After a delicious lunch of Three Sisters Stew, buffalo (and vegan!) meatballs, and cornbread, and following a delightful, warm, and humor-filled musical performance by Jackie Bird, a Dakota and Hidatsa Native American Performer, we all returned to the lecture hall for an afternoon session featuring four CRCAIH Tribal Partners, Kathryn ("Katie") Blindman (OST), Anita Frederick (TMBCI), Heather Larsen (SWO), and Simone Bordeaux (RST) (Patti DuFault from Fond du Lac, and Ashley Parisien from Turtle Mountain couldn't make it due to the snow).
Melissa Buffalo moderated, and began by introducing CRCAIH's aims, cores, and divisions. CRCAIH was founded in 2012 with the expressed two-pronged goal of increasing tribal communities' capacity for research, and increasing the amount of quality, innovative research being conducted in American Indian health. There were two tribal partners written into the original contract, the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and, since then, five tribes have been added to the partnership.
This is the last year of the CRCAIH grant, and the purpose of the session was, more than anything, to convey the importance of these partnerships over the past five years for establishing and strengthening tribal research infrastructure. The CRCAIH partners were able to collaborate with one another, and to utilize the CRCAIH Cores---the Collection Methods, Management and Analysis of Data Core, to help plan and design research projects; and the Research Ethics and Dissemination Core, to provide research support, for example---in order to create and strengthen their individual tribal IRBs/RRBs.
Amidst discussions about resource sharing, community needs assessments, networking, and retreats, Heather Larsen took a moment to explain just how helpful these collaborative partnerships have been to the work she does in her tribal community. The tribal partner collaboration was not an expected outcome of the grant, she pointed out, but over the years, as they started sharing their stories, their struggles, and their goals, they realized just how beneficial sharing information and resources was. For Heather, having such a unique, accessible community just a phone call away has been critical to the work she's been able to accomplish in Sisseton. "It's not just the funding, it's the support" that makes CRCAIH so effective, Heather said, and the impending loss of that partnership is scary. "I look up to the ladies I'm sitting by," she said, and you could tell she really meant it.
Anita concluded the session with an impassioned speech about continuing CRCAIH through a mentoring program, despite the end of funding in the next year. "None of this has been easy," she said, but it has clearly been worth it. Sitting in the audience, listening to the five intelligent, passionate women speak at the front of the room about their tribes, their families, and their commitments, left me feeling confident that, while CRCAIH might change in the coming year, it certainly won't vanish.
By: Anna Simonson, PhD | Kenyon Lab | Post-doctoral Fellow | Sanford Research