Posts Tagged ‘Alaska Native’

Screening rates for colorectal cancer have almost doubled in rural Alaska thanks to a new initiative there.

According to an article published on Science Codex, Alaska Native population experience twice the incidence and death rates from colorectal cancer as does the U.S. white population.

But the population has limited access to health facilities with screening tools.

Pilot projects to increase screening in rural Alaska ran from 2005 to 2010.

    Projects included training rural mid-level providers in flexible sigmoidoscopy, provision of itinerant endoscopy services at rural tribal health facilities in which an endoscopist from the Alaska Native Medical Center travelled to remote areas of Alaska to conduct CRC screenings at three regional hospitals, the creation and use of a CRC first-degree relative database to identify and screen individuals at increased risk, and support and implementation of screening navigator services. Patient navigator services include guiding patients through the screening process, encouraging them to obtain screening appointments, calling patients to remind them about upcoming appointments, ensuring transportation plans and answering questions about exam bowel preparation as well as tracking screening results to ensure that appropriate follow-up after the exam was completed.

    As a result of these ongoing efforts, statewide Alaska Native CRC screening rates increased from 29 percent in 2000 to 41 percent in 2005 before the initiation of these projects and increased to 55 percent in 2010. The provision of itinerant CRC screening clinics increased rural screening rates, as did outreach to average-risk and increased-risk (family history) ANs by patient navigators. However, health care system barriers were identified as major obstacles to screening completion, even in the presence of dedicated patient navigators. Researchers noted study limitations including continuing challenges such as geography, limited health system capacity, high staff turnover, and difficulty getting patients to screening appointments.

    They concluded that the projects described aimed to increase CRC screening rates in an innovative and sustainable fashion and may provide insight for others working to increase screening rates among geographically dispersed and diverse populations.

Did you know it’s National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month?

Jenna Cederberg

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John Baker won the Iditorad race. (By Bob Hallinen, Associated Press)

With a record-breaking time, the first ever Inupiat Tribal member took the crown at the 2011 Iditarod Sled Dog Race, Reuters reported Tuesday.

John Baker became the first Native winner since 1976. He broke the previous record by three hours.

    He was greeted by drummers and dancers from his Inupiat tribe, and a large crowd of relatives and supporters from his home town of Kotzebue, which is about 180 miles north of Nome.

    “Running a team like this, there’s nothing better,” Baker said at the finish. “This is the way life is supposed to be.”

    . . .

    Baker, 48, is a commercial pilot who flies small planes between rural villages in northwestern Alaska, an area that lacks road links. His home of Kotzebue, a mostly Inupiat city of about 3,200, lies above the Arctic Circle.

    Baker is one of the few Iditarod champions who lives in a truly rural part of the state. Most top mushers live along the roads north of Anchorage or in the Fairbanks area, with easy access to supplies, business partners and corporate sponsors.

    He has been a consistent top-10 finisher over the past several years and has placed as high as third in the past.

Jenna Cederberg

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Buffalo Post pic of the week: Mussel dig essay

   Posted by: buffalo_post    in Inuit, Native food, Native history

Photos by Patrice Halley

This is one shot from the stunning photo essay by Patrice Halley was featured on the ICTMN site this week. It takes viewers on an Inuit mussel dig in the Bay of Wakeham.

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Bill Allen (Anchorage Daily News)

Bill Allen (Anchorage Daily News)

The U.S Justice Department won’t prosecute former Veco chief Bill Allen, now imprisoned in a federal bribery and tax evasion case, on charges of sex with minors, Richard Mauer of the Anchorage Daily News reports.

Police in Anchorage who began an investigation on those charges in 2004 tell Mauer they’re unhappy.

And Paula Roberds, who is from a Yup’ik village and who said she was 15 when Veco began paying her thousands of dollars for sex, described the decision as “devastating.”

“Guys with money, they can do anything,” she told police in 2008.

As Mauer reports:

    Until 2006, when the FBI caught Allen on videotape bribing Alaska legislators and overheard him on the telephone trying to cover up his renovations of the late Ted Stevens’ home in Girdwood, Allen was one of Alaska’s richest and most powerful figures. Allen palled around with Stevens and his friends. He played golf, hosted fundraisers and bought expensive gifts for U.S. Rep. Don Young. And he and other officials of Veco Corp. were some the most important sources of campaign contributions for the Alaska Republican Party and its candidates. He was the final publisher of The Anchorage Times.

He’s due to be released in 2012.

Gwen Florio

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Where’s Angus? Why, on the Last Frontier, of course!

   Posted by: buffalo_post    in Alaska Native, Aleut

This blog, Where’s Angus?, is a great way to tour Alaska if you’re like me and fear you’ll never be able to afford a trip there.

It’s the project of Aleut anthropologist Liza Mack, enrolled in the Belkofski Tribal Council, and Ronn Murray, an Alaskan photographer. It traces the travels of their black Lab, Angus, and his sidekick, Li’l Dfa.

When Mack worked for the Alaska Tribal Technical Assistance Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, her project included producing DVDs of oral histories.

Seems like her travels with Angus might fit in well with that project.

Gwen Florio

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Mark Trahant is a Kaiser Media Fellow examining the Indian Health Service and its relevance to the national health care reform debate. He is a member of Idaho’s Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and writes from Fort Hall, Idaho. Comment here.

Mark Trahant

Mark Trahant

A philosophical question: How much medical training is needed to treat patients? Some say it’s the full course as proscribed by existing medical, nursing or dental schools. But when the shortages of doctors, nurses and dentists are ginormous, does the need require a different answer?

