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Healthy Nations Initiative

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina

About the Program

The mission of Project Healthy Cherokee is to promote drug free, healthy communities through community mobilization and increasing awareness of cultural values.

Our goal is to decrease the number of risk factors affecting the young people of our communities while increasing the number of protective factors. We are achieving this goal by implementing the Communities That Care risk-focused program assessment model into Project Healthy Cherokee’s existing programs and further linking them with projects which are culturally relevant to our population and its needs.

The first year of Project Healthy Cherokee began with three communities: Birdtown, Big Y, and Snowbird. We will implement programs into three additional communities the second year, and four more communities the third year.
All programs have been designed to:

  1. Provide public awareness, community prevention, early identification and options for treatment.
  2. Be culturally relevant and convey cultural values.
  3. Work in cooperation with the individual communities and their people as well as providers and professionals.
  4. Address the risk and protective factors as identified in Communities that Care.
  5. Improve the health and well being of our communities, especially our young people.
  6. Bring about changes in attitude and involvement.
  7. Focus on changing the future of our communities.
  8. Teach self efficacy.

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Host Community/Organization

The Cherokee Indian Reservation is comprised of 56,573 acres of mountain land in five counties of Western North Carolina. Of this amount 158.8 acres have been acquired by the Federal Government for administrative and educational purposes. Of the remainder, approximately 47,915 acres are forest land and the balance is agricultural land or home and business sites.

The Qualla Boundary, which encircles the main area of the reservation (approximately 45,000 acres), is situated in the heart of the Smoky Mountains and borders the eastern edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The rest of the reservation is made up of small tracts from 50 to 4,000 acres which are scattered throughout the area. The topography of the reservation is extremely mountainous, rising from an elevation of 2,000 feet at agency headquarters to over 5,000 feet at Soco Bald, a difference of some 3,000 feet in a distance of 8 miles. Level and suitable land for farming is very limited and is confined to narrow strips along the main waterways.

At one time, the Cherokee people possessed lands extending over a territory of 53,000 square miles These lands covered half of what we now know as Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia, and some portions of Kentucky, South Carolina and North Carolina. However, in 1838, General Winifield Scott was ordered by Congress to move the Cherokees further west, to what we now know as the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, under military escort. According to historical records, the Cherokee were considered the most law-abiding and peaceful residents of the entire mountain area. However, they were herded into stockades and held for weeks before being marched nearly a thousand miles to Oklahoma. Many Cherokees died on the way. This mass forced exodus reflects one of the most dismal pages in American history.

All of the present day Cherokees are descendants of one tribe. Those making the march of the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma are called Western Cherokees, and the few that were left behind, refused to go, or who went part way and then returned, are called the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

An amendment to the Charter grants the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians the responsibility for its own Tribal Government, which is modeled after the American Constitution. The Legislative body of the Tribal Government consists of a Tribal Council, which is an elected body of 12 representatives. These elected officials serve for two years. The Executive Department consists of an elected Principal Chief, an elected Vice-Chief and an Executive Advisor. The Executive Department is elected to four year terms. The Judicial Department consists of the Tribal CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) System.

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Strategy 1: Public Awareness Campaign

In order to meet their public awareness goals, Healthy Cherokee facilitated the following activities and services:

  • Presentation of HC was delivered to Tribal Council.
  • Developed slogan/theme for prevention efforts.
  • Five-hundred brochures for Behavioral Health are being developed for distribution throughout the communities and at Health Fairs.
  • Posters with a substance abuse and injury prevention theme were developed using our local youth and distributed throughout the community.
  • T-shirts with prevention messages were purchased and distributed to the Health Cherokee Soccer Teams.
  • Spas - being completed by Healthy Cherokee, CHS Flamekeepers, Cherokee Police Department. Announcements are being made in schools, communities, ball games, etc.
  • Articles in One Feather - Prevention articles are being published weekly not only by Healthy Cherokee, but community clubs and youth groups are starting to publish them as well.
  • Participated in Red Ribbon Week and 3D Month.
  • Facilitated Great American Smokeout activities to encourage people to stop smoking for one day. People were given survival kits with gum, straws, mints, carrots, broccoli, toothpicks, etc. Prevention classes were also held at the Cherokee Elementary School to educate the youth on the risks and dangers of smoking. The students seemed to be very interested in the class and made several positive comments.
  • Health/Wellness fairs - Heart Health Day at Tsali Care Center - the goal of this activity is to encourage physical fitness through our walking program.
  • Women's Wellness Fair - to educate women on the importance of mammograms and breast health and to provide information and reminders to women on breast health. The fair was a success although an effort needs to be made in the future to increase attendance. There were a number of other health care providers present and all had valuable issues to address, and informative material available.
  • Cherokee Indian Fair - Health & Safety Day - to bring together health professionals to teach the general public about Health & Safety. It also gives the public a chance to meet those who provide care for them. Free screenings were also provided.
  • Children's Day at the Fair - to educate children about health and drug free lifestyles through games. We worked with Health Education and gave out Healthy Cherokee items as prizes. 
  • "Our Communities Care" Newsletter - Ongoing on quarterly basis. 
  • Elder's Pow Wow - Helps to recognize the elders for the contributions to the community, giving them a sense of self-worth. This is also a good time to sit and chat and learn from them.

