Retriever Integrated Health celebrates Native American Heritage Month this November. In the United States there are 574 federally-recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska Native entities that have a wide range of diverse values, beliefs, backgrounds, and speak over 200 languages. While the largest populations of Indigenous/Native people are in some Mid-West and Western states, 2.1% of Maryland's population identifies as American Indian and Alaska Native based on the 2020 Census data, a 119% increase from 2010.
When it comes to health, AI/AN populations have many protective factors that support well-being including (but certainly not limited to) holistic approaches to life, nurturing family bonds, a strong identification with culture, adaptability, and enduring spirit. Participating in shared and meaningful traditions and following the wisdom of the Elders help cultivate and develop Indigenous identity.
We also know the impact of colonization on Indigenous/Native cultures has left many health disparities within communities.
- Barriers to treatment include distrust of government, lack of access in rural communities, and lack of culturally competent providers in addition to economic barriers.
- Multi-generational trauma that leaves people vulnerable to mental illness, substance abuse, and suicide.
- In 2019 18.7% of AI/NA adults reported experiencing a mental illness in the last year.
- National data also shows earlier initiation of drug and alcohol use compared to other races/ethnicities and that the suicide death rate for Native/Indigenous people ages 15-19 years is more than double that of non-Hispanic whites.
It is with both these protective and risk factors that RIH encourages Indigenous/Native students to reach out and schedule needed medical and mental health appointments in addition to connecting to cultural resources within the community. RIH medical services include sick care as well as preventative care (including immunizations). RIH counseling services are free and confidential for students.
Some community organizations that support Indigenous/Native health include:
- Native American LifeLines, LLC
- One Sky Center
- StrongHearts Native Helpline for domestic and sexual violence