By Patrick Winderl
ROCKY BOY'S INDIAN RESERVATION - Two men were honored for their work in diabetes prevention and education at a cultural event at Rocky Boy Thursday night.
Dr. Sanford Garfield and Dr. Lawrence Agodoa of the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C., were participants in a round dance in the former Stone Child College gymnasium. The two men were presented symbolic gifts during the ceremony by Alvin Windy Boy Sr., chairman of the Chippewa Cree Tribe.
Thursday, Garfield and Agodoa attended a conference in Great Falls to meet with tribal leaders from Montana and Wyoming to discuss Indian health issues. Following the conference they traveled to Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation for the round dance. The two men stayed Thursday night in Havre and were to return to Rocky Boy today to tour the new Stone Child College campus.
Stone Child College is one of eight participants in the Diabetes-Based Science Education in Tribal Schools, or DETS program. Garfield and Agodoa are working with the eight institutions to increase diabetes awareness and encourage tribal youth to enter the medical field, Garfield said.
"Our primary goal is to develop programs that interest tribal youth in science and medicine," he said. "We are working to develop curriculum that would encourage tribal youth to enter the medical field, and find cultural ways to implement the programs."
The secondary goal of the DETS program is to create awareness about diabetes and encourage fitness and a healthy diet, Garfield said. The doctors plan to visit the campuses of all eight tribal colleges participating in DETS, he added. Stone Child College is the fourth so far.
Native Americans are 2.8 times more likely to have diabetes than whites, according to the Montana Department of Health and Human Services.
Garfield and Agodoa represent the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. The institute is a branch of the National Institutes of Health.
The two men have worked with the Tribal Leaders Diabetes Committee to address the prevalence of the disease in the Native American population, Garfield said. The committee is a national panel of elected tribal leaders that advises the government regarding diabetes issues. Alvin Windy Boy Sr. serves as co-chair for the committee.
Garfield and Agodoa were given beaded necklaces and belt buckles in recognition of their work in diabetes education and prevention.
"We would like to bestow upon you a small token of our appreciation for your efforts and accomplishments in bringing important programs to our community and the national level," Windy Boy said during the presentation. "We are honored you took the journey to visit our community."
The doctors accepted the gifts with smiles and handshakes.
"It is a very important journey," Agodoa said. "We will be with you as long as we can."