Native American Heritage Month 2023 Native American Contributions to Health

As members of the Alaska community, we are very excited to join and celebrate Native American Heritage Month. Here is some information on this awareness month from the Bureau of Indian Affairs: National Native American Heritage Month is celebrated each year in November. It is a time to celebrate the traditions, languages and stories of Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and affiliated Island communities and ensure their rich histories and contributions continue to thrive with each passing generation. This November and every month, we celebrate the culture and heritage of these remarkable Americans who deeply enrich the quality and character of our Nation.

Native Americans have made significant contributions to medicine, particularly through their traditional healing practices and the use of medicinal plants. These contributions have not only benefited their own communities but have also influenced modern medicine. 

According to USECI Many of Native Americans‘ innovations in health and medicine have been around for thousands of years, predating — and contributing to — medicine as we know today.

Native Americans didn’t just offer medicine; they provided ‘healing wisdom’ that’s deeply rooted in nature’s remedy cabinet

Native Americans chewed willow bark to soothe aches and pains. The active ingredient in the bark is salicin, a chemical that in 1897 formed the basis of the discovery of aspirin, the most commonly used drug in the world. The concept that led to the development of vaccines — protecting oneself from a virus or disease by exposing oneself to a modified version of it — was not lost on Native Americans.

Alaskan Natives, including the Inupiaq, Yup’ik, Athabascan, and many others, have not only preserved their unique traditions but have also made significant contributions to modern medicine. Alaskan Native cultures have a long history of traditional healing practices, rooted in their deep connection with the land and nature. These practices often involve the use of herbs, plants, and spiritual rituals to promote physical and emotional well-being. The knowledge of these practices has been passed down through generations, contributing to the understanding of holistic healthcare.

Alaska’s Community Health Aide Program

Recruited from communities they serve, community health aides are frontline workers, providing preventive and primary health care to America’s diverse communities. Alaska’s Community Health Aide Program has been in operation since the 1950s, and its practitioners are the backbone of rural and frontier health care in Alaska, delivering primary, dental, and behavioral health care. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, the largest tribal health organization in the United States, manages the statewide medical and public health services of the Alaska Native healthcare system. The effectiveness of care delivery has become a model and is often cited as exemplary.

On behalf of MedPhysicals Plus, we hope you learned something today and as members of the health community we are pleased to recognize and honor Native Americans this month.