2019 Symposium

2019 Symposium

2019 Great Plains Conference: April 23-24, 2019, Omaha, Neb.

The health of a tribe can be measured in the vitality of its people, but perhaps more so in their spiritual wellbeing. The diverse paths people take to health can lead to new ground in discussions of American Indian health.

Join us for a conversation about American Indian behavioral health in April 2019 in Omaha, Nebraska. 

Wakanyéja: A Conference on American Indian Behavioral Health will bring together tribal community members, respected elders, health advocates, academics, biomedical scientists, and tribal health representatives to help better understand community issues and work to address health disparities. More than a dozen conference speakers will engage with these issues from multiple view points, including physical, mental, cultural, and spiritual factors in behavioral health. 

Significant and lasting change can only happen when those who represent indigenous communities engage with one another to support cultural traditions alongside biomedical research and clinical practice. This conference is intended to bridge the gap between academics, scientists, physicians, and the communities impacted by behavioral health issues.

Topics include how behavioral health issues develop, health services, policy, and health behaviors including youth risk and protective factors.

Conference co-hosts
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April 23: Stories of Survival

5:30 p.m.: Doors open, food and conversation
6 - 8:15 p.m.: Program and discussion
Alcohol was introduced to indigenous communities since the first contact with Europeans. The resulting substance abuse and its impact has challenged these communities. This panel will share stories of the efforts to address this issue on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Panelists include:
• Frank LaMere, Winnebago, activist
• Nora Boesem, Founder of Roots to Wings in South Dakota
• Omar Abdul-Rahman, Director of genetic medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Munroe-Meyer Institute

Evening sponsor: UNMC Primary Care Center for Education, Research, & Healthcare Design

April 24: Wakanéja - Mobilizing for Action


7:30 a.m.: Registration, breakfast opens

8 a.m.: Welcome: song (Israel “Izzy” Tamayo), opening drum performance (Upstream), smudging, and prayer (Joseph Marshall III)

8:30 a.m.: Introduction by Rick Edwards and Maurice Godfrey

8:45 a.m.-5 p.m.: Speakers, lunch, panel (download schedule for details)

Conference speakers

Ruby Gibson, mixed blood, Executive Director of Freedom Lodge
Jennifer Giroux, Rosebud Sioux, United States Public Health Service
Fay Givens, Mississippi Choctaw/Cherokee, Executive Director of American Indian Services at Michigan
Joseph Marshall III, Rosebud Sioux, Writer / Actor 
Kay McGowan, Mississippi Choctaw/Cherokee, Adjunct Professor of Anthropology and Native American Studies at Eastern Michigan University
Tim McGowan, President and Founder of Networks of Support 
Magda Peck, Adjunct Professor of Public Health and Pediatrics at the University of Nebraska Medical Center
Charles Sitting Bull, Oglala Sioux, Social Worker, Former Director of Behavioral Health for Indian Health Service at Pine Ridge Hospital
Lancer Stephens, Wichita/Muscogee (Creek), Director of Special Populations Outreach and Assistant Professor of Research in the Department of Health Promotion Sciences, College of Public Health at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
Larry Voegele, Standing Rock Sioux, Chief Executive Officer at Ponca Health Centers at Omaha 
Melissa Walls, Anishinaabe, Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Biobehavioral Health at the University of Minnesota Medical School at Duluth 
Donald Warne, Oglala Lakota, Director of Indians into Medicine
David Wilson, Director of NIH Tribal Health Research Office (with Juliana Blome, Deputy Director of NIH Tribal Health Research Office)


Both days of the conference will take place at the Michael F. Sorrell Center for Health Science Education, Truhlsen Campus Events Center at UNMC, 619 S 42nd St, Omaha, NE 68198.

Conference planning team:

Lilianna Bronner, Assistant Professor and Clinical Education Manager, UNMC
Dijon DeLaPorte, Events Coordinator, Center for Great Plains Studies
Rick Edwards, Director, Center for Great Plains Studies
Maurice Godfrey, Professor, Munroe-Meyer Institute, UNMC
Katie Nieland, Assistant Director, Center for Great Plains Studies
Regina Emily Robbins, Assistant Professor, College of Public Health, UNMC
Lisa Spellman, Publications/Media Specialist, UNMC

Supported by
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Travel and Transport

National Institutes of Health

A Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) program at the National Institute of General Medical Science (NIGMS) of the NIH

Humanities Nebraska

This program is funded in part by Humanities Nebraska and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.

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