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The National Library of Medicine spent four years collecting native peoples’ stories about health and illness from all over the country. Now, the NLM is returning to the communities that contributed their stories by way of a traveling version of the Native Voices: Native Peoples’ Concepts of Health and Illness exhibition. The Spirit Lake Nation was the first stop on a nationwide tour that will include Indian reservations, Native health and cultural centers, and regional medical libraries.
Over 150 native people were interviewed for this exhibit from across Indian Country, including native Hawaiians. This includes tribal leaders, tribal elders, spiritual people, medicine people from across Indian country. And this morning we’re going to be opening the Native Voices exhibit.
In Indian Country and Alaska and Hawaii, we found that all three peoples have much to teach us about health, and prevention of illness and managing life. So we put together the exhibition really to bring forward and make public some of the good ideas, the good accomplishments the good things of native American peoples to be shared amongst them and also amongst the general population.
The traveling version is smaller in size than the Native Voices exhibition at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, but it contains all of the video interviews of the original, presented on iPads with accompanying banners.
think it’s important for us as native People to finally speak out and be heard. So I think it’s a great opportunity for many of us to share our stories because we have a lot of stories that need to be shared.
The Native Voices traveling exhibition displays personal stories from tribal leaders, healers, and native physicians who can serve as role models for young people living on reservations.
I would say that the only sort of hidden agenda item for me is that I wish that we could all do something to encourage more native Americans in healthcare medical professions. That has to start early, lift your eyes, set your goals to be high. I think this tribal college is trying to so exactly that.
Cankdeska Cikana Community College is the home college of the Spirit Lake Tribe in Fort Totten, North Dakota. Under the leadership of college president Dr. Cynthia Lindquist, the college has evolved from purely vocational studies to more academically-oriented programs.
My grandmother Alvina Alberts was instrumental in starting the college. She said tatonka used to be our food, meaning buffalo. But now she said that tatonka is through education and that’s what we had to go after.
The Native Voices traveling exhibition provides an opportunity for local communities to showcase their own traditions and cultural offerings.
The grand opening at Cankdeska Cikana was the finale to a week of healing events at the college. Healers traveled from all over the Dakotas to participate in panel discussions, and students enjoyed movies featuring Native American actors.
The North Dakota Museum of Art's Songs for Spirit Lake exhibit was displayed on the campus where it landed after a successful run in New York City. In Songs for Spirit Lake, six artists explore how people live within the landscape, who the people are, and how they join the past and present in life today.
Members of the Spirit Lake community contributed their own stories to the week of festivities through a companion digital storytelling program produced by nDigiDreams.
think that a lot of the stories that we tend to hear about ourselves we tend to memorialize the past. And this is really celebrating the present -- that we’re still here. We’re still alive, we’re still doing what has been taught to us, what has been given to us through our culture.
Following the North Dakota launch, Native Voices will travel to sites in Hawai'i, Alaska, Seattle, and Oklahoma, and then to additional sites nationwide.
I think it’s wonderful because the Indian people for whatever reason don’t really talk about things. And I think it's really important that we leave our history with whoever we can, for our children, our grandchildren, and I think if anything it can bring Indian Country closer together.
North Dakota