UW will launch Indigenous Wellness Research Institute at April 12 celebration
Between 400 and 500 people are expected to attend an evening celebration that will launch the University of Washington’s new Indigenous Wellness Research Institute on April 12 in Kane Hall on the Seattle UW campus.
The research institute, which was established to help American Indians and other indigenous people achieve health and wellness, will be headquartered in the School of Social Work, but will draw on faculty expertise from across campus. Researchers from School of Medicine, School of Nursing, the psychology, American Indian studies and women studies departments, and social work are participating, under the leadership of Karina Walters, an associate professor of social work.
The April 12 celebration will run from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and will include vow-making ceremonies, a blessing, entertainment and food. Among the entertainers are emcee Muriel Miguel, Keith Knight, Pura Fé, the Blacklodge Singers, Kinnie Starr and Ulali.
The celebration is free and open to the public. However, reservations are suggested because of limited space. Reservation may be made on the Web at www. IWRI.org.
The main research focuses of the institute are environmental health, pandemics, chronic diseases, poverty and inequality.
“These are major areas of concern across the globe that disproportionately effect indigenous people,” said Walters, who is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation. “It is logical to have this institute in Seattle. We have a strong Native American community here, we are two hours from Canada with its First Nations people and we are part of the Pacific Rim with its many indigenous groups.”
In exploring these areas of concern, Walters said the institute hopes to develop the research capacity in indigenous communities and bring more indigenous people into universities.
“We want to focus on indigenous community research priorities,” said Walters. "This means providing research support and development so indigenous people can set the research agenda for their own communities. Our work in the institute in collaboration with tribes has the power to benefit not only the tribes, but all communities.
The new institute evolved from an earlier Native Wellness Center at the UW and has received $1.35 million over six years in startup funding from the university. In addition, Walters was awarded the William B. and Ruth Gerberding endowed professorship as she develops the institute.
Researchers at the institute are currently involved in a number projects. Two studies funded by the National Institute of Mental Health have the umbrella title of the Honor Project. One looks at the health and wellness of Two-Spirit, or gay, lesbian, and bisexual American Indians while the second investigates health of American Indians living with HIV/AIDS regardless of their sexual orientation. More recently, researchers began a cardiovascular disease study in cooperation with the Tulalip Tribe that is funded through 2011 by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
In addition, institute faculty head a five-year training grant funded by the Department of Health and Human Services designed to increase the number of American Indian students who will go into Indian Child Welfare Work. This program funds bachelors and masters level studies and 11 students are currently enrolled.
Future research areas include alcohol and drug use in native communities, meth-amphetamine prevention, boarding school and intergenerational issues, according to Walters.
The Indigenous Wellness Research Institute has forged collaborations with the Puyallup and Tulalip tribes, the Seattle Indian Health Board, United American Indian Involvement in Los Angeles, Indigenous People Task Force in Minneapolis, American Indian Community House in New York, National Native American AIDS Prevention Center in Oakland and Urban Indian Health Institute in Seattle.
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