Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Interview with Francine Gachupin, Co-author of Health and Social Issues of Native American Women

What prompted you to write Health and Social Issues of Native American Women? What "message" do you want to communicate?

Native American women are remarkable contributors to tribal societies and native family structures.  Their dreams and hopes for the safely, well-being and happiness of their families and communities are often at the forefront of their daily activities and yet, many of them struggle with a plethora of issues.  Our book highlights some of the challenges faced by Native American women and underscores their incredible strength and resiliency.  

What was the highlight of your research? In the course of your research, what discovery surprised you the most? What surprises readers/others the most about your research?

The highlight of the book and the research within its chapter is the Native American women authors.  The book is the voice of the women themselves, for many of the chapters are on topics of the lives lived by the women themselves.  The book is a culmination of challenges surpassed and accomplishments achieved.  

How did your research change your outlook on the topic?

The book is tangible proof that Native American women can succeed and do well for themselves, their families, and their communities without compromising their traditional beliefs, values and identity.  Each of the chapters provides valuable resources and overview of approaches to problems, that unfortunately, are too commonplace.

How have people reacted to your book and/or the ideas you set forth? Is it what you hoped for, or is there more work to be done?

The book is relatively new and so far, the reaction from people has been very positive.  The book provides a good foundation and more work does need to be done to provide similar background and context for other issues related to health and social issues for Native American women.

What's next for you?

My personal professional goal has always been to provide tribes with technical assistance in addressing health disparity issues for their respective tribes and I continue to work and strive to provide accurate and timely data to tribes.

Francine C. Gachupin, PhD, MPH, CIP, is operations manager of the Human Research Protection Office at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. She has extensive experience working with American Indian tribal communities focusing on chronic disease surveillance, public health practice, epidemiology and research. Gachupin obtained her doctorate from the University of New Mexico and her master's degree in public health from the University of Washington.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Interview with Jennie Joe, Co-author of Health and Social Issues of Native American Women

The idea and encouragement to undertake this book project emerged out of a series of discussion with the publisher. There was a general agreement that there was a need to capture some of the critical health concerns and social issues experienced by contemporary Native American women. In particular, concerns and issues that can be casted through the lens of Native Women scholars.

What "message" do you want to communicate?

One of the aims of the book was to provide a meaningful context for the issues discussed, including relevant history and the impact of colonization. The intent was also to illustrate interventions or solutions being undertaken to address these concerns. 

What was the highlight of your research? In the course of your research, what discovery surprised you the most? What surprises readers/others the most about your research?

We hope the readers see the emphasis placed by the contributors on personal and cultural resiliency and endurance as an integral part of survival for many Native American women. 

How did your research change your outlook on the topic?

We tried to avoid adding to existing negative stereotypes but to focus on issues of importance to Native American women and their ability to tap into their socio-cultural strengths to manage multiple problems encountered.

How have people reacted to your book and/or the ideas you set forth? Is it what you hoped for, or is there more work to be done?

The reaction has been positive so far. We hope our colleagues will continue to add to knowledge through their work and publications.

What's next for you?

Maybe a look at cross-cultural comparison with women from other cultures and/or a focus on intergenerational changes faced by Native American families as they adapt to a rapidly changing world.  

Jennie R. Joe, PhD, MPH, MA, is professor emeritus in family and community medicine at the University of Arizona, Tucson. She received her doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley. Her scholarly activities and work is in the area of cross-cultural health with an emphasis on health concerns of Native Americans. Some of her national and international work is with the Institute of Medicine and aboriginal health programs in Canada. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

ABC-CLIO Commemorates Native American Heritage Month

To commemorate Native American Heritage Month and honor the history and legacy of Native American pioneers, ABC-CLIO’s American Indian Experience database is proud to present a new primary source collection of narratives highlighting Indian Removal and migration to Oklahoma. 

Starting in 1830, with the passage of the Indian Removal Act, Eastern tribes forcibly relinquished their lands and removed west of the Mississippi. This forced relocation is widely known as The Trail of Tears. These forced removals—or the many Trails of Tears—occurred mostly between the 1830s and 1860s, impacting an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 Native people, who settled lands in Indian Territory roughly located in present-day Oklahoma. The Dawes Act, enacted in 1887, further redistributed and divided lands, diminishing tribal sovereignty and permanently impacting tribal lifeways, the effects of which are still felt in Native communities today.

Collected in the 1930s by the Indian-Pioneer History project, the Indian Removal and Migration Narratives document the removal experience and the legacy of migration. These histories feature details of the westward removal journey, as family members struggled to stay together and survive the many environmental and man-made challenges of the arduous trek. The stories further illustrate how generations of Native Americans adapted to new land and to new resources in Oklahoma, forging necessary alliances to survive. Each narrative is presented with both the original primary source document and its transcription and is enriched by supplementary reference materials that offer students opportunities for further study. 

To sign up for a FREE 60-Day trial of this database, please visit:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Significance of a Mormon Presidential Nominee

The 2012 presidential election was particularly significant in regard to the relationship between religion and politics because Mitt Romney became the first Latter Day Saint to earn the nomination of a major party. Mitt Romney is the most prolific Mormon politician of the 21st century. Romney family history has deep roots within the Mormon tradition. Miles Romney, an Englishmen, converted to Mormonism in 1837 after encountering a missionary and moved to Nauvoo, Illinois, where Mitt Romney’s great grandfather, Miles Park Romney, was born. The Romney’s headed west after Smith’s assassination and Miles helped to settle towns in Utah and Arizona, prior to fleeing to Mexico after being pursued by local authorities for being a polygamist. Mexican law did not prohibit polygamy like American law did. George Romney, Mitt’s father, was born in Mexico to Anna and Gaskell Romney, who deviated from precedent and did not engage in plural marriage. The Romney’s left Mexico to escape the 1912 revolution and eventually settled in Salt Lake City. George Romney worked as CEO of General Motors, served three terms as Republican governor of Michigan in the 1960s, where Mitt was raised, and unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1968.

