The annual Journey of Hope Conference, which was originally
named the Diabetes Conference, provided a bevy of opportunities
to learn how to cope with diabetes and how to stay healthy.
It was held Thursday and Friday, November 5 and 6, at the Stony
Creek Inn in Wausau.
A Pendleton blanket was presented to Karena Thundercloud for
the many years she was with and was director of the Ho-Chunk Community
Health Department. She also was responsible for organizing the Journey
of Hope Conference and the former Diabetes Conference.
According to Lindsay Killian, medical assistant and one of the
organizers, there were 198 total attendees for the Thursday sessions
and 161 for the sessions on Friday.
"It was a culturally appropriate conference to provide diabetes
and wellness information in a good learning environment," said Jess
Thill, Ho-Chunk Health Care Center supervisor.
The first informative session was about making your own herbal
Misty Cook, author of the self-published book, "Medicine Generations,"
offered her tips on making medicines from common plants found in
She developed the recipes and procedures from the information
she had from her grandmother, Granny Gardner, who lived to the age
Misty, a member of the Stockbridge-Munsee tribe, told the audience
of how she interviewed her aunts and uncles for information on the
herbal remedies when she discovered, three years into her research,
that some cassette tapes had been recorded by her aunt Ella.
There were five cassettes and each told of the local plants
and how they could be prepared and used as medicines for illnesses
and skin conditions.
Locations of the plants were told and, when she went to those
locations, each of them where still growing there.
What makes her book different than others, Misty said, is that
photos of each of the plants are shown in the book in color, making
identifications much easier. Another aspect is the spiritual nature
of the medicines.
"You need to pray for what the medicines will do," she said.
Several of her recipes involves using leaves from certain plants,
which are either used in a tea, or as a poultice or salve.
For instance, one of the most used remedy is derived from red
raspberry leaves, which is good for regulating blood sugar levels.
To make the leaves available throughout the year, she suggested
picking the leaves and then drying them in single layer for about
two months, then storing them in sealed glass jars.
Another of the most used remedy is what she referred to as "Number
Six." It is derived from the bergamot stalk and it is good for digestive
problems, morning sickness, heartburn, a cold, flu or pneumonia.
Catnip is good for anxiety, colic and helps with sleep.
Black cherry bark is used as a cough suppressant if it is stripped
from the tree, boiled until thick, and then sweetened.
Sweet fern is used for all types of skin conditions and burdock
root is good for treating arthritis.
Golden thread is a small, three leaf plant that grows on knolls
in swamps and is effective for use in any mouth sore condition,
such as canker sores, thrush and cold sores.
"It takes the pain away without numbing up and it helps to heal
quickly," she said.
Mullen is a tall green furry plant which grows in sandy areas.
It's good for any cough, throat or chest problems. It can be drank
as a tea or even smoked.
Onions work well as a fever reducer. Misty gave an example of
cutting an onion in half, placing them on the feet and covering
them with socks.
"In the morning, the onions will be black, but it will have
sucked out the fever," she said. They can be placed anywhere on
the body, or sometimes people have placed them under the bed to
have them work.
Whatever natural medicine is used, it cannot have any connection
with money, she said. If a person pays for the plant extractions
with money, the motive is not good, therefore they will not work.
However, if an exchange of other items, such as food, is made, it
Following her discussion of herbal remedies, and lunch, the
participants were able to select one of four 45-minute sessions
to attend, within four time slots.
One of the sessions was "Mending Broken Hearts" presented by
Jean Stacy, director of the Ho-Chunk Elder Program.
She told about several programs that are designed to help people,
particularly those with drug or mental or incarceration issues.
One in particular is the "Warrior Down Program."
"It's designed to help build a strong mind, body and spirit,"
Stacy said. "You need to build a toolbox that can be passed along.
You can't mend a broken heart until you deal with those issues."
One of the problems is that people have never dealt with intergenerational
trauma, she said.
"It's innate in us, from generations past," she said, referring
to the trauma created by repeated relocation. "How many relatives
came back and those have stayed?"
She stressed the importance of language and how it links everything
She said man of the elders are involved with the program now
and they are sharing their knowledge with the communities through
storytelling and art. Also, there is a lot of mending through song,
such as the Wasira Show that was performed in the morning at the
Part of the healing process is to be reunified with family.
"A lot of people are raising children who are not the biological
offspring," she said.
Nettie Kingsley said that she was raised by her aunt and uncle
since she was 3 years old. Luckily her uncle was an ordained minister,
so she and her brother were not exposed to negative influences and
never drank or smoked.
"I have respect for my mother because she did what was best
for her children," Kingsley said.
The hope is to have everyone healthy and positive. There's too
much negativity in the world, she said.
"If you have a positive mind, you have a good heart," Kingsley
said. "You will have compassion and forgiveness."
In another session, Heather Jerzak provided helpful information
on how to eat healthy when traveling or away from home.
Dr. Bob Emery, an optometrist with the Ho-Chunk Nation, explained
how diabetes effects the eyes and eyesight.
He said that the normal range for blood sugar is measured between
55 and 160, with the ideal level at 90. Between those levels, sugar
is stored in the cell structure as glucose. But when the blood sugar
levels exceed 160, then the sugar is stored as fructose.
"When the sugar is glucose, it allows water to flow by osmosis
through the cell membrane wall," he said. "But when the sugar is
fructose, it doesn't allow water to flow back out of the cell. The
cells will swell and burst because there is too much pressure."
When that happens, people get blurry vision and double vision
and limited view vision. What is important to note is that what
is happening in the eyes is that same things that are happening
throughout the body, causing internal damage to organs and cell
structure throughout the body. It's just that vision problems are
noticeable earlier, Emery said.
"New vessels in the eye are very fragile," he said.
In the past, laser treatment on the eyes was standard practice
to prevent the new vessel growth in the eye, but today the better
treatment is to inject drugs into the back of the eye," he said.
"Early prevention is key to preventing blindness," Emery said.
Other programs included session on exercise, information about
medications, herbal and dietary supplements and diabetes bingo.
The annual event is designed to create a learning environment
that interweaves the Ho-Chunk culture.
"We are looking for recommendations for next year's event, such
as the topics and location," Thill said. "Also, they have begun
the process for working with the youth for a youth diabetes conference."