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Native American Powwow Initiative Begins 4th Year
By Jennifer Haley
The NIH Native American Powwow Outreach Initiative launched its fourth year this spring by participating in America's largest powwow, the 21st annual Gathering of Nations Powwow in Albuquerque. Revered cultural and inspirational events, powwows are also commercial venues featuring Native American dance competitions, jewelry and craft sales, and native food vendors. Cultural traditions on display at powwows reflect the diversity of each tribe.
Tribal representatives of more than 500 nations from the United States, Canada and Mexico participated. Attendance was over 50,000 for the 2-day event, packing the University of New Mexico athletic arena, which is called "The Pit." Historically, Native Americans have come together in Albuquerque for this annual gathering for more than 50 years.
Hilda Dixon, EEO manager for the Office of the Director, began the outreach initiative 4 years ago in an effort to reach Native American communities within a 250-mile radius of NIH. Dr. Yvonne Maddox, then NIH acting deputy director, supported the idea and facilitated a partnership with the National Library of Medicine. The initiative is now a model trans-NIH program, as increasingly the institutes and centers contribute information materials, staff and giveaways to the effort. The unique environment of the powwow has resulted in a number of accomplishments: increasing awareness of and participation in clinical trials, providing thousands of people with the latest research information on health, and hiring many attendees as employees of NIH. Recent new hires include a Native American from the University of Northern Arizona for a summer internship at CIT, several stay-in-school students and a postdoc in the NIDCD Partnership Student Training Program.
"It just keeps getting better," Dixon enthuses. "When staff members were approved to participate in the Gathering of Nations Powwow, we knew the program had come a long way." Activity highlights include a presentation on the Native American radio program "NightWolf on WPFW" and work with the Maryland governor's "Wellmobiles," which are traveling clinics that now carry NIH publications as part of their service to the uninsured and underserved throughout the state.
Outreach organizers say the 2004 season promises to be especially exciting, with a new tent and wireless internet access. Out of more than 400 exhibitors at the Gathering of Nations, NLM, which demonstrates MedlinePlus at the powwows, was the only exhibitor with live Internet access. The demonstrations drew many attendees, giving them the opportunity to try out MedlinePlus for the first time and resulting in more than 100 online searches.
The outreach effort includes colleges and universities. Lawrence Self, director of the NIH Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management, met with faculty at the University of New Mexico Health Science Center. As a result NIH will partner with the university to target underserved students.
Many NIH publications make up the core materials distributed at a powwow. In addition, specific requests receive responses generally within a week following the event. OD EEO staff alone have responded to 23 requests for information from the Gathering of Nations. Information on NIH careers and training and internship programs, along with current vacancy announcements, are popular with the college-age students.
NIH health information and promotional items on diabetes, oral care, cardiovascular disease, sudden infant death syndrome and other health concerns that disproportionately affect Native Americans also helped to draw people to the booth. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research distributed more than 600 oral care kits to adults and children. Families also picked up the Buddy Brush coloring book and the Milk Matters booklet about promoting good oral care habits for children.Students on an elementary class field trip to the powwow enthusiastically received the Buddy Brush campaign materials and OEODM sun visors to top it off. Other promotional items contributed by NIDDK, NICHD, NLM, NIAMS and NIDCR attracted more than 5,000 people to the NIH booth. NIDDK pedometers were distributed as prizes with the new I Can Lower My Risk for Type 2 Diabetes booklet, which was developed especially for American Indians.
As with previous tribal and inter-tribal gatherings in the mid-Atlantic region, NIH presenters found that many attendees at the Gathering of Nations were not familiar with all of the opportunities and information provided by NIH. After such a large gathering however, organizers say they hope many more realize NIH is an excellent resource for health.
The initiative has participated in four other powwow events since the Gathering, including the 33rd annual American Indian Arts Festival on the Rankokus Indian Reservation in Westampton Township, N.J.; the Occaneechi-Saponi Spring Festival in Hillsborough, N.C.; the Shenandoah Valley Powwow in Mount Jackson, Va.; and the 36th annual Lumbee Homecoming in Pembroke, N.C., held on July 2-3. The Nanticoke Annual Powwow in Millsboro, Del., will take place on Sept. 11-12.
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