Consider oral health. “Shortages of dental practitioners and affordable dental care are hurting the health of millions of Americans, many of whom live with pain, miss school or work, and, in extreme cases, face life-threatening medical emergencies that result from dental infections. The situation is particularly severe for poor children and families and in communities of color,” writes Burton L. Edelstein, DDS, MPH Columbia University and Children’s Dental Health Project in a Dec. 200, report for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

And, like most health issues, the data shows that Indian Country is at the low end of the spectrum. One study described it this way: “The American Indian / Alaska Native “population has the highest tooth decay rate of any population cohort in the United States: 5 times the US average for children 2–4 years of age. Seventy-nine percent of AIAN children, aged 2–5 years, have tooth decay, with 60% of these children having severe early childhood caries (baby bottle tooth decay). Eighty-seven percent of these children, aged 6–14 years, have a history of decay—twice the rate of dental caries experienced by the general population.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Drew Barrymore (AP photo)

Drew Barrymore (AP photo)

The Hollywood actress and now director is shooting a movie, “Everybody Loves Whales,” in Anchorage and Barrow this fall.

The Village, the Anchorage Daily News’ rural blog, tells us here that auditions begin June 20 by appointment in Anchorage, and will be held June 25-26 in Barrow, followed by visits to Nome, Fairbanks, Kotzebue and other places.

The film, about the attempts to rescue three grey whales trapped in the ice in 1988, has 10 Native Alaska roles, including an Inupiaq man between 50 and 65 years old who speaks Inupiaq, and an Inupiaq boy between 10 and 13.

To set up an audition, e-mail Deborah Schildt at or Grace Olrun at

And good luck!

Gwen Florio

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Tulalip Reservation resident Roberta Belanich tells the Seattle Times she took a job as a census enumerator for extra income and later realized that an accurate count "could help with the schools and roads."  (Mark Harrison/Seattle Times)In an effort to deal with the historical under-counting on Native American people, the U.S. Census Bureau is changing how it works on reservations and in Native communities.

“If anybody should feel a disconnect from the government, it’s Native Americans,” says Deni Luna of the bureau’s regional center in Seattle. “… There’s still this feeling of, ‘Don’t trust the government, because this is how we got wiped out.’ ”

The Seattle Times’ Mark Ramirez illustrates the new approach by focusing on the Tulalip Reservation in this story. Not even half the people there took part in the 2000 Census Count.

Now Tulalip resident Roberta Belanich (shown in the photo above by the Seattle Times’ Mark Harrison), an Alaska Native who is a member of the Haida and Tlingit tribes who came to Tulalip by way of marriage, is among those doing the counting. It’s part of a Census strategy to use local people to help increase the count:

    Locally, tribes such as the Muckleshoot, Puyallup, Lummi and Quinault are returning their census forms in greater numbers, but maybe none more so than the Tulalip Tribes, whose return rate by last month had hit 70 percent — even before enumerators such as Belanich hit the streets. In 2000, the Tulalip final return rate was 54 percent. The rate reflects everyone living on the reservation, including nontribal members.

    Next Thursday, the Tulalip Tribes plan a news conference to thank the bureau for its efforts. “We’re deeply appreciative of the Census Bureau for understanding that Indian Country was underrepresented 10 years ago,” said tribal Chairman Mel Sheldon.

Tulalip Chairman Mel Sheldon says that “we do not forget our history. It hasn’t always been the best of relationships.” Still, he says, “there’s a new era here, and we’re looking forward with optimism.”

Gwen Florio


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This Tlingit war helmet found in Takuin in 1893 is one of the more than 600 objects that will be exhibited in the new Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center. (Anchorage Daily News photo)

This Tlingit war helmet found in Takuin in 1893 is one of the more than 600 objects that will be exhibited in the new Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center. (Anchorage Daily News photo)

Native Alaskan items collected more than a century ago and acquired by the Smithsonian Institution are back in Alaska, and on display in the Anchorage Museum.

This Anchorage Daily News story by Mike Dunham is full of superlatives in describing the exhibit:

    “Living Our Cultures: Sharing Our Heritage,” the new gallery of the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center of the National Museum of Natural History that is a major part of the Anchorage Museum expansion project, showcases some of the finest art and craft work, both utilitarian and ceremonial, ever made in Alaska.

    The quality, quantity and rarity of the items is stunning. A Tlingit war helmet and body armor. Inupiaq dance boots from Point Barrow. A festively decorated gut parka from St. Lawrence Island. An Aleut hunting hat. A Sugpiaq shaman’s hat. A Tsimshian thunderbird figure shaped like a flying bear with human forms tucked under its wings. Familiar Yup’ik masks and the lesser known but similar masks made by Athabascans.

    Such things are seldom or never found even in the best-stocked Alaska collections. The gallery is like a treasure house that arguably doubles the number of important historical Native pieces previously on display in the state.

Aron Crowell, the center’s Alaska director, calls the items in the exhibit “the product of an intensely observed universe … national exemplars of traditional craftmanship and design.”

Aaron Leggett, the Alaska Native Heritage Center’s Dena’ina cultural historian, also sees an emotional component. “In a way, they’re coming home,” he says.

Dunham has written an extensive story, not just on the exhibit but on its background, and there’s a terrific slideshow with it. Check it out.

Gwen Florio

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Yup’ik Eyes from Emily Johnson on Vimeo.

This video by Emily Johnson is posted here on the Anchorage Daily News blog, The Village. Johnson writes that she made it for the “HOKAH! Ten Years of Art at Ancient Traders Gallery” event.

Johnson, of Yup’ik descent, is a choreographer with Catalyst Dances. Learn more about her, here.

Gwen Florio

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