American Indian & Alaska Native Cultural Wisdom Declaration
American Indian & Alaska Native Cultural Wisdom Declaration body
Native Americans are experiencing vast health inequities as evidenced by high rates of cancer, diabetes, trauma, mental and substance use disorders (including suicide), and unintentional injury. Present efforts to address the health status of American Indian and Alaska Native people remain marginally effective in alleviating these health disparities. While research and programs consistently recommend that prevention and health care programs also implement traditional practices and philosophies, barriers exist that prevent the successful implementation of culturally tailored health promotion and healing interventions.
The intent of this declaration is to address the existing barriers and move towards successful implementation of culturally driven health promotion models of care and healing. This declaration promotes the voice of American Indians and Alaska Natives to ensure success in embedding culturally relevant health promotion and healing interventions into health and human service initiatives supported by Tribes, Federal agencies, and other entities.
We honor the ancestral cultural knowledge, wisdom, ceremony, and practices of American Indian and Alaska Native tribes. Our respective cultural knowledge is sacred and has been practiced for centuries as evident in our shared inter-tribal survival and resilience.
This traditional cultural wisdom predates the U.S. Constitution. We are experts of our own cultural wisdom. Our wisdom has been passed down orally from generation to generation, and the depth of our wisdom remains within the hearts and minds of our people. Our cultural wisdom exists solely for us. It is tribe specific, and this sacred knowledge exists to benefit our health, our well-being, and the health and well-being of future generations. Our cultural wisdom is guarded and protected because of the history of broken promises and broken trust we have experienced repeatedly. Our cultural wisdom will remain protected. Our cultural wisdom will continue to be transferred orally, as it has been in the past. Our worldview on health and healing is holistic, encompassing the body, mind, spirit, nature, and our environment.
We will preserve and implement our cultural wisdom to promote health and well-being in our communities through stories, songs, prayers, rituals, and ceremonies and other traditional practices. Our respective traditional wisdom, ceremonies, language, and customs will be implemented in our com- munities to benefit our present and future generations while we honor the ancestral and sacred elements of this knowledge and control its use and dissemination. All details of cultural wisdom will remain authentic to traditional ways of being, knowing, and doing. We will integrate authentic cultural interventions alongside existing healthcare promotion efforts to ensure a culturally tailored and culturally relevant approach to health promotion and healthcare delivery for American Indian and Alaska Native people.
We know that Native American wisdom exists within our stories, language, ceremonies, songs, and teachings. We know our Native ways are effective. We know that these ways are different from the Western worldview. We know we are experts in practicing and implementing our traditional ways to enhance the health of our people. We know our ways are unique and specific to Tribal groups. The authenticity of our Native American cultural wisdom is acknowledged and validated by our families, our clans, our communities. This knowledge has been validated for centuries by our ancestors. This knowledge exists within American Indian and Alaska Native communities, it is known by our people, and we will protect this sacred knowledge.
We expect the following from those agencies that have power, authority, and funding relevant to American Indian and Alaska Native health including Tribal, State, Federal, private, and nonprofit organizations:
- Financial Resources
And to ensure the success of this declaration we recommend the following:
- Respect our intent to keep sacred knowledge private and allow details of this cultural knowledge and wisdom to remain with the knowledge keepers (elders, traditional healers, storytellers, and American Indian and Alaska Native people).
- Support our unique ideas and models of health and healing interventions that may not fit typical or standard western approaches.
- Modify your requirements to fit the relevant traditional tribal paradigm or allow room for flexibility when evaluating proposals submitted by American Indian and Alaska Native tribal nations.
- Provide adequate time and financial resources required to work in rural and remote areas, with hard-to-reach populations and within the legal frameworks of sovereign nations.
- Trust the Nations to deliver their culturally derived interventions.
- Accept our distinct American Indian and Alaska Native cultural ways of being, knowing and doing.
- Support our authority to practice American Indian and Alaska Native culture as practiced for generations, without modification, without restriction.
- Support the cost of structuring innovative and culturally tailored models of health promotion through advocating for additional funding in the form of budget increases and specific grant funding that targets unique American Indian and Alaska Native health promotion efforts.