Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 5, 2001 - Issue 35



Rez Robics


A New Lifestyle Guaranteed to Make you Smile


article and photos by Suzanne Westerly

Pam Belgarde's long-held dream is now a reality many can share and enjoy. Rez-Robics, a new video created with lots of heart and soul will have you "laughing," said Pam enthusiastically. I had the pleasure of meeting her and "the crew" during the filming of Rez-Robics in Albuquerque last November. Actress Elaine Miles, (Northern Exposure and Smoke Signals), and comedienne Drew LaCapa, will make you smile, as Pam and Reggie Mitchell lead the 'robics in this insightful, positive and humorous new video on diabetes and "how to take control of your health."

I caught up with the Rez-Robics crew the day after they had taped some skits out at the Isleta Pueblo, just south of Albuquerque.

On this brisk, but sunny winter morning, I immediately saw Drew and Elaine, riding on a tandem bicycle as I drove into the parking lot.

Elaine and Drew continued riding their bicycle-built-for-two in the circle driveway constantly joking around, of course. I was impressed; they never once fell off the bike or crashed into the film crew. (When is the last time you rode a bike!?) Gary Rhine, (producer/director) was telling them to "go around one more time." After a "final wrap" we all went into the nice warm studio where the rest of the crew was getting prepared to shoot the aerobics portion of the video.

As we walked over to the nearby studio, Gary told me about the fun they had at Isleta Pueblo the day before, sharing some of the scenes with me.

Before the exercising began, everyone took a time-out to munch and chat at a table filled with healthy foods. Drew of course asked where the frybread was.

Pam is one of the producers as well the aerobics choreographer. She and Reggie Mitchell, a self-defense instructor from the Navajo Nation, lead the group consisting of people of all shapes and sizes in an entertaining aerobics workout. Most of the people, on both sides of the camera, are from the Navajo Nation.

Pam, from the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, talked about how this video came together. "I used to do the Health Program every Friday on Native America Calling - on AIROS. She now works for the Northern Navajo Medical Center. "Our specific department is called Four Directions* Health Communications."

Pam and Gary Rhine, with DreamCatchers, Inc., based in Malibu, CA have been dreaming about this video for about six years. A grant from the Initiative on Diabetes in Native America enabled their dream to come true.

"Drew has diabetes, Elaine's mom has it. I have all kinds of family members who have diabetes. Who in Indian country doesn't have family members with diabetes? It's an epidemic," said Pam, explaining her deep desire for wanting this video to be created and widely distributed.

"Diabetes is a disease of the fork. That and not moving your body." She is a strong supporter of people "eating as closely as they can to the way our ancestors did, just protein, vegetables and fruits. We can't eat exactly like we did before, but we can eat similar to that."

The crew working on the video all had similar stories to tell; the sadness of seeing friends and family members having a foot amputated, then a leg, the other leg, losing their eyesight, and dying before their time. They know that diabetes is preventable by getting some exercise and eating healthy, and they hope this video will help convince others.

Reggie Mitchell, a co-director of the production talked about his involvement in the video. "I give self-defense programs in Gallup to law enforcement personnel, teachers, and others for personal protection. I also teach violence prevention training to kids, and I talk about the consequences of your actions and stuff like that."

Mitchell has young children of his own, and knowing how diabetes is now affecting so many Native youth he felt this video was very important and was glad to be a part of it. "We are bringing it across in a way that's fun and different from the other videos that are out there on the market today. We use PowWow moves, a blend of martial arts techniques and music. It is groundbreaking because there's no video out there that I've seen or heard of that's like this."

Elaine Miles is Cayuse/NezPerce and lives in Seattle. Elaine's grandmother died from diabetes and her mom now has it. "I decided, well no more fry bread, no more greasy foods. We eat a lot of vegetables now, and we walk."

Elaine and her young son, work with the Midwestern American Indian Diabetes Association and with the United National Indian Tribal Youth Organization based out of Oklahoma. She tries to get involved in any program that helps Native people become aware of the seriousness of the diabetes.