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Strategy 2: Community-Wide Prevention

In order to meet their community-wide prevention goals, Healthy Cherokee facilitated the following activities and services:

  • Community Prevention Task Force - Utilizing Community Clubs and Community Club Council. Many great ideas have come from these organizations.
  • Wolfetown Community Revitalization Project - 9 adults and 2 youth came out to help put up a new sign and clean up the community club building.
  • Wolfetown Youth Group - The kids planned a Christmas party and decorated the community building.
  • BB Presentation for Indian Health Service Staff - Visually and aurally demonstrated the number of people killed by drugs, drinking and smoking.
  • Painttown After School Makeovers - Held to heighten the self-esteem of these children. They enjoyed it so much they are asking for another.
  • Painttown After School Program - difficult to find activities that keep kids busy and are also beneficial to physical fitness. Children played various games and worked on teamwork, sharing and taking turns.
  • Cancer Walk in Conjunction with the Cherokee Women's Wellness Center - to walk to support the Cancer Support Group and to raise money and to help raise Cancer awareness.
  • Wolfetown Halloween Party - We had a great turn out and incorporated safety and drug free messages. Also encouraged the kids to come to youth group and to be more active.
  • Develop Community Action Plans - We are currently meeting with all communities to update plans completed in previous years.
  • Community Soccer Clinic - To teach our youth the basics fundamentals of Soccer. The clinic was very successful. 50 youth participated and are eager to play on a team.
  • Highway Safety Coalition Police, Fire, and EMS appreciation breakfast - To show our appreciation to our local emergency personnel. 
  • Painttown Scrapbook Class - to get the community members together to take an interest in activities taking place within their community. Scrapbooking is also a part of the Community Development Awards and if communities have good scrapbook they can win money. The class was a success and very beneficial.
  • Birdtown Scrapbook Class - to encourage the community to document community history, activities, and events. Also to compete in the Community Development Scrapbooking Contest. 
  • G.E.T.O.U.T. Rally and Graffiti removal - To educate the community on the presence of gang activity . To involve the community in the removal of gang graffiti. The project did make the front page of the Cherokee One Feather.
  • Step Aerobics Class: The Chemical Dependency Unit has started to combine fitness classes along with traditional treatment methods.
  • Community Fitness Class - To encourage our people to exercise to feel good about themselves. The class was successful and beneficial. 
  • Caterpillar Walking Club - To involve our youth in fitness activities. To teach them activities they can do indoors and outdoors. This program is always successful and the youth enjoy doing it. They would like to start a walking club after school.

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Strategy 3: Early Identification, Intervention and Referral

In order to meet their early identification and intervention goals, Healthy Cherokee facilitated the following activities and services:

  • Girl Power Summer Reading Club for 5th and 6th grade girls - To broaden the world around our girls through books. To occupy their spare time, encourage them to open up about their feelings. To improve communication skills, reading skills, and self-confidence. Local women who are considered role models read with the girls also. This has been very successful. The girls enjoy talking not only about the books they read, but also about things going on in their lives. They never miss a meeting.
  • Girl Power II Summer Reading Club for ages 7-9 - To offer the girls a head start in reading. To increase the reading level of our girls. To encourage them to talk about their feelings. The club is very successful.
  • F.A.S. Focus Group - To have a focus group to discuss Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and develop an educational video starring local people. The presenter thought the groups went very well and she collected a lot of information that will be helpful to her.
  • Junaluska Leadership - To make the Junaluska Leadership Council better than it has been in previous years. The program has become very successful. Tribal Council has taken them "under their wing" and have taught them a lot and made them feel important and needed. Principals from each of the schools have become involved in writing Resolutions, meetings, and Junaluska Council Sessions. The Junaluska Leadership Council have been invited to participate in the Inauguration Ceremony.
  • "One Way to Play" - To make "One Way to Play" a beneficial program. Improvements have been made to the program. We are purchasing drug prevention materials such as videos and are making the public aware of the program. A "One Way to Play" ceremony was held, where the athletes made a public promise to be drug free. The ceremony made the front page of the Cherokee One Feather.
  • North Star Paintball Team - To offer a mentor program that the youth would participate in. The group mentoring program is working much better than one-on-one. The youth played every Sunday this summer. We are collaborating with the Drug Elimination Program. The participant's attitudes have changed for the better. They are calmer and less aggressive. The mentor talks to them about school, home, drugs, etc.
  • North Star Golf Team - The golf team played paintball this summer and is waiting until fall to play golf.
  • First Night - Held on December 31st. To provide a substance free environment that is fun and exciting.  Several people told us that they would have been drinking if we had not offered this alternative.
  • Youth Service Projects - Projects are ongoing in the communities with active participation from trash pick up to community beautification.
  • Blue Eagles Bike Rodeo - To teach children bicycle safety, and to encourage children who are "afraid" or don't know or trust Police Officers to get to know them. The event was a success and we had a lot of community support and volunteers.

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Strategy 4: Substance Abuse Treatment
and Relapse Prevention

In order to meet their treatment goals, Healthy Cherokee facilitated the following activities and services:

  • Community Sweat Lodges - Available in communities, we are referring people.
  • Smoking Cessation Classes - held in conjunction with the Great American Smokeout.
  • Community Fitness Classes - The Chemical Dependency Unit offers fitness classes for their patients.
  • "Communities That Care" Inservice 
  • Native American AA Convention 

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Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina

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Colorado School of Public Health

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