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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America



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Return to Traditional Ways, Urge Conference Speakers


by Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Press Release


Prior Lake, Minnesota-"The Creator gave you a way of life. He wants you to be alive, he wants you to be well. A certain way of life was given to us by the Creator. It's up to us to find a way to get that back," said speaker Barb Turenne from Sioux Valley, Manitoba, Canada. Barb joined her longtime companion, Glenn Wasicuna, as the keynote speakers for the second day of the Northern Plains Native American Heart and Diabetes Conference at Mystic Lake Casino Hotel. More than 400 participants gathered for this year's event. "We have to have balance in our lives," she said.

Glenn talked about when they were growing up. He described how life used to be with gardens and wood stoves both of which required intense physical labor. Foods were healthy. People were healthy. That changed when in the 1940s government agents gave each household 100 pounds of flour. "That was one of the most damaging things that happened to our community. From that time on, our community changed forever. Then, in the Sixties, one of the community members came home from the war and brought home a black and white TV set." Then, a TV appeared in the community center. "When those two things happened, people stopped visiting together, talking together. The fabric of our family was torn again." He explained that people were no longer physically active and their food choices were unhealthy. Instead of gardening and cutting wood every day and eating natural and wild foods, the people were eating white flour which was new to their diet and sitting down watching TV.

"Work towards getting yourself well. You can't sit there and bemoan your situation. We've tried the wasicu way, the white way, we have to work towards getting ourselves back to our traditional ways," Barb continued. Glenn and Barb, both who are employed in the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Education Department, addressed the crowd first in Dakota and then in their second language, English. All the speakers at the conference seemed to be in agreement that individuals are in charge of their own health. They advised patients to increase their daily activity, watch what they eat, restore their spirits, educate themselves, and get appropriate medical attention.

Breakout Sessions were available on smoking cessation, cooking nutritious meals, exercise, preventing complications, CPR, prescription medication, and healthy lifeways. A walk/run drew more than 75 people in the hot, humid morning. Others chose indoor exercise. Other speakers talked about obesity and the process of change.

Other conference highlights:
"Since I've got my second chance at life, I need to start helping other people so they don't have to go through what I did," said SMSC Community member Amy Crooks-Larca who spoke at the conference about her own experience with the diseases. Amy will undergo a living donor kidney transplant in the next few months.

"Obesity is an epidemic which has swept the United States," said Dr. J. Michael Gonzales-Campey, medical director and CEO of the Minnesota Center for Obesity, Metabolism, and Endocrinology. "The secret to losing and maintaining that weight loss is to burn more calories than you consume. Good health comes from physical activity and sound nutrition. Get moving, find something you enjoy. Limit portion size. Eat more fruits and vegetables. View every day as an opportunity to be healthier. A 10% of current weight loss within a twelve-month period is ideal."

"When we become closer to our ceremonies and our natural way of life, we feed our spirit and our soul," said Janice Bad Moccasin, SMSC Assistant Tribal Administrator, who led a breakout session called Healthy Lifeways. "We are all interrelated. Make your connection with being related to the universe by giving thanks, offering a prayer, listening with an open heart. Recognize the sacredness of who you are. Exercise is medicine. Your body is a gift. Take care of it. We need to make a spiritual commitment."

"You're not a failure! You're already changing. In psychology we understand that behavior change moves in predictable patterns, so we expect people to make progress and then often to return to an old behavior. So don't be discouraged if you have tried to change before, but haven't been able to maintain it, just remember what helped and forget what didn't help. Then come up with a new plan and try again," said Licensed Psychologist Joseph Nelson. "Recyling is normal."

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