Heritage of Healing is a blending of modern healing with our traditional culture. In 2005, the initiator of the Heritage of Healing Project dreamed of a place for healing of all those who were suffering. And in 2006, when her mother was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, this young girl became aware of the absence of support for children who have a family member with cancer. These two events became the impetus for Heritage of Healing.
Background: Cancer in Indian Country
We have become increasingly aware that American Indians with cancers are often not diagnosed in a timely manner, and healthcare facilities for them are often not equipped to identify these diseases. Additionally, the cancer rates in some Native communities are higher due to the effects of mining, nuclear facilities that leak radiation, and other environmental events that have occurred on Native lands, where regulation is more lax than in other areas. The report issued by the National Cancer Institute in the Fall of 2007 noted that deaths from cancers are down all across the country for all segments of the population except Native Americans. This has led us to begin Heritage of Healing, dedicated to cancer awareness and relief for Native American children in families experiencing cancers and other serious and chronic diseases.
The goals of Heritage of Healing are four-fold and will be instituted in four stages. The goals are thus:
v To increase awareness, especially among our youth, of healthy lifestyle choices that can help reduce the risk of cancers, diabetes, and other chronic diseases.
v To build a spiritual foundation, and to provide solace and comfort through gathering.
v To help families experiencing cancers retain a sense of normalcy through the Heritage of Healing Relief Program, dedicated to providing some of the normal day-to-day things that are hard to maintain when undergoing treatment, such as new school clothes, winter coats, trips to movies, summer camps, etc.
v To establish homes near major hospitals in the US where families can stay while receiving treatment, as Native families are often too far from hospitals to receive regular treatment.
Achieving the Goals
The first goal of the Heritage of Healing Project is to increase awareness of cancer risks and healthy lifestyle choices among Native American people. To fulfill this goal, we attend a number of pow wows, conferences and other gatherings where we put up tables full of free information on these topics. We have been doing this since January 2008.
Heritage of Healing has also made considerable progress in fulfilling its second goal. We have begun to hold gatherings of our own focused on this issue; in May 2008 Heritage of Healing began a 4-year commitment to hold a Pipe Ceremony in Washington, DC. In Summer 2009 we fulfilled the originator’s dream for this project with a Gathering of those who were experiencing cancer or otherwise in need; this was held in Ypsilanti, MI. The gathering began with a Pipe Ceremony and included opening remarks from the Mayor of Ypsilanti, talks by representatives of the American Cancer Society, and a Walk for Health on Sunday morning. Participants came from all over the Michigan area, all those present joined us for a feast on Saturday, and all left with a good feeling.
In May 2010, the Heritage of Healing Cancer Relief Program took youth to participate in the May Dayz Experience in Washington, DC. And in 2012-2013 we will continue the third stage of fulfilling our goals, our Heritage of Healing Relief Program, which plans to provide several times a year for children in families that are experiencing cancers; the Relief Program intends to help make sure that these children have warm winter coats, presents at holiday & birthday times, new clothes for school, and trips to the movies & museums—all the everyday things that become hard to manage in a family experiencing cancer.
Heritage of Healing has also begun to hold regular Walks for Health, Craft Workshops, Movie Nights, and other monthly events. Please see the Calendar or our Facebook page for details. These events are open to all, so please join us.