Diversity event looks at Native American health issues

Veronica Reitter
Veronica Reitter (left), a staff member at Ganondagan State Historic Site, concluded an afternoon diversity event at the University of Rochester School of Nursing by sharing Native American tales with faculty, staff and students.

With an eye kept on improving health particularly for at-risk populations, the School of Nursing joined with the Friends of Ganondagan to present an afternoon devoted to exploring aspects of the history, culture and changed lifestyles that have led to an epidemic of obesity and diabetes among Native Americans.

“Reclaiming Our Health, Native Style” opened March 15 with a traditional Thanksgiving address delivered by G. Peter Jemison, Ganondagan State Historic Site director and a distinguished artist, historian, and Seneca leader. Jemison provided background on Ganondagan before attendees watched the documentary Bad Sugar, which looks at the causes and effects of diabetes within two Native American communities.

Local Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) offered personal commentary after the video including Stephanie Waterman (Onondaga), assistant professor, at the Warner Graduate School of Education; Veronica Reitter (Seneca), interpreter and staff member at Ganondagan; and Kelly Keemer, R.N. (Seneca), a graduate of the University of Rochester School of Nursing’s accelerated nursingprogram and staff nurse at Strong Memorial Hospital, who is also a member of the Young Spirit Dancers group.

Following a showing of Reclamation – a video produced by Jemison that documents a local Seneca’s experience losing 100 pounds – the day concluded with Haudenosaunee storytelling by Reitter.

“We were so happy to offer this cooperative experience to our faculty and staff,” said Mary Dombeck, PhD, APRN, professor and co-chair of the School’s Dean’s Advisory Council for Diversity and Inclusiveness. “We want to raise people’s awareness of the cultural history of native people and the injustices that changed their lifestyles. Moreover, diabetes and obesity are problems not just for Native Americans but for all of us. These are relevant topics that need to be explored, especially in a nursing school.”

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