a child belongs to the mother’s clan. Therefore, my clans are the Salt
clan, born for the Many Goats clan. My maternal grandfather’s clan is the
Bitter Water clan. My paternal
grandfather’s clan is the Reed People clan.
Currently, I am the first one from my family to purse a post
The Navajo Nation has 523
abandoned uranium mines (US EPA Five Year Plan) dating back to World War II. Some of these mines are in Monument Valley. I grew up in an area that was heavily mined,
which has given me a very personal interest in these issues. Many of my relatives were involved in uranium
mining in the past and died of cancer associated with past uranium mining.
My career goal is to achieve a Philosophy of
Doctorate (PhD) in Earth Science and Environmental Sustainability and develop
my own program of research that focuses on Environmental Health in Indigenous
communities. My particular interest is in pursuing a multidisciplinary approach
to solving complicated issues such as sustainability in the Southwest from a
Native American perspective.
There are many environmental
factors that influence public health in Indigenous Communities. One such
environmental factor are abandon uranium mines throughout Navajo Nation which still
affects the people and the land. I hope to be able to
integrate the issue of health, environment, and culture especially uranium
mining into more informed decision making on tribal lands.
The purpose of my project with Center
for American Indian Resilience (CAIR) is to start a dialogue about traditional
Indigenous food contamination and policy development using Navajo Fundamental
Law. I collaborated with the Forgotten
People to accomplish this project. The
Forgotten People are a grassroots organization that focus on social and
environmental justice on the western portion of the Navajo Nation.
The Forgotten People received approval from the trading post owner to
use one of their rooms behind the deli and laundromat as a meeting space.
four meetings took
place there. We distributed flyers to
notify the community of our meetings and even had one community member going
door to door. Lunch and snacks were
provided by myself, Tommy Rock.
Our meetings consist of the
community members of Cameron, Arizona.
Our first meeting was in December, community members were not present
possibly due to the Christmas shopping season and the Western Agency meeting in
Flagstaff. The next three meetings went
better with improved attendance and participation from the community
members. They had a great discussion in
each of the last three meetings.
Our last meeting took place with a tour at Dr. Jani Ingram’s lab at
Northern Arizona University (NAU).
The community members and I attended three presentations from the student researchers in Dr. Ingram's lab. Dr. Ingram did a presentation for the community members too. The presentations were held at the Native American Cultural Center.
Resilience & Culture Through Sport
June 10, 2015
Halito, my name is Alisse Ali-Joseph and I am a member of
the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. I joined
the Applied Indigenous Studies Department at Northern Arizona University in
2013 and specialize in the importance of sports and physical activity as a
vehicle for empowerment, cultural identity, health, resilience and educational
attainment for American Indian people. I also focus on American Indian health
and wellness and American Indian education.
I grew up playing multiple sports and was fortunate enough
to earn a college degree while playing collegiate tennis. Therefore, sport not only provided me with
the ability to remain physically active and healthy, but also encouraged me to
continue my education. I believe that sport is a tool to empower not only
individuals, but also entire communities.
For American Indian people, sports are vibrant and inclusive social
activities with cultural meanings that strengthen Indigenous communities. The lessons that athletics can teach:
resilience, preparation, competitiveness, overcoming obstacles, persistence,
mental and physical health, problem solving, and setting life goals—are
particularly apt for American Indian youth today.
The act of playing sports fosters: self-discipline, self-efficacy, teamwork,
confidence, work ethic, leadership, and resiliency within the participants. For
example, running has long been a key spiritual element of American Indian
culture—one through which individuals can demonstrate strength and resilience,
create a space for their own agency, growth and self-awareness. Through
resilience, one may make a difference for future generations.