Drew walked over smiling his impish grin. He calls himself a mutt - Hopi/Apache/Tewa/Scott-Irish. Looking a lot thinner, (he used to introduce himself as 300 pounds of love) he talked about the video and dealing with diabetes, which is what cut short his grandmothers life. "I found out a couple of years ago that I had it. I promised myself and I hope this for everybody else - that they will not allow this disease to victimize them. It's a lifelong maintenance thing. I've weaned myself from unhealthy foods and sodas. I've learned to drink a lot more water."

Before production started, the group had gathered for a Blessing Ceremony at sunrise, led by Stan Parker from the Navajo Nation. This video is profoundly important to all the participants.

Natay, whose grandfather did the opening blessing, lives in Albuquerque, and is a Hip-hop-rap artist. "What I want to do with this video is to keep the focus on the health issue. To get someone off his or her butt and start exercising - that's motivation for me. The music in this is great! It's all Native music."

I went over to talk with Tom Bee (Dakota), as everyone else headed in to start with the aerobics session. Tom, many will recall, played with great band from the 70's, XIT, is the President of Sound of America Records (SOAR) Corporation. He gladly provided music for the video.

Diabetes has had a major impact on his life. "Diabetes is something that I wouldn't wish on anybody, it's a dreadful disease, a silent killer. "I've been living with it for the past 11 years. The video, "is something that stirred my heart because now we are seeing that even children are suffering from this disease. When you go out to the reservation, you see kids that are affected by this deadly disease, and schools push all the junk food in vending machines. Then we wonder why they can't do their homework or why they can't be productive in school or don't have the energy. It's very important if you want to be productive. To be able to contribute to society you must watch what you eat, exercise, and really take care of your body."

Recently, at the First Americans in the Arts award ceremony in Beverly Hills, I ran into Gary. He told me the Rez-Robics 'crew' was there to preview some video clips and to perform a short 'rezorcise' on stage. Drew, as usual was the star of silly antics. He and Elaine didn't exactly follow the instructors (Pam or Reggie) moves.

After 'rezorcising' to the Rez-Robics video clip, zany Drew had the audience roaring with laughter with his irrepressible antics and humor. Wearing a 'sexy' one-piece outfit. When he did the video he was asked what he wanted in return, Drew said, "A leopard skin outfit, then they made me put it on!"

He told the audience how finding out about his diabetes changed his life in many ways. "I used to be 300, I lost 100 pounds, now I only have 1 1/2 chins. My wife said, 'look at him he looks like a skinwalker, he's shapeshifting!'"

Before leaving the stage he became serious for a moment saying, "We are going to take control of diabetes. We don't want to be victims anymore."

Rez-Robics comes to you with humor, and laughter. The whole group enjoyed making being a part of the production. They hope that you too, will be laughing as you begin movin' to the groove of Rez-Robics.

Pam wants to thank the following "people and organizations that have helped us out tremendously: John and Veronica Montoya of Isleta Pueblo, Tom Bee of Sound of America Records, NikÈ Native American Diabetes Program, Sam McCracken, Downtown Health Club of Gallup, and New Mexico Sports and Wellness."

'How do I get the Rez-Robics video's and how much do they cost!?' you ask.

Made possible with a grant, the set (2) is available free-of-charge to Indian country. One video has it all, the second, just the 'rezorcise' portion. Producers Gary and Pam hope anyone that has duplication capabilities will copy it and give a copy to family and friends. "We want it everywhere in Indian Country."

NOW AVAILABLE throughout Indian country:
If you live on or near the Navajo Nation, call 800-549-5644.
Otherwise send a SASE and enclose a 12x15-priority mail envelope (found at the post office) with a priority stamp on it. Mail this to DreamCatchers, Inc., 23852 Pacific Coast Highway # 766, Malibu, CA, 90265.

Soon, you too will be movin' to the groove of Rez-Robics.
Suzanne Westerly travels the southwest, and is currently based in Santa Fe, NM.
POB 31340
Santa Fe, NM 87594
P/F 505-989-1968 cell 505 -670-1644



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