TEMPE, AZ – The keynote speakers at the opening of the Native Voices traveling exhibition at Arizona State University (ASU) underscored the importance of Native concepts of health, as well as the need for a health resurgence among the state’s tribes, which include the Navajo and Hopi Nations.
At a public reception on September 20 the keynote speaker, Dr. Angela Gonzales, noted from a Native American perspective, “the very concept of health is not something focused on the physical well-being of an individual, but is instead understood as it encompasses the social, cultural, and spiritual well-being of the whole community.” Dr. Gonzales is a faculty member in ASU’s School of Social Transformation.
Gonzales spoke at the Hayden Library concourse, which is the site of the exhibition on ASU’s main campus in Tempe. ASU has branch campuses throughout the greater Phoenix area and sponsors thriving international academic programs.
ASU’s Tennille Marley said she hoped the exhibition would explain the detrimental health effects on indigenous people that occurred when the Navajo and Hopi tribes lost their political and cultural self-determination within the 19th and 20th century. Prof. Marley explained how processed foods, which were promoted by the US federal government as meal staples to Native populations, contributed to high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Marley is an assistant professor of American Indian Studies at ASU.
Other speakers included: Dennis Brunning, an academic program services librarian at ASU; Dr. Felicia Mitchell, assistant professor in ASU’s School of Social Work; and Joyce Martin, the curator of the Labriola National American Indian Data Center. “It’s very important the Southwest be represented in this national exhibit,” said Martin, who also emphasized the importance of indigenous history to Arizona.
In addition to hosting the Native Voices exhibition through the end of October, ASU sponsors several ongoing programs that seek to improve the health and quality of life among the state’s Native American populations. ASU’s programs include: assisting Native youth to prevent and treat substance abuse; efforts to increase indigenous nursing students at ASU; and social work initiatives sponsored by the University’s Office of American Indian Projects.
Finally, the photo that accompanies this story was provided by Dylan Raintree, a second year graduate student at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. Raintree helped develop Native Voices while an NLM staff member from 2011-2015 and was an integral part of the NLM team that set up the initial traveling exhibitions in Alaska, Hawaii, the Dakotas, and other states. Raintree, a Native American with an undergraduate degree from University of California-Berkeley, added he was pleased to revisit Native Voices on ASU’s Tempe campus.