A first-of-its-kind gathering of tribes that receive federal funding to work on brain health and dementia was recently held in Washington, DC. The National Title VI Training and Technical Assistance Conference took place April 11 – 14 at the award-winning Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC. The meeting brought together tribal and public health leaders to share best practices, challenges, and key partners while connecting and learning about each other’s work.
The International Association for Indigenous Aging’s team was able to attend, including IA² Board President Bill Benson, Director of Tribal Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease Projects, Molita Yazzie MSc., M.H.S. (Dine’), Policy and Research Analyst Kendra Kuehn MSW, Public Health Programs and Communications Association Mary Ann OMeara, MPH, Native American Elder Justice Initiative (NAEJI) Project Coordinator Peggy Jo Archer, and Tribal Public Health and Aging Project Assistant Emma Lynch. While at the conference, the IA² team attended a variety of speaking engagements and met other tribal grantees, Title VI, and other native elder-based organizations.
The IA² team also successfully shared and provided on-site copies of our recently released American Indian and Alaska Native Brain Health documents. These documents included the Healthy Food, Healthy Brain Rack Cards, the 10 Signs of Thinking or Memory Changes that Might be Dementia, the Healthy Heart, Healthy Brain flyer, and the Risk Reduction flyer, among many others. These resources are also available for print to tribal organizations. IA²’s Kendra Kuehn had the opportunity to share about the IA² resources during the April 14 session alongside Edie Yau, Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the Alzheimer’s Association, Northern California and Northern Nevada Chapter.
IA² members also attended the day long session held on April 11 by Mike Splaine, Splaine Consulting, Dr. Jordan Lewis, Memory Keepers, Mary Weston AAA Program Manager ITCA, and Amber Hoon Tribal Dementia Care Program Coordinator Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council. This session consisted of mixed-style presenting and audience participation, and break-out group discussions with a roundtable being hosted by our own Director of Tribal Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease Projects, Molita Yazzie MSc., M.H.S. (Dine’). During the session, there was also an opportunity to hear about upcoming ways to participate in the future adaptation of the Road Map for Indian Country; remarks shared by Shelby Robers, Director of the Healthy Brain Initiative at the Alzheimer’s Association. The final remarks of the session included the need for materials and resources in tribal communities and a strong emphasis on sustainable tribal-centered solutions.
Our NAEJI Team facilitated a three-hour pre-intensive session on Elder Justice with presentations from Marcia Hall from Shoshone-Bannock Tribe’s Adult Protection Services, Jenefer Duane from Consumer Financial Protection Bureau CFPB and Sahar Takshi from Justice in Aging.
In this session, Bill Benson and Peggy Jo facilitated a 90-minute listening session on financial exploitation hosted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). This session led to an insightful discussion on financial abuse and exploitation in Indian Country.
Later in the week, NAEJI held a listening session on Elder Justice in Indian Country. The NAEJI team asked various questions to gain an understanding of what elder justice looks like in various communities. The feedback from this session will help inform the work of NAEJI.
The NAEJI team had an opportunity to connect with the some of the Native American Elder Justice Initiative Advisory Committee members over dinner. It was nice to gather in person and talk about the work of NAEJI.
Bill also participated in a panel discussion on the Older Americans Act Title VI Elder Justice with Rhonda Schwartz-ACL, David Godfrey- American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging, Percy Devine- ACL (Administration for Community Living), and Marcia Hall Shoshone-Bannock Tribe’s Adult Protection Services.
Lastly, Bill participated in a panel on Title VI Coordinated Legal Services alongside Mary Wolf (Tribal Aging & Disability Programs, Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council), which was facilitated by Rhonda Schwartz.
To close out the conference, Bill was wrapped in a blanket by Cynthia LaCounte and Sonya Begay in a traditional ceremony that represents one of the highest honors that can be bestowed by tribes. The blanket, and the ceremonial “robing” of the recipient, symbolizes warmth and friendship and is presented to show respect for a person who has made an important contribution to the Native American community.