Published On: Mon, Aug 12th, 2013

Tribal member speaks at Center for Global Health Diversity event

EBCI artist Faren Sanders Crews addresses the Center for Global Health about stereotypes of American Indians at the CGH Diversity Council’s annual event last month.  (Photos contributed)

EBCI artist Faren Sanders Crews addresses the Center for Global Health about stereotypes of American Indians at the CGH Diversity Council’s annual event last month. (Photos contributed)

By AMY CLARK

SPECIAL TO THE ONE FEATHER

 

The Center for Global Health (CGH) Diversity Council hosted its annual event July 10, which this year spotlighted American Indian/Alaska Native cultures with a celebration of the Green Corn Ceremony. This ceremony is typically celebrated with dancing, feasting, fasting, and ridding the body of impurities. It gives thanks to the creator for the corn and early harvest and is traditionally celebrated by a number of American Indian peoples of the Eastern Woodlands and Southeastern tribes.

The highlight of the CGH event was featured speaker and artist Faren Sanders Crews, an EBCI tribal member, who delivered an inspiring lecture about her life, family, and experiences as a Cherokee woman and a direct descendant of survivors of the Trail of Tears.

Crews greets CGH and AI/AN/NH Coalition guests at the Celebration of Green Corn.

Crews greets CGH and AI/AN/NH Coalition guests at the Celebration of Green Corn.

Event emcee Pamela Moseley of CGH, who is also Crews’ cousin, remarks, “As a tribal member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma—direct descendant from the Trail of Tears by both my grandparents Edward Sanders and Nellie Sixkiller—it was a privilege to have been able to serve as the emcee to the diversity event and hear my cousin speak on our Cherokee heritage. Too often, Native Americans are the lost minority in today’s world and it filled me with pride that our people were honored by the Diversity Council in such a manner.”

Crews’ discussion at the diversity event included personal anecdotes about the Green Corn celebration, Cherokee history, tribal culture, and pervasive Native American stereotypes. She shared details about her early life on the reservation, and having the honor of being named Miss Cherokee and Miss UGA (she is the only Native American to have held this distinction).

Pamela Moseley, Dean Seneca and Crews are shown at the CGH Diversity Council’s Celebration of Green Corn.

Pamela Moseley, Dean Seneca and Crews are shown at the CGH Diversity Council’s Celebration of Green Corn.

Perhaps most importantly for CDC, Crews elaborated on the many humanitarian activities she has been involved in all her life by practicing the Cherokee tribal characteristic of gadugi, which means “working or coming together,” and how this principle relates to public health. According to Crews, “Gadugi to the Cherokee people is a way of life, a tribal principle of helping others by working together. Ga-du is literally ‘bread’ in our language… [It means] sustenance, support, providing nourishment, [and] sustaining life. [Gadugi] encompasses helping hands [and] serving others and is an ancient tradition and active lifestyle of serving the whole. It is believed to have come from the warrior tradition [which] was always ready to serve. The CDC and CGH encompass these same traits. It is good to identify the works of your important organizations as common threads. I honor your works and your people.”

The CGH Diversity Council, inspired by the mission of CDC’s Office of Diversity Management and Equal Employment Opportunity (ODMEEO), began in 2007 and has grown from eight members to represent all divisions in CGH. The council chooses a different culture to celebrate at each annual event, and for this year’s celebration, it was eager to team with another active CDC organization, the American Indian/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian (AI/AN/NH) Coalition. The main goals of this group include promoting a better understanding, appreciation, and respect for American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiian people as part of the CDC/ATSDR work environment, as well as to serve as a resource for CDC staff on issues relevant to AI/AN/NH employees and constituents. It proved a successful partnership, with coalition members providing advice and guidance to the CGH Diversity Council, and culminating with a short presentation by coalition president Dean Seneca to conclude the event. Says Seneca, “It warms my heart and thrills our coalition that out of all the different ethnicities throughout the world, CGH would choose to celebrate the American Indian/Alaska Native people. This honor truly speaks to the revitalization and vast richness of the cultures we possess today.”

The CGH celebration was timely not only because the Green Corn Ceremony is often celebrated in the late summer months, but also because of the diversity initiatives various groups around CDC are creating.
The event also helped CGH employees make connections between the public health work they perform in collaboration with governments overseas and the government-to-government model CDC employs in its work through various public health programs impacting American Indian and Alaska Native populations. Programs in various centers remark on this model. “CDC supports and respects tribal sovereignty and self-determination for Indian tribes. Tribal Support, housed within the Office for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support (OSTLTS), focuses on fulfilling CDC’s supportive role in ensuring that American Indian/Alaska Native communities receive public health services that keep them safe and healthy. All peoples contribute to the diversity and richness of civilizations and cultures, which constitute the common heritage of humankind.
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