November 2019: CHE ARC Newsletter

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November 2019 

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A healthy Louisville where everyone and every community thrives.

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  • On December 3, come join us at the Free Environmental Justice Conference at Simmons College of Kentucky from 8:30 AM-5:00 PM. West Jefferson County Community Task Force (WJCCTF) and National Association For The Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) are hosting this year’s conference to discuss the theme: Climate Change, Environmental Justice-Investing in Our Future. Jacqui Patterson,National Chair of the NAACP Environmental Climate Justice, will be the keynote speaker. For more information, please call 502-645-3588.

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Honoring Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month and we recognize the opportunity this provides to honor Native history and build a world that offers true healing and restoration from the generational trauma experienced over the past 600 years. From the beginning of US history, Native Americans have suffered as the nation has enjoyed growth and development. This month, we are reflecting on the relationship between systems of power, Native Americans, and public health.  

Native American, Systems of Power, and Public Health

Many may begin their understanding of Native American history with Christopher Columbus, but Native people were on this land for centuries prior to his arrival. With estimates of ~10 million people and ~200 unique tribes with varying government structures, there was significant diversity across this continent. However, as Europeans continued to come in the 16th and 17th centuries to colonize this land, Native Americans “responded in various stages, from cooperation to indignation to revolt.” In the 1800s, US land speculators were using illegal and legal means to push Native Americans off land in the South in order to participate in the emerging cotton and enslavement industry. In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act which legally required negotiating fair treaties to take the land but resulted in physically forcing Native Americans to relocate to the west of the Mississippi River, from Southern states including Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. As “manifest destiny” continued to guide growth westward, the US continued to shrink the land of Native people even further. In 2014, Dr. Claudio Saunt developed a time-lapse visual of the historical loss of Native land.

Although many believe Native Americans primarily live on tribal land/reservations today, US policy in the 1950s significantly cut resources to reservations and instead incentivized relocation for Native people to urban areas. Today, more Native Americans live in cities than reservations. For those who do live on tribal land, Native Americans have their own unique relationship with the United States federal government. This relationship is understood as the ‘trust responsibility’ which requires the federal government to ensure Native Americans have health care and education but maintains federal power over how tribal land can be used, including “taking out mortgages for homes, building on the land, and renovating existing buildings.” However, the Indian Health Service, the agency responsible for ensuring healthcare and education access, has been severely underfunded and unable to adequately provide for the needs of Native Americans.

The cumulative impact of this historical trauma results in significant health inequities experienced by Native Americans. These include higher rates of adverse health outcomes, including substance use, suicide, heart disease, and more, which lead to a lower life expectancy than non-Native people. As we build a Louisville, KY that works for everyone, we want to be especially thoughtful about how to create a world where Native people experience transformative healing and a society designed to right the harms of US colonization. The following are considerations for ways to improve the quality of life for Native people:

This November, we honor the history of Native people on this land and celebrate the opportunities to design a society that fosters the ability for everyone to be as healthy as possible.


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