“I:b’tak Tash” Celebrates Heart Health Month
Gila River Indian News
February marks American Heart Month—a time to be mindful of cardiovascular health—and thanks to GRIC’s Tribal Recreation and Wellness Center (TRW), Community members did just that with the first “I:b’thak Thash” (Heart Day in O’otham) on Feb. 10.
“This whole thing is to raise awareness on heart disease and how easy it is to prevent it,” said Javonni Molina, fitness instructor for TRW who coordinated the event with staff and volunteers.
Heart disease is the among the leading causes of death for Native Americans in addition to cancer and COVID-19, according to the CDC. Risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and smoking can increase the chances of heart disease.
Molina shared how to help prevent heart disease and heart attack with a healthful diet and daily exercise.
I’b:thak Thash began with a mid-morning Zumba (dance-fitness) session led by Whitney Sharpe, fitness instructor for District 6, at the Sacaton Fairgrounds. Nearly 20 participants got moving during Zumba, followed by a two-mile run/walk around the fairgrounds. All participants were given I:bathak Thash t-shirts.
Burrito Lewis, District 5, has been doing Zumba for seven years and attends any Zumba event held in the Community.
“I try to encourage everybody,” said Lewis. “I just try to support the Wellness Center. When they have events, I try to get everyone out or attend myself.”
Lewis and others were excited to see an event like this bring people together again. All attendees were encouraged to wear red or pink to raise awareness of cardiovascular disease.
The I’b:thak Thash Fashion Show was held that evening at the District 5 Service Center, after the location was changed due to gusty winds throughout the day at the fairgrounds.
The show began with a musical performance by Jay “IIWAA” Mercado.
“Today’s event is all about promoting heart health in the community, and there’s nothing more fitting than having me here,” said IIWAA. “‘IIWAA’ is the Pee Posh word for heart, and that’s where my artist name comes from. It’s my first time performing in the Community, and I could not be happier to be here for our people and just support[ing] the community event.”
Antonio Davis, District 5, served as master of ceremony for the event.
Open to anyone willing to show off their red/pink attire, the show featured nearly 20 models of all ages displaying their best formal, semi-formal or traditional wear.
Miss Gila River Kelsey Martinez escorted her infant niece, Brianna Pablo, down the runway. Martinez also made the pink traditional style wrap dress Pablo wore.
GRIC designer Joanne Miles-Long also had four of her outfits showcased.
“It’s amazing,” said Sarah Mercado, District 7. “It’s a great way for women to showcase their style. I’ve never seen styles like this.” She added that she was “definitely grateful for our community for being able to provide this type of stuff.” Sarah’s young daughter, Harper, appeared in the fashion show along with her aunt, Michelle Mercado.
“We’re really excited about this event, and so we made dresses and got all ready and came out,” Mercado said, “Everyone looked beautiful in their dresses, coming down the runway; it was really fun to see all the kids come out, too.”
She explained, “We do have a lot of history of cardiac diseases in our family, and we are trying to make the change so that way, we could set it up better for not only ourselves, but our for our kids.”