Patricia (Pat) Marie Yager (1950-2018)

One Step at a Time: The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step
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Background and Story

On June 14, 2018, our Founder & President, Pat passed away from an unexpected illness.
The shock of her sudden passing will reverberate forever. Pat was simply beautiful, and her magical touch remains etched in our hearts. We miss Pat deeply and cherish her legacy. As Chief Seattle said, “There is no death, only a change of worlds.”
The circle of life continues, and we carry Pat every step of the way to make her dreams come true!

Here is Pat in her own words:

Boozhoo. My name is Patricia Yager and I am the Founder & President of Circle of Life Home Care Anishinaabe (COLHCA) and our related companies serving multiple Indian reservations in several states. Please allow me to share my journey with you. Since its inception, our company has been much more than a job and more than just a career. It is the accumulation of all the steps, experiences, and even compromises I ever made in life. The result is the opportunity to “Honor and Serve” all those I had the privilege to work with.

I have lived both on and off the reservation and am intimately familiar with native communities. I know the rules, spoken and unspoken and I respect them. On the reservations, I experienced firsthand the severe health issues ravaging our people and communities. The health problems were both easy to notice and hard to avoid. It was clear to me that Native people were not receiving home care services that were culturally appropriate. I knew that was something I could change.

I decided it was my responsibility to help make a change within my own community. While I knew our health issues were severe, I just did not realize the extent. This company has progressed only because of our great need. Truth be told, health related issues within the Native American community were, and still are, devastating. For example Indian people are seven times more likely than any other populace in the United States to have something major go wrong with their health. In addition, we have a rate three times the national average for suicide. I have traveled from reservation to reservation and found the same issues everywhere.

I began with nothing in my pocket and worked in Minneapolis for six months before expanding to Cass Lake where I leased an office in the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe building. When people would ask me for a business card I would take out a matchbook from my purse and jot down my personal cell phone number. It quickly became known in Indian country that my business card was a matchbook! It was difficult at first but I took baby steps. As a matter of fact, I take baby steps even to this day and it’s the only way I don’t get overwhelmed when I wake up each morning.

Expansion was not on my mind, but at that point I acknowledged my responsibility as an Indian person, and felt an urge to follow my vision. I realized I’d had a vision for twenty years to serve my people in the best way possible: to help combat the devastation of diseases and health issues in our communities. A year later, I found myself in Gallup, New Mexico and through a series of coincidences we began to serve the Navajo Reservation. Today, we have several other offices in the region in Arizona and New Mexico and are serving the Navajo, Apache, Zuni and Hopi tribes and other reservations as well.

For me, it is essential to work with people that know the community and culture. I alone cannot fulfill the great need of Indian health care. Communities must work within themselves to provide the best care for their people. There are many places where we have been that are without Native American nursing homes or group homes run by Native Americans. It is important that we help ourselves.

Our mission, “to honor and serve” our own people, brings self-esteem to our care givers and our clients.

Miigwech for allowing me to take you on my journey into Indian Country.

Pat Yager

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