Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hungry by Choice – Fasting for Our People

For a person with an unhealthy diet, medicine is not helpful. For a person with a healthy diet, medicine is not needed!

Reading my Kentucky hometown news paper this morning there was an article about people who live in wealthier counties being healthier than those living in poor counties. Is this data really that surprising?

As I have reported in an earlier post, 7 of the top 10 poorest counties in the US are located on Native American reservations. Out of the top 100 in the US 16 are in my home state of Kentucky. My family is no stranger to being poor, hungry and in bad health. The strange thing is that many who experiences these things, like Native Americans are some of the most giving and charitable people I know. For instance, when we first moved to Buffalo NY in 2006, we were hit with the great “October Storm.” When my ma back in KY heard we were without electric, she turned her electric off as well. This is her nature and the way she lives here life. We were raised in a home where suffering was understood from experience, and we hurt and made sacrifices for others who also suffered.

There are a lot of folks suffering around the US and have been for a long time. There are about 50 million Americans; including 17 million children who are "food insecure." This number has grown and it seems that there will be lots more as the result of our current budget issues. Our elected leaders are working to cut specific funds that have helped many of these poor folks. It seems most of our leaders have never experienced watching their own children suffer from the lack of food. I bet if they had, their attitudes about what programs to cut would be much different.

So, after reading this article in the NY Times I have a thought for us all, before any final decisions are made I challenge our leaders to fast (e.g., only drink water) for 24 hours. I will be fasting until Sunday, April 3rd at sundown. Contact you leaders and request that they fast and pray/meditate/focus on guidance for the next 24 hours. Maybe, during their fast, our leader’s minds will be joined with those who do not have this choice.

Peace, DAP

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Principle of Health and Healing

Is it human nature for sick people, who really believe they are sick, to want to get better?

Let’s work from the idea that there are two options to answering that question, yes or no. So, yes, sick people who believe they are sick will naturally want to become well again. Or, no, it is not a natural response for sick people to want to get well.

Let’s ask the question another way. If you have an illness, say the flu, would anyone have to encourage you to get well soon? It would seem a natural, human response to get back to health as quick as possible, if you had the flu. Let’s take another example. If a doctor told you that you have sugar diabetes, would you naturally move towards becoming healthy again? And finally, if it was discovered you have brain cancer, would nature kick in with a health seeking response?

What is it that makes us motivated to actively seek a cure for our sicknesses? It might be a number of things like how fatal our illness is. A temporary, fixable illness may have a different motivating factor than an illness that will quickly end our lives.

I’m not sure what the answers are to these questions. Maybe it is unknown what motivates sick people to seek healing. However, I want to introduce an idea that will directly address the principle of healing.

Divine Principles

What if you had an illness that not only wounded you, but harmed the people closest to you?  Would that type of illness naturally motivate you to seek a cure? If your own sickness caused your children and your community to become ill, would you quickly do all that was necessary to become well again?

Let’s agree that a Divine Principle is a principle that we humans can not alter. For instance, the principle of water freezing at 32 degrees can not be changes by any human effort(s). Water will freeze at 32 degrees regardless of human will. Gravity is another principle that can not be modified by human conditions – what goes up, must come down. And finally, my wife is the boss in our home. No human power will ever change that principle!

Divine Principle of Health

Here is what I would like to seek our common agreement on – our own health and wellness directly impacts everyone around us. Let’s agree on that Devine Principle of Health, just like we agree on water freezing at 32 degrees.

Here’s another example. Cyanide is an extremely deadly poison. If you ingest enough Cyanide it will kill you. That is a Divine Principle. It does not matter if you ingest it on purpose or accidently. The effects of Cyanide does not concern itself with why someone ingested it, once it is ingested, not human power can alter the outcome of that principle.

If you are full of resentment, anger, hate, contempt, etc that is an illness that also sickens your family and larger community. If you are full of sorrow, regret, guilt, shame, etc you sicken your own family and your community with the same. If you are a racist, bigot, hypocrite, prejudice, etc, you are a very sick person passing that sickness on to your family and community members.

Remember, this Devine Principle of Health does not concern itself with all of the reasons and causes why you might be these things, the outcome cannot be altered. Although you might have a very good reason and justification to hate someone, the result of this Health Principle is that it sickens you and everyone around you.

