Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

Native Voices: Native Peoples' Concepts of Health and Illness in New Mexico: Opening a Local Conversation by Hosting a National Traveling Exhibit

Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

Native Voices: Native Peoples' Concepts of Health and Illness in New Mexico: Opening a Local Conversation by Hosting a National Traveling Exhibit

Article excerpt


Native Voices: Native Peoples' Concepts of Health and Illness (Native Voices) [1] is an outgrowth of the National Library of Medicine's (NLM's) American Indian health information outreach work, starting with Tribal Connections in 1998 to 2003 in the Pacific Northwest and Southwest [2, 3], which focused on improving Internet connectivity and providing health information training. The Native Voices traveling exhibit concept emerged from NLM consultations with tribes held in 2003 to 2008 at Ft. Yates, North Dakota; Anchorage, Alaska; Honolulu, Hawaii; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Seattle, Washington. The exhibit features interviews with healers, community members, and elders from tribes across the United States, allowing visitors to hear people's stories in their own words. Conceptually, Native Voices: explores the interconnectedness of wellness, illness, and cultural life for Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. how Native concepts of health and illness are closely tied to the concepts of community, spirit, and the land. [4]

Pilot-testing of the Native Voices exhibit began in 2013, which laid the groundwork for nationwide deployment of the exhibit to 104 sites over 4 years, in partnership with the American Library Association (ALA). The University of New Mexico (UNM) Health Sciences Library and Informatics Center (HSLIC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, served as one of the test sites. The HSLIC has served as the state's National Network of Libraries of Medicine Resource Library for more than 20 years and is 1 of 2 academic health sciences libraries in New Mexico. The HSLIC employs a full-time native and distance services librarian and has ongoing outreach efforts to American Indians, with services focused on health information delivery, health information training, and collection development consultation.

New Mexico is one of the most rural states in the nation, averaging 17 people per square mile compared with a nationwide average of 87.4 people per square mile [5]. Geographically, it is the fifth largest state in the United States. New Mexico is home to 22 federally recognized American Indian tribes-19 distinct Pueblo, Jicarilla Apache, Mescalero Apache, and Eastern Navajo Nation-and 10.4% of New Mexico's population is American Indian [6]. These tribes are historically indigenous to the region, maintaining their native languages, cultures, and traditions. Therefore, it was important to take the exhibit outside of Albuquerque to those who might have found it meaningful but were unable to travel to Albuquerque.


Our goal was to promote local interest in the Native Voices exhibit, with an emphasis on making the exhibit content and materials available to American Indian communities throughout rural New Mexico. With further support from NLM, the authors sought to extend the impact of the Native Voices exhibit with outreach activities to American Indian communities.


Hosting the exhibit and summit

The UNM HSLIC hosted the Native Voices exhibit on the UNM campus in Albuquerque April through October 2015. The exhibit arrived in 3 500-pound crates, containing 6 banners with printed exhibit text and images and 6 iPad listening stations. The Native Voices exhibit was displayed in the lobby of the education building. The tracking of building use showed more than 23,000 visits during the period of the exhibit. Gayle DinéChacon, a UNM professor of family and community medicine and founder of the UNM Center for Native American Health, who delivered the opening keynote address, said the exhibit "validates our history, our people, and their voices." She stressed the importance of sovereignty, community, ceremony, tradition, family, and the environment to American Indian people as well as life balance and the right to health care.

After consultation with leaders in American Indian health and HSLIC faculty, coordinated by HSLIC's native and distance services librarian, we convened a daylong summit to bring together American Indian health educators, health advocates, and community health workers to discuss concepts of health and wellness. …

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