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Indian Arts Organization Seeks to Help Artists with Parkinson’s Disease

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Mary Lee Prescott is an elder member of the Oneida Indian Nation of Wisconsin who has pursued her passion for art since childhood, whether through painting, jewelry-making, or doll-making. Yet, in recent years, Mary has been struggling with the onset of Parkinson's Disease, which has limited her ability to do art.

In 2013, Mary enrolled in non-contact boxing program offered by the Indianapolis, Indiana-based Rock Steady Boxing Inc., designed to addess the symptoms of Parkinson's.

Mary is one of more than 2,600 Native Americans in the U.S. diagnosed with Parkinson's, according to a federal study published in 2012 by a group of U.S. government health researchers. Another finding in the study was that little if any research has been conducted to identify the extent of Parkinson’s in Indian country, whether it is highlighting key risk factors for the disease unique to Native Americans, or the extent of complementary or alternative therapies available in the public health care system in Indian country, where resources in many cases have been relatively limited.

To address this situation for all American Indians, the Woodlands Tribal Artists Association—a Native American nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote a renaissance in eastern woodland Indian art and crafts—is rolling out an Artists Overcoming Parkinson’s Disease project. A goal of the project is to promote health research and education designed to help Native American artists and others effectively cope with Parkinson’s, so as to help them maintain a robust quality of life. The project seeks the participation of Federally recognized Indian Tribes, urban Indian communities, a university to assist with the research and educational components, and others with a stake in addressing Parkinson's Disease in Indian Country and beyond. As soon as enough funds would be raised to support the project, it is anticipated the project would initially last 12 months.

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For more information and to support the project, visit