Native Health Conference Brings Together Western And Traditional Healers

May 31, 2016

Fort Washakie Indian Health Clinic is housed in a building in serious need of repair.

A conference next week in Riverton will explore the enormous health gap on the Wind River Indian Reservation. The life expectancy of Native Americans there is only 52 years old, compared to the national average of 78 years old. Northern Arapaho Social Services Director Allison Sage says the conference will bring together doctors, teachers, traditional healers and others to collaborate on solutions. He says there's especially a need for more doctors and better preventative and prenatal care.

At the conference, Sage is offering a demonstration of horse culture, which is one attempt to reduce teen suicide on the reservation.

“We give them a voice so they can express how they feel. And we give them a message about suicide,” he says. “And then we let them ride the horse, which is amazing. They’re all smiles and they have elated feelings. And children love it. Everyone loves it. I don’t know if you’ve ever rode a horse, but a horse has a spirit in themselves.”

The conference starts with a 28-mile relay run by the Eagle Staff Runners that the public is invited to join. And Sage says the three-day conference doesn’t cost much.

“Well, it’ll cost you a little bit of your time to go on the website and register,” he says. “And everything else is free after that. We live in a culture of poverty and we have children here on the Wind River reservation that go to bed hungry at night because they don’t have no meal. And so we want to make sure people eat. So we’re feeding them a healthy breakfast and a healthy lunch.”

The Native Health Equity conference takes place June 8th through the 10th at the Wind River Casino in Riverton.