Written by Margaret King, BS, American Indian Alzheimer’s Research Ambassador, University of Wisconsin-Madison Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center
Larry “Sonny” Hill, Mohawk, is a Traditional Knowledge Keeper in Oneida. We talked about his thoughts about
Alzheimer’s disease and roles of the community.“It was not prominent back then; our people never had a name for it. Caregiving was not a job. It was part of the family responsibility because they loved them and cared for them (elders).”When asked how it develops, he responded, “diet has a lot to do with this. And genetics. People used to live to their 80s and 90s. A lot of people are mixed now; this may have to do with the current strength of our bodies (less). Other causes are stress…depression, alcoholism, drugs, racism, and discrimination. If we continue to abuse our mind and abuse our body, something is going to pay.”He also commented, “People feel lots of pressure these days; they need a place to carry less stress and feel safe. Stress affects the mind.”
He added, “Spirituality is important. We need to have strong faith. We use our medicine societies. Our ceremonies always talk about making our mind strong and the body will follow. We also use our social dances. We exercise our bodies in our dances and carry away that stress. We also need each other; it is hard to take on the world by yourself.”
Other tenets he shared include, “My grandparents were always working. They had a strong work ethic and taught me too also. This keeps the mind healthy, not much time for idle. We should always crave knowledge.”
He added, included keeping the Alzheimer’s disease in perspective, “We should be careful of labeling sickness. We put people in a box and live there. We are much more than that.”
This story is an original excerpt written by Margaret King found in Our Voices: Brain Health Wisdom for Indigenous People: August issue. For additional information regarding this story, please reach out to Margaret King.