I want to help youth see the
benefits of sport, therefore, a goal of mine has been to host a youth sport day
at Northern Arizona University. I was fortunate enough to partner with the
Native American Community Action (NACA) Pathways Program, a substance abuse
prevention program tailored for at-risk Native American youth in the Flagstaff,
Arizona community. NACA’s Pathway Program provides information and education on
developing and maintaining healthy lifestyles to enrolled youth and their
families. On April 25th we
hosted Resilience & Culture through
Sport day in conjunction with the Northern Arizona Spring Football game on
the NAU campus.
and Culture through Sport was a day-long program to promote
health and culture, and focused on how sport fosters resilience. The purpose
was to provide American Indian youth the opportunity to participate in sport as
a cultural strength, as well as engage with Native American collegiate
athletes, coaches and students. We had
30 youth from fourth grade to high school participate. A highlight from Resilience and Culture through Sport, was a talk by NAU football
head coach Jerome Souers. Coach Souers
is the only Native American Division I football coach in the NCAA. Additional highlights include participating
in a tennis clinic hosted by the United States Tennis Association (USTA),
running with Hopi High School cross country coach and former NAU All-American
Juwan Nuvayokva, watching the Spring Football game, and meeting the NAU men’s
Since sport has long provided a means for people to exercise
sovereignty, identity and balance, both individually and collectively, this
program served as a platform upon which participants exercise resilience. Our
hope is to instill the passion for sport by introducing American Indian youth
to the power of movement. By exposing youth to a college campus, introducing
them to Native American role models and allowing a safe space to exert energy,
our goal is to ignite a spark that will guide American Indian youth to set
goals and reach their dreams. We believe that sport has the potential to raise
a generation of leaders.
Hopi Disability Conference
name is Darold H. Joseph I am Coyote Clan from the Hopi village of Moenkopi and
I am a doctoral candidate in the Disability and Psychoeducational Studies
department at the University of Arizona. I currently serve as Research
Assistant with the Center for American Indian Resilience and a Lecturer, with
the Applied Indigenous Studies Department both at Northern Arizona University. My experience includes serving persons with
developmental disabilities in urban areas, as a special education teacher, and
as a special education administrator in a rural junior high and high school
serving American Indian students.
Through these experiences I
learned about the various barriers and challenges individuals with disabilities
and their families face when trying to improve their quality of lives. Some of
these challenges include, combating the negative stereotypes and
generalizations our society constructs about people with disabilities; coping
with the process of acceptance, loss, denial, diagnoses; and parents learning
how to cope and manage having a child with a disability. I also saw individuals and their families
struggling with policies and laws that were meant to be accommodating but
instead contradicted individual rights to equity and fairness. Each of these
issues effect the opportunity to attain higher standards of living including:
independent living, higher education and employment. Within these experiences
there are many unheard stories.
However challenging, I have also
witnessed the ability of people with disabilities to practice resilience. In
March 2015, I facilitated a digital story training workshop in collaboration
with the Hopi Health and Human Services Department and the Office of Hopi
Special Needs. The purpose of this workshop was to support individuals with
disabilities create and tell their stories of resilience. The following are the
personal stories of resilience of four amazing individuals with disabilities
and their families who at times have struggled but found the resilience to
continue on. Our hope is that their
stories will speak to a broad audience to educate our society about the assets
these individuals possess that included the intersection of culture, community,
education, disability, and identity.
Click on the title to view the Digital Stories:
- My Invisible Life
Kellen Polingyumptewa, Hopi
Community Health Representative
- Hongvi’s Story
Aaron Preston, KUYI radio
announcer and Bucky Preston, Father
- Welcome to My World
Ivy Sahneyah, Student, Galladet
University and Madeline Sahneyah, Mother
- “Hak Navasngwu, Kush Hintak Katsi” (Take Good Care of Yourself, You Don’t KnowWhat’s Going to Happen)
Shawn Namoki Sr., Mentor, Hopi
Substance Abuse Prevention Center Team
*Darold and his panel have been
asked to present at the American Indian Disabilities Summit in Phoenix, AZ
Digital stories were supported by the National
Institute On Minority Health And Health Disparities of the National Institutes
of Health under Award Number P20MD006872. The content is solely the
responsibility of the authors and does not represent the official views of the
National Institutes of Health
Navajo Nation Vice President encouraged by Navajo Medicaid Feasibility Report
Read the article and report here.
Has:san Preparatory Student News