Native Voices Traveling Exhibition at WWAMI School of Medical Education

Native dancers in tribal regalia

The Lepquinm Gumilgit Gagoadim Ts’msyen Dancers at the February 20 celebration of the Native Voices traveling exhibition @ WWAMI.

ANCHORAGE, AK – The Native Voices traveling exhibition’s Alaska stops included the Alaska WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho) School of Medical Education during winter 2014-2015.

WWAMI provides Alaska’s only medical training and is affiliated with the University of Washington School of Medicine. Students enroll at WWAMI for the first year, spend their second year at the University of Washington School of Medicine, and then return to sites within the western states listed above to finish their medical education.

“I’m using (the exhibition) this semester for medical students, for a class in cross-cultural medicine and rural frontier medicine in Alaska,” said Dr. N. Jane Shelby, director of the Alaska WWAMI School of Medicine Education. Shelby noted WWAMI needed to reach more students in rural and underserved communities, because it is the right thing to do, and “they also are more likely to practice near their home communities.”

Shelby notes the exhibition provides students with an important, unfiltered Native perspective about Native American health and illness. Shelby added the searchable iPad-based interface also enables users to experience diverse opinions about key Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian health issues.

Lee Stephan delivers his remarks.

Lee Stephan, Tribal Council President, Alaska Native Village of Eklutna speaks at the February 20 celebration of the Native Voices traveling exhibition @ WWAMI.

WWAMI additionally directed students and other exhibition attendees to information within the timeline information provided by the National Library of Medicine’s Native Voices website in order to further appreciate Native health and medical history.

For example, a timeline entry for 10,000 B.C. explains the Unangan peoples in the Aleutian Islands (west of Alaska) probably understood human anatomy because archeological evidence suggests they performed autopsies, practiced mummification and were capable surgeons. Men and women served as healers, and there is some evidence they were skillful at using massage to reposition a fetus (if needed).

Another timeline entry explains Huron healers (southeast of Alaska) created medicines to treat a variety of ailments, including a concoction made from white cedar to remedy scurvy. Huron medicines were used in 1535 to treat French explorer Jacques Cartier after he and members of his crew developed scurvy on their second voyage to North America. Cartier claimed Canada for France a year earlier.

About 300 visitors stopped by the Native Voices traveling exhibition during its stay at WWAMI, including one visitor from Dillingham, a town some 300 miles away, who exclaimed she hoped to make a return visit.

By Judy Folkenberg


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