The American Heart Association (AHA), with four other partners, is honoring all heart attack and stroke survivors and their families in their inaugural pow wow, on November 3, in Concho, Oklahoma.
“This is the first time the American Heart Association is hosting this event. We are putting this event together to raise awareness and significance of heart disease in Indian country,” said Rachel Crawford, AHA’s regional health equity director for Native American/Alaska Native Initiatives.
AHA is collaborating with the Indian Health Service, Cheyenne and Arapaho Diabetes Wellness Program, Cheyenne and Arapaho Community Health Representative Program and the Association of American Indian Physicians (AAIP).
The Honoring the Beat of Life Pow Wow, to be held in Concho Community Hall, features the typical activities associated with a Native gathering, including color guard, gourd dancing and dance competition but with added healthy and free benefits: health screening, adult flu shots, cooking demonstrations and Zumba.
One of the highlights of the event is the special appearance of Native champion professional boxer George “Comanche Boy” Tahdooahnippah. He will deliver an inspirational speech on how he changed his own life with healthy habits.
“Heart disease is a number one killer. We hear of people impacted by heart attack or stroke,” said Crawford, adding that a pow wow is one way to tell people that AHA can provide resources to the community.
“We want to get the whole family together, reach out to mom and dad and deliver the message,” she said.
“The AHA is to be commended for making American Indian health a priority because heart disease is a leading cause of death for tribal citizens in Oklahoma and across the nation,” said Gary Lankford, program director of AAIP.
“We joined in supporting this inaugural pow wow because we are also committed to creating healthier communities and one key way we can do that is through these educational opportunities at family focused events,” he said.
Lankford added that a commitment to preventative healthcare can improve life expectancy and life quality in Indian Country. “We can work to improve heart health by addressing disproportionate obesity and smoking rates in Native families and creating better access to physical exercise and healthy foods.”
The Office of Minority Health said that American Indians/Alaska Native adults are 1.4 times as likely as White adults to be current cigarette smokers; twice likely as White adults to be diagnosed with heart disease and 1.3 times as likely as White adults to have high blood pressure.
Crawford said each partner has a role in the pow wow. The Indian Health Service is providing the flu shot; AAIP is sponsoring the speaker and Zumba; the Cheyenne and Arapaho Diabetes Wellness Program is donating the buffalo meat for the free traditional meal that is being served and the Cheyenne and Arapaho Community Health Representative Program is doing the health screening.
Crawford herself, with a nutritionist, will hold the cooking demonstration with new recipes that are Native specifics, such as green chili stew.
“The interesting twist is the traditional meals for everybody,” said Crawford, referring to the pow wow program. The supper to be provided to guests consists of buffalo meat, buffalo stew, vegetables and wild rice.
Performing at the pow wow are Burl Buffalomeat as MC; Ricky Candy as head singer; George Levi as head man; Roberta Hamilton as head woman; Kendrick Sleeper as arena director and V.A. Warriors Color Guard as color guard.
There is a winner-take-all dance adult contest in combined categories and tiny tots. The categories include fancy and jingle, buckskin and cloth, straight and traditional dance and grass and fancy.
If this event is successful, Crawford said she anticipates a pow wow on a grander scale, possibly to be held in New Mexico next year.