BETHESDA, MD – After a long hiatus, the Native Voices Blog is back. We will update you periodically about events surrounding the National Library of Medicine’s exhibit, Native Voices: Native People’s Concepts of Health and Illness. We will focus on Native Voices’ traveling exhibit, which greets current visitors in North Dakota, Alaska, Oklahoma, and Hawaii.
The permanent Native Voices exhibition is located at the National Library of Medicine (NLM) headquarters in Bethesda, MD. You can visit the permanent exhibit at the campus of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). (NLM is an easy walk from the NIH Gateway Center. The NIH Gateway Center is across from the exit of the “Medical Center” stop on Red line of the Washington Metro rail system). You also can visit the permanent exhibition on the Internet at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/nativevoices/
The Native Voices traveling exhibition’s first stop in fall 2013 was Cankdeska Cikana Community College, an associate degree tribal college in Fort Totten, North Dakota. Cankdeska Cikana Community College serves the residents of the Spirit Lake Reservation. The college was named in honor of Paul Yankton, Sr., (or Cankdeska Cikana in Sioux which means “Little Hoop,”). Cankdeska Cikana was a Dakota Sioux who won two purple hearts. He died in France in 1944 while serving as a rifleman in the U.S. Army.
Similar to all five current Native Voices exhibitions, there are unique features at Spirit Lake. Eight Cankdeska Cikana Community College students or graduates, add their stories via a digital format: http://www.littlehoop.edu/content/index.php/component/content/article/9-cccc/320-student-digital-stories. The digital format enables you to hear each person in their own words and see an accompanying visual narrative.
Within the videos, the eight participants discuss their hopes and dreams as well as the obstacles and hardships each tackle daily. All eight discuss the importance of perseverance. Jada Longie, one of the digital story participant says, “I’m still here after many struggles and hardships.”
Myron Wanna’s message is short and sweet: “Don’t lose faith.” Wanna explains how he was drawn to a car accident only to discover his dad and sister were seriously injured. He dragged both out of the car, but the accident was fatal to his father. Following the tragedy, Wanna became depressed and suicidal. But after talking to a priest and getting a positive public response to some of his poetry, Wanna enrolled at Cankdeska Cikana Community College and sought an associate degree in business. He plans on getting a MBA so he can assist with the business management of the Spirit Lake reservation.
Some other participants note how nature and animals inspire them to endure personal setbacks and hardships. Allura LaRoque talks about her love of horses, which started at age two, and how she saved to buy her first horse, a beauty named “Cowboy.” Cowboy was LaRoque’s best friend and confident; she told Cowboy her deepest, darkest secrets. The horse also helped LaRoque cope with everyday stress. While Cowboy died from poisoning, the horse inspired LaRoque to care for people and nurtures her interest in becoming a cardiologist. And she now has another horse: “Jake,” because as she says, “I will always love horses.”
Moriah Thompson’s grandmother fostered her interest in plants and animals. Thompson remembers feeling sick one day and sitting on her grandma’s lap. She told Thompson to look at the northern lights, because “they came to visit you and make you feel better.” When her grandmother passed, Thompson struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. However Thompson received counseling, maintained good grades, entered college, wrote poetry, and threw away her razor blade. In honor of her grandmother, she hopes to become a plant pathologist.
Carol Graywater finds health through art. Graywater dreamed of becoming an artist from childhood. But an arts career seemed elusive after struggles with drugs and alcohol, a history of teenage delinquency, and taking care of six children. After several attempts, Graywater re-enrolled at Cankdeska Cikana Community College and revisited her dream. Soon, Graywater quit her job and went back to school full time in art. “Art is an extension of who I am,” she says, as she now sells her art and mentors others. Greywater’s message is: never give up on your dream.
The eight participants suggest personal backstories can be as healing as medicine. As the Cankdeska Cikana Community College website says, “Healing Our Communities One Story at a Time.”
Next stop: Sulphur, Oklahoma
By Judy Folkenberg