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.