If you think you can hate someone or be hypocritical without any negative results on you or your relation’s health, then you would have to believe that you could ingest Cyanide without any negative results. Hatred toward anyone is like drinking a large dose of Cyanide and then giving an equal does to your child. There are many principles that we accept without question. Let’s begin to accept the reality of this health principle.

Healing Yourself Will Heal Your Community

If the health principle indicates that a sick person sickens the community, then it would seem a fact that a healthy person heals communities. A person who is happy, forgiving, and generous passes those qualities on to their communities. Won’t it be nice if everyone believed this principle and acted on it! Imagine a community where each individual worked hard to remove their own hatreds, resentments, prejudices, shame, etc. Can you envision a child being born and raised in this type community? There is an old, wise saying …it is best to nurture a child than to repair the adult.

There is good and bad news regarding this Devine Principle of Health. If you are a sick person you sicken your community. If, however, you work toward health, your community will be healed. You are kidding yourself if you think you can somehow out maneuver this principle. Please don’t take my word for it. You can quickly test your own powers to alter a Devine rule. Put some water in your deep freezer and pray, chant, speak in tongues, etc. If your freezer is 32 degrees or colder, that water will turn to ice, regardless of your best wishes. While I won’t encourage you to ingest Cyanide, you can evaluate your supremacy by taking a triple dose of ex-lax. Try all the self-talk and finger crossing you like, just stay close to the restroom!

The sooner we accept the fact that our own health and wellness negatively or positively impacts our communities, the sooner we and our communities will be healed. We do have an astonishing amount of power when we live within the framework of Devine Principles. Unfortunately, this power is often vanquished by the pursuit of trying to live outside of this rule. It’s hard to believe any sane adult would purposely pass a physical illness on to their loved ones. We have trained our children to regularly wash their hands in order to protect against sickness. Transferring emotional illnesses is just as lethal. The best way to ensure that our children and communities get and remain healthy is to first -- work to heal ourselves.

Peace, DAP

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Radiation Exposure on Native American Lands Was No Accident

There’s a Difference Between Expressing Anger and Providing Information

This blog is a dedicated space for the cause and concerns of Native American health and wellness issues. I believe it is important to keep Native American issues on the front lines with all other issues that warrant attention. I enjoy giving space and voice for those who may not have one yet. This is the purpose supporting this blog.

Several years ago I was very frustrated after learning that a small group of folks was totally unaware of Native American’s overall health problems. I was amazed that they could spend their entire lives in complete unconsciousness about the troubles of Native Americans and their communities. An elder sensing my anger gently explained that these were not bad people who are unworthy of our time and attention – but in great need of it. She treated me as I should have treated this group. It is always sad when you don’t know what you don’t know!

I was in need of her gentle explanation, which lowered my anger level. And when that small group was provided some basic information about Native American issues, they became dedicated supporters of our mission. So, when I see things that have connections with Native Americans and their community’s health and wellness, I have to channel my anger into an informational expression. That elder cautioned me about becoming another angry Indian that people will tune out, like they do when they hear a dog barking in the distance.   

Paying Attention to Japan’s Nuclear Accident

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) the recent nuclear accident in Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi reactors is rated a 6 out of 7 for seriousness. The worst nuclear accident in world history is still Chernobyl with a 7/7. Three Mile Island was 5/7 on the serious scale. These three events, or places, all have one thing in common – they were considered accidents. When a nuclear accident happens, the world carefully watches.

President Obama recently stated that the U.S. will stand by Japan and that they are “…some of our closest friends and allies.” The U.S. has mobilized its resources and within days has sent scientists, military equipment, and other types of aid to that region in order to assist its friends in their time of need – as should be!  When accidents happen in our world America is very generous and the cost to the U.S. treasury is usually not a concern. However, when exposing folks to radiation is not accidental, like on our Native American reservations, the U.S. mobilizes its resources in a different way – they deny the effects of radiation exposure and deflect all responsibilities.

The Most Nuclear Bombed Nation on Our Planet

The Western Shoshone Nation, with lands located in Nevada, has had more nuclear bombs dropped on their lands than any other place on our planet. Some folks may confuse this Native American territory as being the area described as the Nevada Test Site. However, to the Native Americans living there, this is where nuclear bombs have been dropped since 1951. Even though there have never been any agreements between governments and the Western Shoshone Nation, American and British governments have been dropping nuclear bombs on this Nation’s lands for decades.

