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Journey to Wellness Conference

On Tuesday, November 14, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community held the third Journey to Wellness conference at the Salt River Community Building. More than 50 Community members and employees came out to learn about an alternative healthier lifestyle that begins with our Native American core values. There were also informational booths hosted by the Salt River Fitness Center, Diabetes Prevention Services and the Community Garden program.

This year’s Journey to Wellness featured five keynote speakers: Community member Thosh Collins and Chelsey Luger from Well for Culture; Felicia Cocotzin Ruiz, chef and founding board member of the nonprofit organization North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems; Tennille L. Marley, Ph.D., MPH, assistant professor of American Indian Studies at Arizona State University; and Faye Scott, R.D., CDE, from Eating Healthy and the SRPMIC Diabetes Prevention team.

Collins and Luger opened the conference by encouraging guests to work hard on staying healthy and becoming more active. Collins said, “It all begins with going back to our roots and working on the cultural practices that our ancestors achieved—eating foods from the land they cultivated and staying active.”

Collins went onto say that we can make changes in moderation to reflect our traditional healthy lifestyle. It starts with stimulating the mind by focusing on the Native foods that are good for our bodies, such as wild rice, O’odham seasonal vegetables and natural meats. All these foods are not only good for us, but also positively affect our families and Community. The Well for Culture website has resources for Indigenous foods and fitness.

Marley shared information about the land and history of the White Mountain Apache people and other American Indian reservations. She stressed how important it is to pass American Indian heritage down to the younger generation. “Our ancestors were gatherers and hunters that used the land for sustainability, and we can still do that today,” she said.

During the break, attendees stood up and participated in a Zumba dance led by the Salt River Diabetes Prevention team.

Shortly after that, Felicia Cocotzin Ruiz spoke about the abundance of natural wild foods that are provided to O’odham people here in Arizona. Understanding the food system is important to what kind of food we’re supposed to eat. “As a chef, I want to teach you how to connect to your ancestral DNA, to the food that will help you live,” said Cocotzin Ruiz.

She explained the dishes that were being served for lunch during the conference and included recipes for the attendees to take home and share with their families (see sidebar). Many of the guests were glad to taste the Native dishes that were prepared for them.

Au-Authm Action News asked attendee Francis Rodriguez what brought her out to the wellness event.

“[A] couple reasons—one, I wanted to get myself healthier and make sure I learn as much as possible. And two, I am a social worker, [so I can] relate this information back to my clients as well.”

Staff from Nursing Support Services also were on hand to give out flu vaccines. Drawings for a variety of promotional items were held in the afternoon.

If you would like information on healthy lifestyle changes, contact the SRPMIC Diabetes Prevention program at (480) 362-7320.