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Sitka team invited to Healthy Native Communities Fellowship

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SITKA, Alaska – The Sitka-based team “Haa Shagoon Latseení” (Our Ancestors’ Strength) has been invited to participate in the national Healthy Native Communities Fellowship program. The team is hosted by Sitka Tribe of Alaska and features Roby Littlefield, Renae Mathson and Walleen Whitson.

The fellowship is sponsored by the Indian Health Service’s National Health Promotion Initiative, and each local team includes people representing a variety of community groups related to health and wellness, substance abuse, social service or tribal/local government.

Littlefield works in youth education with Sitka Tribe and Sitka schools, and her family operates the Dog Point Fish Camp. Mathson is a community project assistant for the SEARHC Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska program and a volunteer EMT with the Sitka Volunteer Fire Department. Whitson is a site coordinator with the SEARHC Lifestyle Balance diabetes prevention program.

“This is a great privilege for our team, Haa Shagoon Latseení, to be selected to participate in the program,” Mathson said. “This really isn’t about us. It is about learning how to collaborate with different partners in the Native community, learn what the Native people of Sitka want regarding their health and wellness, and find ways to make that happen together.”

“I am very excited and honored to be picked as one of the recipients for the Healthy Native Communities Fellowship program,” Walleen said. “Our team invites our elders and youth to join us in our efforts and become involved by participating on our newly formed Traditional Native Health Coalition.”

Teams work on wellness projects within their home communities for most of the year, all teams meet quarterly to share experiences and attend seminars. Haa Shagoon Latseení hopes to develop a curriculum that will pass traditional knowledge from tribal elders to youth and adults wanting to learn more about Tlingít culture. The team travels to Scottsdale, Ariz., for its first week-long quarterly retreat this month.

“I am looking forward to learning skills that will help me support and encourage our elders and youth to use our traditional lifeways to maintain a healthy family environment,” Littlefield said.

This is the fifth year the fellowship has included a team with at least one SEARHC employee (teams have to represent a variety of community organizations, not just one). SEARHC employees were on teams from Kake in 2008, Juneau in 2007, Kake in 2006 and Sitka in 2005.

The 2009 Healthy Native Communities Fellowship features 14 teams from Alaska, Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, South Dakota and California. There are three other Alaska teams in the program this year besides Haa Shagoon Latseení – The Pinilis (The Strong Ones) from Togiak, the St. Paul Wellness Team from St. Paul, and the Warriors from Anchorage. For more information on the Fellowship, visit

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