As a candidate for president in 2012, Mitt Romney’s campaign team chose to downplay the nature of his Mormon heritage. While not completely ducking the issue of his faith, Romney took very few opportunities to highlight his cultural and spiritual roots in the Mormon faith. Much of this has to do with tensions in the Republican Party between Evangelical voters and Mormonism. This decision to avoid Romney’s religion met with little opposition in the election campaign of Barack Obama. The incumbent’s campaign team certainly had the option of highlighting a faith that has historically ruffled mainstream America’s feathers. Add to this the potential conflict within the Republican Party, and the Democrats could have played up Romney’s religion much bigger than they did.  This perhaps speaks to the successful execution of the Romney team’s plan to downplay the religion card.  However, taking into account the many potential strengths a Mormon candidate can draw on from his or her faith; this may have been a mistake.  As discussed in greater detail in our book, Mormons in American Politics, several theological and social developments within the Church of Latter Day Saints have provided for much greater political benefits in identifying with the Mormon faith.  It is a uniquely American religion with familiar Christian overtones.  It is an adaptable faith that has grown into modern, conservative, American cultural values.  It is a growing faith with vibrant new members and strong financial resources. The identity politics of modern American elections will allow future Mormon candidates to make use of these unique features.  Whether or not the time was right this particular presidential election for a Mormon candidate to feature his or her religious faith as a prominent part of the campaign, it will not be long before that becomes the norm.  At least for now, the history involved overshadows the promising political gains. This history is not lacking in drama either.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints began in 1830 in Palmyra, New York with just six members, under the leadership of Joseph Smith, the founding prophet. Membership grew to over 26,000 people by the time Smith was killed in 1844. Mormons have become the fourth largest church in the United States and the country’s wealthiest relative to size. Today the church has a global membership of over 14 million, the majority of whom live outside the United States. Early Mormons were theologically and socially different than their neighbors. They lived in theocratic communes and engaged in plural marriage, the practice of men having several wives.  Persecution typically intensified along the Mormon trail as their communities quickly grew in number and began to influence politics and business. And so the Mormons fled the United States under the leadership of Brigham Young after an imprisoned Joseph Smith was murdered by an angry mob. They landed in Utah, where the nation and the federal government persecuted the religion. Mormon leaders were deemed too theocratic and the practice of polygamy was viewed as a threat to American morality and culture. The Mormon Church eventually ended the practice of plural marriage in 1890 under the threat of having their temples and property seized by the federal government. This issue maintained national prominence after statehood was attained in 1896 because of widespread opposition to Mormon apostle Reed Smoot being seated as a U.S. Senator from Utah. It took four years of hearings and deliberations, but Smoot was finally seated and became an instrumental figure in the normalization of relations between Mormons at Americans at large. A century later, Harry Reid, a Mormon and U.S. Senator from Nevada, was elected Majority Leader, a position he has held since 2004. The Mormon Church is the most persecuted religious group in American history, but through many years of adaptation and growth the Church is poised to take its place in positions of political power for years to come.

Luke Perry, PhD, is associate professor of government at Utica College, Utica, NY. Perry holds a doctorate in political science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. 

Christopher Cronin, PhD, is assistant professor of government studies at Methodist University, Fayetteville, NC. Cronin holds a doctorate in political science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Interview with Steve Littleton, Co-Editor of Voices of the American Indian Experience

What prompted you to write Voices of the American Indian Experience? What "message" do you want to communicate?  Why is this subject important?

When Jim first approached me with this project idea, I was enthusiastic about the opportunity to research and organize materials written by Native Americans into an accessible resource for students and researchers. By combining familiar materials, such as court cases and legislation, with less well-known first person accounts and personal narratives, the reader is able to gain a much broader understanding of the Native American experience as it evolved from contact to today. These documents illustrate both the triumphs and tragedies that are part and parcel to human history.

What was the highlight of your research? In the course of your research, what discovery surprised you the most? What surprises readers/others the most about your research?

These narratives comprise a landscape of memories that are at once both universal and unique. Wherever Euro-Americans were, Native Americans were, and in many ways they have contributed, and continue to contribute, the best of their culture to ours. They fought in the civil war, they played college basketball, they loved, they dreamed, and above all, they fought, and continue to fight, to save their culture, to preserve their sovereignty, and for the right to represent their own history. This book documents the ways of life, beliefs, hopes, and dreams that show how the American Indian adds depth to the American experience. 
How did your research change your outlook on the subject?

I think that the most interesting part of this research was coming to appreciate the intricacies of Native American culture and history. One thing I have learned is that they see and understand history in a very different way from Euro-Americans, and it was an interesting challenge to try to bridge the gap and make the work as a whole understandable to a broad audience, while maintaining a healthy respect for the uniqueness of the Native American historical memory.

Steven A. Littleton is a former park ranger-interpreter at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana. He is currently a doctoral candidate in history of the American West at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ.