Native Generations

By Grover Koelpin No comments

For every 1,000 American Indian and Alaska Native babies born
in urban areas nationwide,
as many as 15 die before their first birthday
Source: National Center for Health Statistics, 2002-06 Most common causes of infant death for
American Indians and Alaska Natives are
1) Birth defects
2) Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
3) Preterm and low birth weight
4) Unintentional injuries (accidents)
5) Pregnancy complications (placenta and cord)
Source: National Center for Health Statistics, 2008 Many of these deaths can be prevented Unstable home and family environments are a risk for the baby Breaking unhealthy patterns
like alcohol and tobacco abuse, teen pregnancy and violence
is difficult but not impossible… Connecting to health care and resources
grounded in Native culture
can help families break unhealthy patterns to protect Native generations Children portrait shots I was born in Northern Michigan. I was adopted from the Tribe and I was raised in Detroit, Michigan. My father when he left the reservation, he didn’t look back and it was you get away and you don’t come back is kind of the outlook he had. So we were never around his family growing up. So we didn’t have any of the cultural traditional ways, so now that I have my children, it’s important that I try to get them involved as much as I can, even though I didn’t have as much of that growing up. Two out of three American Indians and Alaska Natives live in urban areas My name is Aren Sparck, my [Chupiq] name is [Amigo], my [Yupik] name is [Yupaiak]. Thirty-four year old urban Indian male living in Seattle. I live in Magnolia with my wife Irene and my daughter Aria. So that’s me and my family. There are Urban Indian Health
Organizations in 20 states supporting
Native generations in urban areas What we do here is an extension of the trust responsibility that the US Government has to Indian people to provide health care. We can’t do it by ourselves, so we always have our friends and families there to help us too and then in this case we have the clinic. We’re that conduit for those tribal members that are too far away from home to get their healthcare. They know that they can come here and they have a place, they have a place that they can go. American Indian Health and Family Services is not only a clinic but it’s a cultural home for the people in Southeast Michigan and the Greater Detroit Area Here at the Seattle Indian Health Board, I am the Traditional Health Liaison, so folks that are coming for Traditional Indian Medicine services are able to attain those here. Urban Indian Health Organizations provide health services, cultural activities
and resources to protect Native generations It’s a place where you can see people that look like you. And it’s not just look like you, they might sound like you, they might even share the same blood as you. It’s really nice to know that there is a sense of familiarity in a city where the anonymity can be completely polarizing, you have no idea what you are doing, you have no idea who you are sometimes. One of the things that happens is because we are away from immediate family members maybe, the knowledge of parenting isn’t necessarily there from the get-go. Prenatal care in the first three months
supports a healthy pregnancy and
protects mother and baby from risks My name is Sheena Brown from the Tlingit Tribe and this is my son LaRey Brown. They have a prenatal group, and it’s a group for, just like a mom’s group. They serve a meal every Thursday. Everyone here is very supportive. Vicky and Venice they actually came to the hospital the first day I had him. Many of our families and 2nd and 3rd generation removed from their traditional homelands. Many families are children of those that came during the relocation era. Many of our families are grandchildren of those that survived boarding school. I find a real reverence and respect for that history and also sort of this collective longing to heal that history. I don’t necessarily feel like culturally we are at a loss because we are in the urban area, but I do think it is a bit harder because we don’t necessarily have the strength of a single area where we all live in as far as like a 24-hour population goes. I like to always remember the teaching we had in our family, ‘Children choose their parents’. With that knowledge in itself is a tremendous amount of responsibility and it’s also honorable. We know that in order to bring adequate healthcare services we have to provide support services beyond just the medical issues that we’re addressing. You know you go to a doctor and you’re in their setting and you’re uncomfortable and you tend to forget things, but you go to their home and they are welcoming and you see how they interact with their baby, you see how they live and you are able to connect with them a little bit better. Home visits are a source of
health care, information and resources
before and after the baby is born This is our BooZhoo book, so you can learn lots of words in Anishinaabemowin. Like when I was working at Burger King, it was like we had just enough money to get by, we didn’t have money for a car seat. My brothers just a little while ago were all broke, everybody had zero dollars. I said man, what is something happens to one of the kids or you don’t have diapers and no one has any money and that the thing, the Center they really help with a lot of that. Fatherhood to me pretty much means a new beginning almost. You aren’t just living for yourself anymore. I am always thinking about her and what decisions throughout the day are going to affect her, professionally, personally, even health-wise. You know, I am eating better, I am going to sleep at normal times and I do this so I can hang out with her, because unlike daddy she loves the morning. Connecting to Native culture
provides support for Native generations
to stay healthy I think in terms of culture and what that does, is it grounds not only the new arrival, it grounds the parents, it grounds the whole family. Traditionally we start like with the smudging, which I didn’t know about, I had never done it until I came to the Center. I try to use a few words of Ojibwe in our day to day basis just so they have that also, because they pick up from Dora the Explorer and everywhere else, so I try to give them a few words also. They are like a little extended family. The kids really love them. They have been a great support system for me. The community support is really big, because I grew up in a huge family up in Alaska. My mom had nine brothers and sisters, three of them had ten kids. But I think we will find a way, I think the community is strong enough. Health care and community support
before, during and after pregnancy
begin a road of wellness for Native generations We want very early on to let that mom know and let that baby know that they are valued. As early as we can give that family, that baby, that mom, that dad that message the greater the probability is that they are going to be able to walk a road of wellness early on. I think because we are so far away from home, we are kind of creating a new native way that’s ours. It transcends any single tribe. The native community that’s just what we do, that’s just how it is. There’s not any other way you can explain it. I mean, it’s the same in tribal communities, it’s just a different background, we’ve got buildings instead of trees. Singing to Aria Find out more information at: Seattle Indian Health Board, Urban Indian Health Institute, Office of Minority Health and Longhouse Media

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