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‘Native Life’ Provides Online Health Support Network

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Barbara Mora’s (Paiute/Diné) mother, who passed away from diabetes complications, struggled to confront the reality of the disease. “My mother would not deal with diabetes; it was a big scary topic,” Mora says. “She only saw the horrible things: amputations, dialysis and death.”

When Mora was diagnosed with diabetes 14 years ago, she chose to deal with the disease differently. As the fourth generation on her mother’s side to suffer from diabetes, many of Mora’s family members did not want her to talk about it. “I thought no, I’m not going to go quietly,” Mora says. “I’m going to find out everything I need to know about diabetes.”

After her mother’s death, and her father’s subsequent passing, Mora felt herself slipping into depression. Rather than falling victim to diabetes and depression, Mora relied on the Diné tradition of praying each morning to restore her spirit.

Then she channeled her emotional and spiritual journey with diabetes from denial to depression to staying active and healthy with the disease in the book Using Our Wit and Wisdom to Live Well with Diabetes. Published by the Indian Health Service (IHS) Division of Diabetes Treatment and Prevention and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the free book insired the Native Life website­—an inspirational support network for coping with diabetes and maintaining good health. The free, no-ad Native-run website launched in May and has inspired Natives across the country to stay hopeful and healthy.

Several participants have also chronicled their weight loss. According to the Native Life press release, Angel Van Brunt (Colville) shared her 60-pound weight-loss journey on the site. Seventy-three-year-old Jerry Arca (Skokomish) has shed over 100 pounds, and now serves as the fitness instructor for the Skokomish Tribe. Single mom Tawny Boyer (Paiute/Shoshone) is employing new strategies to keep her children fit and healthy, forbidding video games in the house and only allowing sodas on special occasions.

"This website is all about providing the missing link to being well--inspiration. If you see that this person from this tribe can be healthy, then you start believing you can do it, too," said Native Life co-founder Cecilia Kayano. "Our goal is to have hundreds of stories of Native moms, dads and families taking steps to be happy and healthy, so that when the viewers read the stories, they think, 'Being well is our natural state. Everyone's that way. I can get healthy, too.'"

Native Life, lead by Mora and her husband Bob Mora (Tarahumara/Mexican), Thomas Yazzie (Diné) and Kayano (Japanese American), helps natives develop a support family and discuss their challenges and achievements in blogs and photos. “In my book, I talk about having a group, building your own family. The book tells how to have people around you who are going to be your support, your help, your network,” Mora says.

“We are just trying to help. There are so many positive stories out there. Maybe someone will be inspired."