A traveling exhibit featuring input from dozens of experts on Native Americans' health and wellness is in Anchorage for the summer.
The "Native Voices" exhibit is on display at the Dena'ina Center as part of the National Congress of American Indians. The National Library of Medicine spent more than six years compiling information and interviews from more than 70 people across the United States about Native American health and culture and its role alongside contemporary medicine.
"Traditional healing is bringing together native values that have been in our Native community for thousands of years, way before Western medicine arrived," said Dr. Ted Mala, director of traditional healing at the Southcentral Foundation. "The idea behind this is to culturally give a strong base to healing that works in the Western medical center also."
Mala was one of the interviews featured in the exhibit, as well as Katherine Gottlieb, president and CEO of the Southcentral Foundation. According to Gottlieb, Alaska Native health has changed, especially with Western influence. However, Alaska Natives are now owning their health, she said, making changes such as living smoke-free, focusing on nutrition, and addressing obesity.
"When people own their own health, they own their own behaviors -- and if we own what we're going to do, we can't blame anyone else anymore if we're not doing it right," said Gottlieb.
The exhibit also explores the connection between wellness and cultural life, as well as how Indian and Native communities have worked to improve health conditions.
"Native Voices" will be at the Dena'ina Center through Wednesday. After that, it will be on display at the Alaska Native Heritage Center until September, makes its way to other health centers in Alaska through March 2015.