Celebration of American Indigenous Cultures at Jacobi Medical Center

On Friday November 21 Jacobi Medical Center hosted an event celebrating the diverse culture, society, language, art and music of American Indigenous Cultures. The celebration was sponsored by the Jacobi Medical Center Auxiliary in collaboration with The American Indian Community House (AICH). The event included crafts and several vendors, nutritional demonstrations, story telling, a flute performance, tables with information on behavioral health, Rapid HIV Testing by JMC’s Project BRIEF Team and The ACA specific to American Indians. I was privileged to purchase two quilts hand made by members of The Shinnecock Nation. The Shinnecock Nation is headquartered on Eastern Long island. They are descended from the Pequot and Narragansett peoples of southern New England.

I had very interesting conversations with several participants from several American Indigenous Tribes. One was Steve Smith, Outreach Coordinator for the AICH Health Department, who is Cherokee and Lumbee. I asked him why AICH uses the word Indian rather than Native American. He explained that they have their own nations as is recognized by the United States. Therefore the term American Indians is preferred by many, especially the younger generation. Older American Indians use the term Native Americans more often. Most appropriate would be to refer to individuals as Cherokee, Lumbee, Hopi, etc. Personally I feel that what matters is not how you refer to a proud culture but that you show respect and understanding. I also had a discussion with Jesscia Mestel. She noticed that I was wearing Gay Pride lapel pin. She discussed Twin Spirits in the various American Indian tribes and how AICH has an active Twin Spirit Group. On December 3 there will be an event memorializing all who have died of AIDS. In some tribes a person who was Twin Spirited was considered to be very special.

I was thrilled to meet and speak to Kevin Tarrant, who is Executive Director of the American Indian Community House. Kevin is Hopi and HoChunk. He emceed the cultural part of the program. The songs and dances as seen in the gallery were very beautiful, moving and showed much of the culture of American Indians. Kevin and others explained much of the culture of many of the tribes present. Many of the dances represented the different seasons There were dances representing the harvest which is at this time of year. One beautiful dance was form the grasslands and represented the beautiful plains inhabited by many American Indian nations. The following individuals participated in this part of the program: Kevin Tarrant Hopi & HoChunk; Ed Brownbear Pawnee & Cheyenne;Jason Curley, Dine ( Navajo); Steve Smith Cherokee & Lumbee; Rick Powell, Ramapough Lenape; Muriel Borst, Kuna & Rappahhanock; Joy Tonepahhote, Kiowa & Mayan; Josephine Tarrant, Hopi & HoChunk & Kuna & Rappahhanock; Patrick Brooks, Tuscarora; Emelie Jeffries Occaneechi Saponi, Ray Two Feathers, Cherokee;Tecumseh Cesar, Mattinicock. Tecumseh posted the following inspirational words on Facebook:

“I don’t get to dance often, because I’m usually vending but when I do I dance for more then myself. I dance for my ancestors, my elders , those who can’t dance, for my friends who passed on parts of their regalia to me, and lastly to keep the culture alive. Someone once told me their grandson doesn’t dance unless he is getting paid. This needs to stop. Natives need to teach our youth why we dance, why we give thanks, and why we carry on our culture. Let’s walk in both worlds and get back to the old ways”

AICH has an elaborate and very effective Health Department serving the American Indian Community. I was able to speak to Claudette Bryant their Community health representative. The AICH Health Department provides onsite services such as behavioral health, diabetes, food and nutrition, and wellness with a focus on American Indians and Alaskan Natives. The Health Department gives the American Indian community access to quality health services through partnerships with offsite medical service providers, connecting clients with affordable healthcare options. There is an extensive behavioral health program. Many events and sessions are devoted to diabetes, AIDS, alcoholism. Much is done to assist American Indian veterans who have served in our armed forces with dedication and valor. Keep in mind that it was the Navajo language spoken by Navajos which was used by the Marines to communicate securely during WWII. During WWI Cherokee and Choctaw pioneered the use of Native American language for code talking.

The veterans were represented by American Legions Post 19 Veterans Affairs Table. On December 6 AICH is sponsoring a fundraiser for Native American Indian veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. For more information on this event and AICH it is suggested that you go to their web site http://www.aich.org.

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