Research in Indian Country is extending its territory beyond the horizon of what has been regarded as the norm of western research with research being conducted by indigenous researchers who are pushing the bounds of culturally appropriate research protocols.
From September 17-20, the Indian Health Service (IHS), Office of Public Health Support, sponsored a National Native Health Research Training Conference in Denver, Colorado with the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, the American Indian Sciences and Engineering Society and Native Research Network hosting the conference. The conference theme—“Healing Ourselves: Cultural- and Traditional Medicine-Based Approaches to Sustainable Health” was reiterated throughout the conference plenaries, panels and posters through research that has been conducted or is currently being conducted in Indian Country and shared among Indigenous researchers, scholars, clinicians and non-indigenous researchers.
Dr. Evan Adams (Coast Salish) opened the conference stating that both research and health are partners that we as indigenous people cannot live without. He said that traditional western research protocols dominate research disciplines, yet, protocols are being tailored for tribal communities that will benefit from the research outcomes that are currently being implemented.
Five plenaries, one for each of the five tracks, began with Dr. Daniel Wildcat (Yuchi member of the Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma), Traditional Medicine track, stated that research has always been a part of traditional medicine; in healing practices and ceremony and he advocated for increasing the number of indigenous researchers to develop culturally appropriate research protocols as they are conducting research in indigenous communities.
Dr. Naomi Lee (Seneca Nation), Biomedical & Clinical Systems/Research track, expressed how having indigenous research mentors provided needed support as she began her quest to obtain a Ph.D., while learning about and researching the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine.
Dr. Jennie Joe (Navajo), Environmental Health/Traditional Ecological Knowledge track, showed how western knowledge along with traditional ecological knowledge through research may help to address and resolve issues in Native American health; including increasing access for indigenous research studies, program development, and aligning health treatment of chronic diseases, disability and traditional medicine for the benefit of the individual.
Keola Kawai’ula’iliahi Chan (Native Hawaiian), Native Men’s Health track reinforced why men’s health is the denominator of culturally rooted family-oriented programs, such as in the `Aha Kāne Foundation for the Advancement of Native Hawaiian Males, Inc., and this type of program can serve American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) males just as it successfully does so for Native Hawaiian males, but with guidance from tribal elders and cultural practitioners of AI/AN traditional medicine.
CAPT Nancy Bill (Navajo), Injury Prevention track, emphasized the need for the development of research protocols to address injury prevention in Indian Country, not only for the sake of doing research, but to also address preventable injuries such as suicide, vehicle crashes, accidents that result in disabilities, and falls. She spoke of how Injury Prevention has and will continue to impact family life and that it is our, and future generations of researchers, role to identify what will help decrease injuries.
On June 13-15, 2018, the IHS will sponsor the second National Native Health Research Training Conference in the Pacific Northwest.