American Indian traditions interconnect with public health at Changing Winds exhibition in Atlanta
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Museum
“Today we are again evaluating the changing winds. May we be strong in spirit and equal to our Fathers of another day in reading the signs accurately and interpreting them wisely.” National Congress of American Indians, 1960s
The health and wellness of American Indians and Alaska Natives – both in rural and urban settings – is a complex challenge with multiple solutions.
Changing Winds: Public Health and Indian Country is the newest exhibition at the David J. Sencer CDC Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. This exhibition uses personal and compelling stories to highlight how tribal nations are addressing modern-day challenges for good health and wellness while using traditional knowledge and practices for public health. These feature stories showcase Native resilience, self-empowerment, and reclamation of traditional cultural practices:
- Sin Nombre Hantavirus and the Navajo Nation—The 1993 case where Navajo Nation leaders and elders, public health officials, the Indian Health Service, and state health departments worked together in an unprecedented investigation that drew upon public health resources and cultural knowledge to identify a previously unknown hantavirus. Today, the Navajo Nation’s Department of Health and its Navajo Epidemiology Center successfully integrate professional public health practices with Navajo traditions and culture.
- The Čaŋlí Coalition and Smoke-Free Policies on the Cheyenne River Reservation—A multi-generational grassroots effort that worked with public health law advisors to pass smoke-free ordinances (banning commercial tobacco) by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council. At the same time, the Coalition works to reclaim the use of caŋšášá (red willow bark) and other sacred plants unique to their traditions.
- Powwow Sweat—An overview of how Coeur d’Alene tribal members address the obesity epidemic of their people by promoting an indigenized aerobic exercise program on YouTube and DVDs, while preserving traditional cultural values.
- Thunder Valley: Creating Ecosystems of Opportunity—Using the community as a living laboratory, members of the Oglala Lakota Nation are creating a sustainable and vibrant community where all members can enjoy an environment that supports healthy lifestyles, including community housing and food sovereignty.
Children are Sacred: Family Spirit Home Visiting Program—A parenting program that was developed in the 1990s by the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, in partnership with the Navajo White Mountain Apache and San Carlos Apache Tribes. The program integrates Native American values with parenting and well-child care education, such as breastfeeding and healthy living. Today Family Spirit reaches more than 125 rural and urban tribal communities across 20 U.S. states.
Throughout their research to organize the exhibition, CDC staff worked to understand the views and actions of the tribal nations and explore how to convey them through the exhibit.
“We are excited to highlight the resilience and traditional knowledge in Indian Country through these stories! They illustrate not only the significance of public health in tribal communities, but also the importance of collaboration and respect for Native wisdom,” said Captain Carmen Clelland, associate director of the Office of Tribal Affairs and Strategic Alliances at CDC.
Accompanying the Changing Winds exhibition is The Roots of Wisdom: Native Knowledge. Shared Science. This exhibition helps museum visitors to understand the important issues that indigenous cultures face, discover innovative ways native peoples are problem-solving and how they are contributing to the growing movement toward sustainability of tribal communities.
Changing Winds and The Roots of Wisdom will be on display until May 1, 2020.
For additional information about visiting the museum, visit cdc.gov/museum.