We all know what happens to people who are exposed to radiation. That’s why folks get freaked  out during nuclear accidents. I would provide links to photos of children who have been exposed to atomic radiation, as they are the most vulnerable. But there’s no need. It is as bad as you could imagine, so I will leave it to that. I just read that a respected news reporter has been exposed to the nuclear toxins after rushing to Japan in order to report on that story. Not many cameras or news reporters around Nevada these days.

Does Obama not “stand with” Native Americans who were/are exposed to radiation? Are the Native Americans being exposed to radiation on a daily basis here in the U.S. not “some of our closet friends and allies?” Now is a good time to turn our attention toward Native Americans who have suffered radiation exposure for over 60 years. Why? While cancer rates have continued to decline for all Americas over the past several decades, for Native Americans, the rates have increase about 10% over that same period of time. Cancer is the second leading cause of death for Native Americans in the U.S. and this group also has the poorest survival rates compared to any other group with cancer. 

Can’t we be Friends?

I am tempted to say all Native American lands have been contaminated. However, it is probably safe to say that most have been. These Sacred lands have disproportionally been targeted for nuclear bombing and storage. President Obama made it clear after the accident in Japan that he is committed to Nuclear power for the U.S. While there are no safe power sources on America’s horizons, I’ll suspect there will be a need to store additional nuclear waste soon. If the past provides any insight for the future, when there is a need to dispose of contaminated materials, Native American lands will certainly be used in an inequitable way.

The U.S. government seems to always stand by its closest foreign friends and allies in their time of need. Any friendship can be measured by its reasonable, shared exchange of positives and negatives. The next time American needs to store atomic radiation let the U.S. government ask its closest foreign friends for some open spaces. Native American lands should be off all lists related to any nuclear sites.  

What’s happening to the Japanese people is tragic and our prayers are with them. I heard a powerful statement indicating "…we are bound together by our common humanity." If that’s true, what’s happening on Native American lands is shameful. Native Americans living on contaminated reservations are not victims of an accident. No, they suffer from a planned purposeful act – and that is inhuman.

Peace and Erin Go Bragh! DAP

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Native American College Dropout -- The Problem, Solution and Plan of Action

Several years ago an elder told me that the best way to solve a problem is to determine the exact nature of that problem, identify the solution, and establish a plan of action that systematically moves you from the problem, to the solution. Understanding the problem is the most important part of solving it. Trying to solve a misunderstood problem is futile and often times could make the problem worse. For instance, when we go to the doctor for a certain health issue, the doctor does not jump directly to a solution. It is important to clearly understand the problem as the solution is ultimately dependent on knowing exactly what the problem is.

This problem solving technique seems to work as long as the problem is diagnosed correctly. As an example, if you went to the doctor suffering from the Flu and your doctor indicated that s/he thought your problem was sever constipation, although the plan of action might provide some bowel relief, the doctor’s diagnosis is wrong – the solution will be wrong – and the plan of action will be wrong, and you will continue suffering from the original problem.

The final important point my elder friend wanted to express is that once the problem and solution are settled, the plan of action most be followed and completed. Let’s say your doctor did get your problem correct and determined that you have the Flu. S/he would explain the solution, followed by laying out a specific plan of action. If you left the doctor’s office and followed that plan, which might consist of taking a prescribed medicine, drinking plenty of fluids, resting, etc., you would be on the road to recovery. It seems most folks, once they begin to feel better, slack off on following the plan. For example, if you have ever suffered from an infection, the medication plan requires that every pill be taken, if not, the infection could return stronger and even harder to treat. It is vital that the plan of action that solves the problem is followed all the way through.


Self-identified Native American students throughout the State University of New York (SUNY) system on average, have the highest college dropout rate compared to any other student group within that system. SUNY has done a very good job with collecting student data over the years. I requested student information and was provided data spanning from 1984 through 2007. Below are some results from those 23 years for students entering SUNY beginning in 1984.

