Tribal Health Department presents at public health conference in Oklahoma

Christopher Lomahquahu
Gila River Indian News


A public health conference, hosted by an Oklahoma tribe, brought individuals together to discuss a myriad of health issues in Indian Country. The Tribal Public Health Conference, a 7th Generation and Southern Plains Tribal Health Board Collaboration, was hosted by the Muscogee Creek Nation at the River Spirit Casino Resort on April 8-11. 


The conference’s theme was “Strength in Community, Power in Connection,” and covered a variety of health topics, faced by tribal communities across the nation. 


Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona Health Promotions Specialist Madison Fulton and Eric Hardy presented at the conference and provided a background of the Good Health & Wellness in Indian Country grant, that is administered through the Gila River Indian Community Nutrition Coalition. 


Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone, who are another field site for the GWHIC grant through ITCA also presented. Fulton said the GWHIC project/grant is aimed to address chronic illness among tribal communities using community chosen and culturally adapted policies and environmental changes.  


“What Eric and I do we provide technical and training assistance to tribes,” said Fulton, “It focuses on seven prevention areas.” 

Fulton and Hardy discussed the differences between a conventional or western and indigenous framework and how to brings the best of both practices to addressing the health needs within tribal communities.


They were joined by Lynn Lane, Community Health Nutritionist, Nicole Watson, Community Health Nutritionist, and Taneesha Watson, Gila River Health Care Life Center Youth Education Coordinator who presented their activities and the recruitment of Community members to promote wellness and culture in GRIC. 


The presentation covered the history of the Community, demographics and how the nutrition coalition reintroduced traditional foods into contemporary diets. Nicole Watson said the important part of the nutrition coalition was to encourage Community participation. 


Lane, who is the site coordinator for grant, stressed the importance of Community members having access to healthy foods and beverages. She said the coalition is about how Community members can contribute their knowledge of the culture and departments, and making it a part of GRIC. 


“One of our main goals was get Community member participation to be a part of our coalition,” Nicole said. “We also like to encourage indigenous foods, we wanted to bring that aspect back, because a lot of members know some of what their indigenous foods are, but want to know how to prepare them to eat.” 


Part of that goal is to do food demonstrations and look for opportunities to provide ways of integrating traditional foods at public events. The recipes used traditional foods like tepary beans, squash and foods associated with the “three sisters.”  

“What we are doing is hosting Community meals, to introduce healthy indigenous foods to people,” said Taneesha.   

The coalition is currently working on more projects that involve healthy eating and promoting physical activity.