Flagstaff, Arizona–Native American Resilience & Navajo Culture

We woke up early in the morning to start our drive from Phoenix, AZ to Flagstaff Medical Center located in a mountainous area of northern Arizona. At Flagstaff, we were privileged to have lunch with Dr. Neff, the chief medical officer there. We also met with individuals from the Center for American Indian Resilience from Northern Arizona University, and a Navajo interpreter who told us many things about Navajo culture, and gave all of us traditional navajo tea!

When meeting with the Center for American Indian Resilience (CAIR), we were introduced to a new model of looking at American Indian Health: through resilience. Dr. Anderson put it best when she said something along these lines: throughout history, in literature, American Indian deficits have been focused on–they have a problem with alcoholism, trauma, etc. However, despite this, we have people in our community who have overcome these obstacles and achieved great things–they have become doctors and researchers. We would like to showcase this model and our resilience through CAIR.

The talk was quite inspiring, making our minds shift from the deficit model to a strength-based model for health–focusing on the strengths of culture and community rather than what they do not have, and drawing from that strength to fill in what may be lacking. I encourage everyone to go to their website: http://nau.edu/cair/ and explore the strengths and resilience of the Native American community.

After our meeting with CAIR, we also met with a Navajo interpreter who told us about Navajo culture. We were introduced to the idea that Navajo start their day facing east (sunrise), as they believe that is healthy for them. They are also a matriarchy, and focus on where people come from–we all introduced ourselves as not only individuals, but also talking about where our family and ancestors came from. Navajo describe their first clan as their mother’s clan, then their second clan is their father’s clan, third clan is mother’s mother’s clan and fourth clan is father’s mother’s clan. The interpreter also told us that one of the biggest challenges that the Navajo are facing is diabetes: also know as the “sugar disease.” Coke, Pepsi, and other soda brands distribute the most in Arizona and New Mexico reservations! Additionally, other challenges surrounding the disease is based on access: many individuals live on reservations 3-4 hours away with no running water and power. Simple things like storing insulin is a problem for them!

We had a wonderful visit in Flagstaff and were able to learn so much more about Navajo culture. It was an extremely memorable trip and an experience of a lifetime!

Sign on the vending machine in Flagstaff

Sign on the vending machine in Flagstaff

Traditional Navajo Tea given by Flagstaff Medical Center

Traditional Navajo Tea given by Flagstaff Medical Center

Running Medicine and Heading Home

The last day of our Arizona/New Mexico trip!! The days truly flew by and I can certainly say that this was a fantastic, heart-warming and meaning full experience. Our last day was spent in Albuquerque, New Mexico with Dr. Anthony Fleg, a Haverford grad of 2000 who is currently a Family and Community Medicine physician and co-coordinator of the Native Health Initiative. It was a day filled with reflection upon our experience, as well as looking forward towards our future. I think it was the perfect way to end our trip.

The morning started with the Kickoff of “Running Medicine”, a wellness program rolled out by the Native Health Initiative that focuses on strengthening connection, community, as well as our bodies. We were then able to meet with the high school students from the Healers of Tomorrow Program, with whom we were able to share our personal hopes and dreams for becoming Healers. Next, we joined the healer of tomorrow program to meet Dr. Ruben, who worked for the local VA hospital, who shared some of the ins and outs of surgery. Finally, we traveled back to the NHI office space where Anthony asked us to share the part of the trip that we found the most valuable and we would not have been able to learn in a textbook. I shared that although I knew that the Navajo had a rich culture, I gained a much stronger appreciation for how unique, robust and beautiful this culture was and how the strengths of this culture could be used to make the necessary connection with the community and further one’s mission and goals. This played directly Anthony’s explanation of Loving Service, which uses a decolonized structure, and strengths based model. I hope to carry this with me and utilize these model’s in the way I practice in the future.

Finally, we got some great pizza and enjoyed some yummy milkshakes in the airport!! Enjoy some fun pictures of us on our last day.

