Guest column: Diabetes expo helps raise awareness

“This will be the first generation who will not outlive their parents,” Donald Warne, MD, MPH (Oglala Lakota) stated at the First Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition.

“Significant social determinants that affect access to healthy lifestyles in tribal communities includes high rates of poverty, federally- managed food programs; underfunded systems of education, health, and medicine; and changes in social and cultural norms regarding food and physical activity. So how can we inspire people to make lasting contributions to solving these crisis afflicting Native communities and improve public health outcomes regionally, nationally?”

I was fortunate enough to attend the First Native American Nutrition Conference held in Prior Lake, Minnesota, which brought over 450 native leaders, academics, and public health workers; over 30 world-renowned Indigenous nutrition experts that included participants from 32 states, five countries and dozens of tribes; this event being the widest possible collaboration among Native and non-Native leaders discussing issues, recognizing that the health of our people is in a state of crisis, and taking a hard look at programs that are working and can be modeled in other native communities.

The Hopi/Tewa Nation is not alone in trying to address issues and find solutions related to obesity and other chronic diseases such as diabetes.

So the million dollar question is, where do we begin? One solution presented 30 years ago by my father, Leon A. Nuvayestewa Sr., was an idea of a Hopi system of welfare. Welfare is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “the state of doing well in respect to good fortune, happiness, well-being and prosperity.” A Hopi system of welfare must incorporate the importance of responsibility, duty, industriousness, self-worth, self-esteem and a valued system of care based on the individual, family, clan and village responsibilities.

An advisory group, knowledgeable of Hopi teachings, should be formed in each village to advise on the development of the system. Each proposal must be sustainable, now and in the future, from resources that are available in the Hopi social structure. The proposals of individual responsibility and duty must be thoroughly grounded as the underpinning philosophy in a Hopi system of welfare. Long term solutions must never be driven by money alone, but sustainable by the individual, family clan, and village for the common good. In this day and age, reality dictates that we do have need of money, but we also need to be reminded that our elders told us to take what will enhance our lives from the pahana world, but to also be careful to not allow it to displace our own traditions and values as Hopi/Tewa people.

We are ultimately all responsible for our own well-being. It will take a recommitment to the covenant that was bestowed upon our people, a belief system that engenders compliance and high regard based upon the individual and collective actions of the Hopi/Tewa sinom. ”Interdependence and independence is the cornerstone of a people’s spirit and strength. Anything less is deemed unacceptable,” said Leon Nuvayestewa Sr.

In keeping with the spirit of collaboration, strengthening and educating our people, the Hopi Special Diabetes Program would like to invite the Hopi/Tewa sinom to the 2016 Diabetes Expo, Nov. 7 at the Hopi Veteran’s Memorial Center. This family friendly event is from 4:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. Cooking demos, fitness sessions provided by Native American Fitness Council and Painted Horse Diabetes Prevention Program, Palau Fit/Kit presentation addressing obesity/physical activity by Doctor Ann Collier, NAU, is just a glimpse into the evening’s events.

Local programs will also be present with information on what services they provide. We want people to walk away with a sense of empowerment and a recommitment to make healthy lifestyle changes. We must have faith in our capabilities, and a belief that we can overcome chronic diseases armed with the knowledge that it is within our capabilities. We all know that the choices we make now have a direct impact on our health in the future. Knowledge is power. By raising awareness and educating, knowing where and who you can reach out to for help, is something that our program strives to provide for our community. Our children deserve to live to a ripe old age; they deserve the chance to disprove the statement of Donald Warne. This generation will live on, if, and only if we come together in our villages to help guide their footsteps. It is for the very survival of our Hopi/Tewa people that we are fighting for!

“One hundred years from now, they will hold you singly responsible if you do not transmit the gift to them that has been given to you. The gift of peoplehood, of specialness, of credibility is not a gift of yours, for yourself; alone. It must be given from one generation to the next. Because it is that on which survival, psychological survival, mental health is based on; and you have the power to do so. And if you give up that power now, that gift that has been given to you from history at the time of the emergence will no longer be transmittable!”-Dr. Carl Hammerschlag, motivational speaker for the 3rd Mental Health Conference, 32 years ago.

We look forward to seeing you all at the Diabetes Expo! Be safe, be well!

Valerie Nuvayestewa Diabetes Prevention Educator

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