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Indian Health Service Works to Address Bullying in Tribal Communities

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November is Native American Heritage Month. Across the country native communities are celebrating their heritage. I’d like to tell you about a project that I work with that is addressing the issue of bullying and is making a lasting impact on one community.

The Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium Domestic Violence Prevention Program is a project funded by the Indian Health Service (IHS) Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative (DVPI).

As a health educator for the project, I see bullying, and other aggressive behaviors, in our schools, playgrounds, workplace and homes. It affects everyone in the community. Through education and raising awareness, we are engaging our communities to prevent bullying and other types of abuse.

Our surrounding communities include the Alaska Native Tlingit Village in Klukwan, Skagway Traditional Council and Chilkoot Indian Association. We participate in monthly radio interviews and talk to our communities about:

  • Cyberbullying;
  • How to recognize the signs and symptoms of bullying;
  • Actions to take if you see bullying, abuse, domestic violence, or sexual assault; and
  • Other aggressive behaviors

As part of the project, we write educational articles for the newspaper each month, participate in school presentations, host display tables at community events, and put up displays at the library to help engage the whole community. We also hold monthly talking circle meetings and have recently created a Facebook page to reach our younger audience.

We have joined with Alaska Governor Sean Parnell’s initiative, “Standing Up and Speaking Out,” to share what to do when we see abuse. We have held yearly “Choose Respect” marches, where we drum sing, march and share meals together.

The great news is that we are seeing change. The silence is being broken. During our last celebration of “The Healing Pole,” 100 people attended to take a stand against abuse of all forms, including bullying and other aggressive behaviors! As a community, through education and awareness, we are making a difference.