Greetings WAC Community,
Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever . . . Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.
– Ecclesiastes 1:4, 10
Friday was Earth Day and the Wind River Native Advocacy Center (WRNAC)celebrated at Blue Sky Hall in Ethete on the Wind River Reservation. Besides music and children making a paper Mache buffalo, we heard from Jason Baldes, the director of the WRNAC, who had last Monday successfully defended his Master’s degree thesis at Montana State University in the Land Resources & Environmental Science Department. (Congratulations Jason!!!) His thesis topic was “Cultural Plant Biodiversity in Relict Wallow-Like Depressions on the Wind River Indian Reservation, Wyoming and Tribal Bison Restoration and Policy.” Jason presented a PowerPoint about how critical buffalo were to the tradition, way of life and health of the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes; how the buffalo were slaughtered nearly to extinction in order to kill Indians; how buffalo nurtures the land by wallowing on it; the plan to restore buffalo to the Wind River Reservation beginning this summer and how in time Native Americans will once again be able to hunt buffalo like other wildlife indigenous to Wyoming. The fence is going up soon and buffalo arriving have been quarantined so as to be disease free and are genetically pure instead of products of breeding with cattle.
When I was in the Solomon Islands over 20 years ago visiting a brother who was a missionary there, an ice cream truck in Honiara played the tune to Home, Home on the Range. I was amused because the words to the song do not describe the surroundings there, but here in Wyoming; except to be honest, it is where the buffalo roam as they did 150 years ago. To reverse past mistakes is challenging. Yet, the tribes on the Wind River Reservation are doing it! For restoring buffalo to their land, we are thankful.
Samples of buffalo meat, including the heart and tongue, were shared on Friday. Buffalo meat is tasty, especially the tongue, and very nutritional, which brings me to another topic: Health Disparities. Did you know that diabetes was nonexistent among Native Americans prior to their being introduced to European foods? From 2009-1013, Native Americans were 4.6 times more likely to die of diabetes than Whites in Wyoming. This is only one of the many health disparities for Native Americans and something that needs fixing.
April is Minority Health Awareness Month and we are acknowledging it this coming Friday, April 29, noon to 2 pm at the First United Methodist Church in Riverton. Over a healthy lunch, we will do more than look at the disparities; we will consider realistic networking solutions. Click for flyer for more information.
There will be more about health disparities at the 2016 Native American Health Equity Conference, June 8-10 in Riverton. Last year we had 120 participants. For more information and to register, go to: https://sites.google.com/site/nativeamericanhealthconference/. At the same site, you may register for a cultural competency and unconscious bias training as a preconference event at Central Wyoming College in Riverton on June 7, 9 am – 2 pm that I will be co-facilitating on behalf of the Wyoming Association of Churches.
The Wyoming Association of Churches has been working with the Wind River Reservation to assist in ways to close the health disparities gap in Wyoming, where the average age of death is more than 16 years younger for Native Americans in Wyoming than for the general population in Wyoming. Can you help? Make a contribution now by clicking here. Or mail your contribution to WAC, PO Box 1473, Laramie, WY 82073. Your support makes a difference.
Fear not. Be bold. Do justice.