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Native Voices: Native Peoples’ Concepts of Health and Illness

Jonas Lamb

The traveling exhibition, produced by the National Library of Medicine, explores the connection between wellness, illness, and cultural life through a combination of interviews with Native people, artwork, objects, and interactive media. The free exhibition will be open to the public at the Egan Library on the University of Alaska Southeast, Auke Lake Campus during regular open hours (Monday-Thursday 8a.m. to 10p.m., Friday 8a.m. to 5p.m., Saturday 11a.m. to 5p.m., Sunday 11a.m.-8p.m.) from September 11 through December 13, 2015. The Alaska leg of the exhibition began at the WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho) School of Medical Education in Anchorage during winter 2014-2015 before travelling to Juneau making stops this summer at the Alaska State Library and the Sealaska Heritage Institute.

In recognition that Southeast Alaska is the cultural homeland for the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples who have lived here for generations, UAS emphasizes the values of Alaska Native languages and culture in its mission. “The Native Voices exhibition is coming to UAS at an incredible time,” says Jonas Lamb, Public Services Librarian at the Egan Library. “The exhibition is arriving amidst a flurry of activity on campus celebrating Alaska Native and Indigenous language and culture. We’re celebrating ‘Blonde Indian: An Alaska Native Memoir’ by Ernestine Hayes as part of our campus big read. The Sustaining Indigenous Languages film series Language Matters is happening Thursday nights September 17th to October 1st featuring 3 films with facilitated discussions with filmmakers about language revitalization efforts among the Lakota, Cherokee and other endangered indigenous languages. We’re also partnering the Juneau Public Libraries on their StoryCorps project collecting interviews documenting the Alaska Native Educational Experiences.”

The National Library of Medicine has a history of working with Native communities as part of the Library’s commitment to make health information resources accessible to people no matter where they live or work. The Native Voices exhibition concept grew out of meetings with Native leaders in Alaska, Hawai`i and the Lower 48.

“This exhibition honors the Native tradition of oral history and establishes a unique collection of information,” says Donald A.B. Lindberg, MD, director of the National Library of Medicine. “We hope visitors will find Native Voices both educational and inspirational, and we hope Native people will view it with pride.”

The National Library of Medicine is the world's largest library of the health sciences and collections, organizes and makes available biomedical science information to scientists, health professionals and the public. It celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2011. For more information, visit the exhibition online at the National Library of Medicine’s website.

Additional Info

The traveling exhibition features interviews and works from Native people living on reservations, in tribal villages, and in cities. Topics include: Native views of land, food, community, earth/nature, and spirituality as they relate to Native health; the relationship between traditional healing and Western medicine in Native communities; economic and cultural issues that affect the health of Native communities; efforts by Native communities to improve health conditions; and the role of Native Americans in military service and healing support for returning Native veterans. Those unable to visit the traveling exhibition can find most of the exhibition content on the Native Voices website.


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