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What Native Americans Taught Me About Health

By April 26, 2011 No Comments

Native Aspirations Community Meeting LogoLast week I had the privilege of speaking at the Annual Native Aspirations Community Meeting in Anchorage, Alaska. I was there to talk about Mood 24/7, as well as relay the success story that is unfolding with our very simple service, in rural Kansas. The pitch was well received by more than a few communities, and I’m looking forward to the difference Mood 24/7 can make within Native American middle and high school populations in the coming months.

I’m reminded regularly that what makes Mood 24/7 special is the fact that it works on every phone. Even in extremely rural areas of America, with low cellular coverage, people have cell phones and those people use their cell phones to communicate via text message. The idea of middle and high school students being able to text in their mood on a daily basis and share their mood charts with a counselor or loved one is exciting to me.

But I have to say that I left majestic Alaska with a lot more than just a few business cards…

The trip home allowed me to reflect on what I had just been a part of… I was accepted into a conference solely focused on two big problems with youth in America, let alone youth in Native America: bullying and suicide. And despite the differences among me and the group, as well as the differences of the 40+ unique tribal communities represented within the Anchorage Hilton’s Conference Room, we came together to focus on something that really matters: helping youth navigate adolescence, to grow into happy and healthy adults.

We celebrated our differences, we discovered our similarities and we focused on the task at hand.


Dr. Iris Prettypaint, Native Aspirations Project Director and representative of the Blackfeet and Crow Nations, reminded me to take the time to reflect on the things that I see and hear. She asked me on more than one occasion what I liked and what I had learned about particular talks, which I really appreciated. I was moved by the overall experience, but one thing that was discussed really resonated with me.

Carmen Thomas, of the Northern Arapaho Wind River Tribes of Wyoming, talked on a panel about the leaders in the room being the right people to solve the problems that their communities face. Her words reminded me of words that I strive to live by when I feel like I don’t have the right knowledge, or the right resources, or the right [insert noun here] to be effective. Those words are:

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. – Teddy Roosevelt

We’re all trying to make a difference in the world, and it’s important to remember that although we’re a community, we don’t have to wait for somebody else to help us in order to make that difference. Our effort is enough, as long as we bring it day in and day out.