Student Dropout percentage from lowest to highest:

Asian-Pacific Islander:                          35%
White:                                                  37%
Unknown:                                             44%
Hispanic:                                              50%
International:                                         51%
Black:                                                   53%
American Indian/Alaskan Native:          57%

The data sheet can be reviewed HERE. Not only do Native American students drop out of college at very high rates, they make up the fewest amount of students on SUNY campuses. From 1984 until 2007 a total of 503 self-identified Natives enrolled in a SUNY program. In those same years or so, about 216 Native Americans graduated (43%).

The exact nature of the problem is – a significant number of Native American students who enter a SUNY program drop out before obtaining a degree.


Establish a collaborative, community-based bridge from high school to college and when a Native American enrolls in a SUNY program, encircle a variety of support systems around him/her. 

There are a few simple things that can be done to greatly increase the likelihood that Native American students who enroll in college will complete. With the help from community leaders and SUNY academic representatives the Native American Center for Wellness Research (NACWR) intends to move forward with a plan of action that will solve this problem.


1. Study Abroad Program

A study abroad program (SAP) is being developed by NACWR. I have discussed the benefits of students experiencing a SAP in an earlier post so I won’t go into depth again. However, I would like to restate a scientific-based conclusion -- students who complete a SAP and are considered high-risk for dropout, remain in school and complete. SAP’s change student’s lives for the better and makes them stronger students and community members.

I will be traveling to Ireland next month and meeting with a professor at Galway University to set up a four-week, six credit earning program. In that earlier post I reported that NACWR was applying for a UB grant that would support the development of a SAP. That grant was not awarded.

2.  100 Haudenosaunee SUNY Degrees by 2020    

NACWR is currently working on a grant to support an initiative called 100 Haudenosaunee SUNY Degrees by 2020. Part of this initiative will be to coordinate the first annual Haudenosaunee Educational Summit held in May of 2012. The main purpose of the project is to gather SUNY and Haudenosaunee representatives in order to discuss and design a long-term structure that will smoothly and strategically guide Haudenosaunee youths into SUNY colleges, resulting in 100 degrees completed by 2020. The first summit will be held on the University at Buffalo, SUNY campus. Representatives from the Western and Central SUNY systems will be invited to participate. These representatives will include admissions, affirmative action and diversity, educational opportunity, student recruitment, and any other interested worker. Haudenosaunee representatives will also be invited. For instance, Chiefs, Clan Mothers, elected leaders, educational representatives, community leaders, and parents will be asked to participate. This proposed project will establish a university-community partnership that will pave the way for our community’s most underrepresented student population to enter, remain, and complete a SUNY college degree. The Haudenosaunee Educational Summit will be an annual event for folks to gather in order to ensure that the bridge from high school to college is clear and sound for our youths to travel.  During the summit, targeted, yearly outcomes will be set, measured and adjusted.  

3. Increase Donations to Wolf-Fire Scholarship

Finally, I am vigorously working on raising funds for the Wolf-Fire Scholarship. These donations will be used to support SUNY students carry out their work in Native American/First Nations communities. There is very good scholarly work being done by students who need a little financial assistance. These funds will also be used to help Native American students study abroad. Although regular tuition will pay for much of the program, additional funds are needed in order to pay for any “out of pocket” costs for students. Additionally, these funds will support the annual Haudenosaunee Educational Summit being developed. It must be stated that I have no clue how to best raise funds. What I hope to accomplish is to engage folks and create opportunities for them to fulfill their own personal purposes.

The solution and plan of action can not solely depend on SUNY grant money. Although NACWR will continue to target and apply for grants, we must not allow our work to be judged and determined by the measures of others!  

Concluding Thoughts

If a motivated community comes together around an agreed upon problem, solution, and plan of action, our Native American youths will be significantly benefited. I will be the first to admit that I take for granted the idea behind our responsibility for the next Seven Generations. These proposals are a great opportunity to act on this Principle and positively impact our next leaders.

If you are in a position to support these proposals, I strongly encourage you join us. It will take much work and commitment on our part to solve this problem. I think I heard someone say something like – If not you, who? If not now, when? I have had the honor to work with many people who are committed to being the generation that will not ignore the problems of the next. Please consider joining us.

If you would like to financially help support our plan of action below is a link to the Wolf-Fire Scholarship. It is very simple and safe and best of all tax free. Thank you very much.

Peace, DAP