The Native Pathways to Health (NPTH) project builds upon existing community-academic partnerships with NC’s AI communities and the University of NC American Indian Center, and seeks to leverage community’s unique strengths to better understand and address tribal health priorities. The tribal communities that partnered (9) in the Native Pathways to Health Project included: Coharie Tribe, Haliwa-Saponi Tribe, Lumbee Tribe of NC, Meherrin Tribe, Metrolina Native American Society, Occaneechi Band of Saponi Nation, Triangle Native American Society, Sappony Tribe, and Waccamaw-Siouan Tribe.Native Pathways Thumbnail
In Phase 1, NPTH partnered with adults and youth from NC tribes and urban Indian organizations to form a Tribal Health Ambassador Program. Tribal Health Ambassadors (THAs) collaborated with the research team to assess health in their communities: Adult THAs led talking circles (a sacred approach for engaging in discussion); Youth THAs designed projects following a Youth Participatory Action Research approach. Findings from these projects and gathering are currently informing development of a community survey to document health needs, priorities, and assets; reveal unrecognized areas of concern, and inform development of tribal-led action plans. Download the Native Pathways to Health Community Report.

Talking Circle

The Talking Circle is a simple yet powerful American Indian tradition that has been used in various settings. The talking circle is a traditional way for AI people to solve problems. by effectively removing barriers which allows them to express themselves with complete freedom in a sacred space. Normally the circle is blessed by an Elder. Important to remember what is said in the circle stays within the circle but an exception will be made for this project so we can help tell the stories of the needs within the communities and also use this data to create a health assessment tailored to each tribal community.

Tribal Health Ambassadors (THAs)

Lessons Learned

  • Based on THA and participant feedback, the process of bringing together community members to engage in dialogue, particularly via Talking Circles, may be a healing modality for communities.
  • The NPTH model, informed by CBPR and YPAR, may provide a useful framework for conducting research with Native communities as it strives to honor the interplay of culture, history, and power dynamics that shape not only health, but participation in research.
    Next steps
  • Data and narratives collected by THAs through Talking Circles and YPAR projects will inform development of broader community health assessments and action plans to address tribal health priorities.
  • Additional research retreats have been requested by THAs and will inform dissemination of findings to communities.