The 9th annual Rooted in the Mountains symposium was held on September 27, 28, 2018 at the Blue Ridge Conference room on the campus of Western Carolina University.

Dr. Lisa Lefler, WCU Director of the Culturally Based Native Health Program and Executive Director of the Center for Native Health, in collaboration with Dr. Turner Goins, WCU Ambassador Jeanette W. Hyde Endowed Professor and Director of the WCU Southeast Satellite Center for Native Controlling Hypertension and Risk through Technology Center and the Center for American Indian and Alaska Native Diabetes Translation Research, imparted this year’s theme, Heart Health – Women’s Health:  Rooted in Culture, to a well-received audience (250+) of WCU students, faculty, along with local and regional community stakeholders.

The keynote speaker, Katsi Cook (Mohawk), a renowned Native women’s health advocate and environmental restoration activist, brought an emotive address, “Woman as the First Environment” to symposium attendees.  Dr. Sur Ah Hahn, WCU Social Work department, responded by sharing, “The Rooted Conference has been always a place where I could learn and celebrate culture and history of Native countries and communities. Particularly this year when we heard from Native women speakers and panels about their stories on violence, trauma and resilience, it was truly eye-opening and empowering experience. I am sure everyone in the room shared that sentiment and appreciated these women’s tremendous courage, knowledge and wisdom to heal and fight against injustice toward Native women and their communities. I firmly believe every member of WCU community should participate in learning from this precious opportunity to be inspired and empowered to achieve more just and inclusive society here in this country.”

The two-day event assembled a variety of local and national Native panelists.  Symposium day one included Rebecca Tsosie, JD (Yaqui); EBCI enrolled physicians, Drs. Stephanie Hornbuckle, Carmen Nations, and Blythe Winchester; EBCI nurses and behavioral health professionals, Lou Jackson, Onita Bush, Lisa Denzer, Sami Chen, Billie Jo Rich, Terri Henry, and Sarah Sneed; all sharing Native women’s health and language issues, choosing a path of healing, as well as, violence against Native women.  Dr. Judy Berglund shared, “I was so impressed with the dedication and leadership of the women in the EBCI tribe and the other Native American women, who spoke about their experiences, their current roles, their fight against violence towards NA women, and their ability to provide such positive role models for young NA women and men.  It was a very impressive, moving, and beautiful symposium.  I was honored to attend.”

Symposium day two included speakers sharing Native national public health ethics policy issues, Native Strong Heart health research, Native mindfulness stress reduction research, as well as, Cherokee male panelists discussing their personal heart health and recovery stories.  National speakers were comprised of Dave Baldridge (Cherokee), Dr. James Howard, Dr. Jeff Proulx (Mohawk) and local Native speakers included Tom Belt (Cherokee Nation) and T.J. Holland (Cherokee).

Tom Belt (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) leading the group in an opening prayer and song for the 9th Annual Rooted in the Mountains Symposium at Western Carolina University
Dr. Howard presenting on the Strong Heart and SANDS studies
Dr. Proulx’s presentation titled “Developing a Mindfulness Program for Stress Reduction with Native Communities”
Dave Baldridge presenting on Ethics in Indian Country
Tom Belt and T.J. Holland (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) engaging in a panel discussion entitled “Heart Health: Cherokee Men and Stories of Heart Health and Recovery”


The power point slides from this symposium can be accessed here

The event was made possible by the following contributing sponsors: WCU Office of the Provost, WCU Ambassador Jeanette Hyde Distinguished Professor, WCU Sequoyah Distinguished Professor, Native-Controlling Hypertension and Risk through Technology (N-CHART U54MD011240), and the Center for Native Health.