Dynamic speakers, panelists and interactive workshop leaders — like Umatilla professional basketball player and Nike N7 Ambassador Jude Schimmel, and food sovereignty advocate and chef Lois Ellen Frank (Kiowa) — educated and inspired attendees of the Notah Begay III Foundation’s “Healthy Kids! Healthy Futures!” (HKHF). The fourth annual conference took place April 26-27 in Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico.
Other presenters included the founders of Well For Culture, who discussed grassroots indigenous wellness. Up2Us promoted interactive games. The White Mountain Apache Tribe explained their community gardening initiative. NB3Fit offered insight on their training curriculum. Community Outreach Patient Empowerment (COPE) detailed its program Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program (FVRx), in which doctors give their patients “prescriptions,” in the form of vouchers, for a month’s worth of free fruits and vegetables.
That’s not all. Judith LeBlanc (Caddo), director of the Native Organizers Alliance, talked community organizing. IRoots Media shed light on community-based marketing. George Toya led a site visit to the Nambe Community Farms. The Lower Sioux Community spoke about healthy community building. An elder women’s panel shared wellness stories. The Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation spoke about building economic prosperity and community vitality within the Oglala Lakota Nation. A youth panel discussed health initiatives and more.
“There are so many people working so hard every day to transform and reclaim who we are as indigenous people, and the results are there,” said Justin Huenemann, President and CEO of the NB3 Foundation, while acknowledging widespread progress amongst Native people in all areas of growth over the past 50 years. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do in many areas, but there’s a lot more hope than hopelessness.”
The mission statement of the NB3 Foundation is “to reduce Native American childhood obesity and type-2 diabetes,” and the intention of the conference is to bring together those who work in positions related to Native youth wellness to exchange ideas, participate in workshops, and become equipped to return to their communities and careers with techniques and ideas to further this mission.
“The HKHF conference is an important opportunity for Native American practitioners and organizations dedicated to improving the quality of health for Native youth to explore and share ideas and to rejuvenate. It is our desire to elevate the discourse and the priority of Native youth health and physical activity with tribes, foundations, partners, families and youth,” Huenemann said.
Held over the course of three days at the Buffalo Thunder Resort, this was the first year that the NB3 Foundation opened up conference registration to the public on a national level, and it was a success: over 100 people from dozens of wellness-related programs from all over the country participated. The target audience for the conference are adults with an objective to engage Native youth in health, fitness, and wellness.
Huenemann anticipates that the conference will continue to grow each year as the indigenous wellness movement continues to pick up traction in tribal nations everywhere.