Baskett, an Indiana Orange County Native American, calls herself the walking, talking poster child for natural homegrown foods.
Baskett claims growing and eating natural foods is the reason why she isn’t in a wheelchair and on oxygen support, considering the fact she has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and uses only 25 percent of her lungs.
“Last year, I was reevaluated at the hospital in Bloomington, and the doctors could not believe that I was doing so well,” Baskett said.
The First Nations Education and Cultural Center co-sponsored the event with many Native American organizations in the Indiana community, such as the American Indian Association of Indiana, which provided free health services for the participants. The gathering also included vendors, gourd dancing, intertribal dancing and dinner.
Brian Gilley, the director of the FNECC, said they partnered with the American Indian Association of Indiana to educate Native American people about the importance of health care. Gilley also said in order to get many Natives talking about health care, you have to have to plan it as a social event.
“If you say ‘hey, we’re going to be doing health screenings,’ there is no way that they’re going to come, but if you hold a dance, then you’ll get lots of people to come out,” Gilley said. “So it has a dual purpose of getting the community together and doing outreach for better health for American Indians in Indiana.”
According to Gilley, the FNECC has pow-wows in the fall and community gatherings in the spring. This is the first year they have had a combined community dance and wellness fair. He said because of the successful turnout, it’s likely they will do it next year.
“We want to remind people to take care of themselves and when you’re doing that, you can’t just be in a room and just talk at people,” Gilley said. “You need to bring people together for a good reason and sneak the health message in, so it’s just the community taking care of itself and taking care of each other.”
Throughout most of the eight hours of the Health and Wellness fair, the gourd and intertribal dancers from tribes ranging from Sioux to Cherokee danced traditional dances in a circle with their colorful regalia.
Tony Nantanluan , an elder of the Ojibwe Tribe, promotes medical and social awareness in the Native American community. He also participates in intertribal dances around the state. He said normally these traditional dances are considered warrior battles. This particular night, it was more of a social gathering among the different Native tribes.
“The gourd dancing is more of an elderly veteran man group to honor vets,” Nantanluan said. “The intertribal is what you’ll see in pow-wows. All the different nations have their own ceremonies and dance styles and gatherings.”
Nantanluan said he believes it is important to teach his children and grandchildren the old ways so it’s never forgotten.
As the executive director of the American Indian Association in Indiana, Doug Poe said not only is the organization’s goal to inform Native Americans about health concerns, but it is also to educate colleges and hospitals about being culturally sensitive to some Native American traditions. Poe gave an example of their sacred tribal use of tobacco.
Poe said the association does about six to eight glucose screenings a year and goes to every pow-wow in the state of Indiana to promote health and wellness in the Native American community. He said Native Americans are heavily affected by numerous issues like diabetes, obesity and suicide.
“They have the highest rate of diabetes and the highest rate of obesity of any minority,” Poe said. “Suicide is becoming very prevalent. Suicide across the country for Native Americans is the number eight killer. Native American health is a important part for me and what we do, and it’s saddening to see how much health disparities there are in the Native American nation.”
Poe said the current average life expectancy of Native American men is 48 years and the average life expectancy for women is 52 years.
Poe credits the forced migration of Native Americans from their homelands throughout the late 19th and early 20th century to be one of the reasons why Native American’s health has been going downhill.
“Generations go from eating a healthy lifestyle to eating junk food, and so all of that is catching up with the DNA makeup in Native Americans with diabetes,” Poe said.
Baskett picked up one of her many jars filled with natural ingredients at her table in the Willkie Auditorium. She kissed the jar of peaches with cinnamon and vinegar and called it “a doctor in a jar” because of its benefits with curing arthritis. Baskett, who grows heirloom seeds among other natural plants in her 25-by-25-foot garden, said there was a time when she wasn’t living as healthy.
“I got bronchitis all the time, and I was raising two kids by myself, and I was going to school and I didn’t have time to stop and take care of myself. Finally it scarred my lungs so bad and finally it turned to COPD,” Baskett said, “I’m somebody who wants people to get back to the traditional ways and get healthy, you know. That’s the whole goal because if it worked for
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