Native American comunity dance raises awareness for health issues


Native American drummers performed at FNECC's health dance Saturday while others danced while wearing traditional garb. Suzanne Grossman Buy Photos

The gathering served as an educational experience and community dance. Booths filled Union Street Center, where information about health issues as well as free health screenings were available.

“It’s important to Native Americans to get health screenings because a lot of them don’t have insurance locally or there are no medical facilities nearby,” said Tony Castroeno, American Indian Center of Indiana volunteer. “They have to drive to Michigan or further west to find places.”

Castroeno said Native Americans often have high blood pressure and diabetes.
Since it’s difficult for Native Americans to find affordable health care, he said, the American Indian Center of Indiana provides free glucose testing and blood pressure
readings at most community events.

“Indiana is a place where people don’t have access to Indian Health Services,” FNECC Programs Coordinator Nicky Belle said. “Part of our role as a culture center is not just to IU, but also to the local, regional community by providing access to health care and education.”

Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs James Wimbush said he attended the event to show his support for FNECC.

“I have often said one of our main purposes is to enhance the climate of Bloomington’s campus by providing spaces for all to feel welcome and appreciated and to embrace culture on campus,” Wimbush said. “All culture centers engage in these types of activities, and I want to show support with resources but also with being

This year, high school students from Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota visited IU to see what opportunities college can bring and the accommodations IU brings reservation students.

“It’s amazing,” Austin Big Crow said. “It’s like, such an epic school. So many things to do. I don’t think I could ever get bored here. Just walking around campus and seeing everything there is to see, it’s amazing for a college to have everything like this.”

Even though Big Crow didn’t meet many Native Americans at IU, he said he appreciated how he wasn’t treated differently for being one.

“I haven’t really met any Natives from a reservation,” Big Crow said. “They don’t treat you like you’re foreign. They treat you just like a normal person, and not a minority that needs special attention.”

Apart from being a health event and a chance for students to see campus, the dance also was for many a time to see friends from far away.

Native Americans in Indiana are often dispersed throughout the state with no
prominently Native-populated area, Belle said. She said the dance this year brought people from all over Indiana and surrounding states.

“For Native communities, it’s important to have events where people can come together and see friends and relatives,” Belle said. “We sing, we dance and be Indian.
This is enacting your culture and building community. The more we do this, the more fun we have and the better relationships are going to be. And it’s all about building relationships.”

Follow reporter Suzanne Grossman on Twitter @suzannepaige6.

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