Last group dinner

Last group dinner

Beautiful sunset on the plane from NM to TX

Beautiful sunset on the plane from NM to TX

Well deserved treat at the end of our trip

Well deserved treat at the end of our trip.

By: Yanira Santos ’16

Tuba City and the Grand Canyon

Hello!

Wednesday was another exciting day on our trip. We started off driving from Flagstaff to Tuba City, moving from one environment to a vastly different one, from forest to desert. Once in Tuba, we went to the Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation, a tribal run hospital and care provider. After a comprehensive tour of the facilities we got an unexpected brief on their diabetes prevention program by a nutritionist in the US Public Health Service. Then Lynn Bedonie told us about their telemedicine program with the University of Arizona, explaining how they use it to improve access and reduce the impacts of staff shortages. Most interestedly, she told us how they used telemedicine to provide psychological and psychiatric support to students at local high schools. She also gave us recommendations on where to have lunch to have the famous Navajo tacos on fry bread.

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Then came the dramatic part of the trip…. A surprise visit to the Grand Canyon!!

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Following our National Park detour, we drove through the hearts of the Navajo and Hopi reservations on our way to Chinle for another day of fun activities. We also honed our word game and twenty question skills on this long drive!

by Marie Vastola

 

Museum and IHS Visit

I’m a little late on posting but we’ve had a super busy (in the best way possible) week.
Our first full day (Monday, March 11) consisted of visiting the Heard Museum and then the Phoenix Indian Medical Center.

The Heard Museum recognizes and celebrates American Indian art, culture, and history. At the museum, we walked around a bit on our own and then had a tour of the boarding schools exhibit, “Remembering our Indian School Days.” Kaye posted a picture earlier from this exhibit showing how men were expected to act based on western definitions.
On our own time, we saw paintings, photographs and sculptures. Below is a picture of a sculpture from the sculpture garden with the caption and artist information.
Sculpture

Sculpture info

After the museum visit and lunch, we had the opportunity to meet people from the Phoenix Indian Medical Center which is part of the Indian Health Service. We met lots of cool people working at the medical center and got a tour around the many facilities. One session included learning about the incorporation of spirituality in the medical center.
Below is a picture of the the sweat lodge at the Medical Center.
Sweat Lodge

Gallup, NM

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A highlight of today was our visit to the Community Pantry, in Gallup, New Mexico. The Community Pantry provides many services to those experiencing hunger, including monthly food deliveries, fresh produce available weekly, backpacks of food for kids in need, and garden plots that community members can rent (pictured top left). Some of these garden plots are “prescribed” by doctors to patients with diabetes to promote healthier eating. At the end of our visit, we geared up in aprons and hair nets (pictured top right) to package french fries into smaller bags for inclusion in food boxes (pictured bottom left and right).

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Sunday dinner in Tempe

This photo was taken after a wonderful dinner at Caffee Boa in Tempe, where we feasted on fresh pasta dishes followed by chocolate chip cookies.   We were privileged to meet with Travis Lane and Waquin Preston from the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona and Prof. Tennille Marley from the American Indian Studies  at Arizona State University.  They introduced us to the diversity of the 22 tribal nations in Arizona and shared with us their projects on social determinants of health and indigenous frameworks for chronic disease prevention and   management, and graciously answered our many questions about Tribal Nations in AZ.

Caffee Boa dinner

March 6-12 American Indian health in AZ and NM

Roadside Guide to AZOn Sunday, March 6, Prof. Kaye Edwards and five students from the Senior Seminar in Health Studies will fly to Phoenix to begin a six day excursion in Arizona and New Mexico, where they will visit hospitals, community health programs, museums, and national parks.  Through conversations with health care providers, researchers, educators, public health workers, and community members, we will learn about programs to improve the health and well-being of American Indians in the Southwest.  Our trip will take us 600 miles from Phoenix to Albuquerque, with stops in Flagstaff, Tuba City, Second Mesa, Chinle, Ganado, Window Rock, and Gallup.  We’d like to thank CPGC for funding this field study, Stephanie Zukerman for logistical help, and Dr. Ana Maria Lopez for inspiring this trip and connecting us with her colleagues.