Diversity Event Focuses on Health Issues Affecting Native Americans

Mar. 21, 2010

With an eye always to improving health particularly for at-risk populations, the University of Rochester School of Nursing with the Friends of Ganondagan presented an afternoon program devoted to exploring aspects of the history, culture and changed lifestyles of Native Americans which have led to an epidemic of obesity and diabetes.

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 nursing program and staff nurse at Strong Memorial Hospital. Keemer is also member of the Young Spirit Dancers group.

Following a showing of “Reclamation”– a video produced by Jemison which 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, Ph.D., A.P.R.N., 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.”