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Native American Heritage Month

Written by Native Youth Ambassador Jordan Burkart:

The month of November is Native American Heritage Month. In 1990, President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating the month of November as “National American Indian Heritage Month.”

Currently, there are approximately 574 Federally Recognized Native Nations in the United States. Of these, there are 110 federally recognized Indian tribes in California and 81 entities petitioning for recognition. Tribes in California currently have 100 separate reservations or Rancherias. The closest tribes located in and around Sacramento are: the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians; Jackson Band of Miwuk Indians; the United Auburn Indian Community; Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians; the Ione Band of Miwok Indians; and Wilton Rancheria.

This month, SNAHC celebrates and recognizes the important contributions made by our nation’s first people and their rich and diverse cultures. In acknowledging the many achievements and diversity of Native people, it is important to highlight Native doctors/physicians, psychologists/counselors, and their research.

For example: Dr. Lonnie Nelson (Eastern Band of Cherokee), co-director of Partnerships for Native Health at Washington State University, whose work improving the health and well-being of Indigenous people has brought him to a position of vital importance; evaluating potential COVID-19 vaccines for how they will be perceived and accepted by Native American communities. He was invited to sit on a panel of a dozen scientific experts by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Meanwhile there are less than 200 Native Psychologists in the United States. We at SNAHC are pleased and honored to announce that Dr. LittleDove Rey from the United Auburn Indian Community recently defended her dissertation entitled, “A Systematic Review of Substance Use and Treatment Interventions for American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal Communities in the United States.” Dr. Rey is now an alum of Stanford Medicine.

Among Native American populations, health disparities are exceedingly prominent. American Indian and Alaska Native populations have shown to rank among the lowest in the nation regarding health outcomes and social determinants of health, including “cancer treatment, higher death rates, and higher rates of hospitalization” (Payne et al., 2018). Mental health treatment such as therapy and counseling are imperative in healing from historical trauma.

The Association of American Indian Physicians is dedicated to improving the health of American Indian and Alaskan Native Communities and the American Indian and Alaska Native Society of Indian Psychologists is an organization for Native American Indigenous people who advocate for the mental well-being of Native peoples by increasing the knowledge and awareness of issues impacting Native Mental Health.

Jeanine Gaines



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