This year, in honor of Native American Heritage Month, the American Lung Association is proud to shine the spotlight on two important Tribal nation projects. The Native American Community Clinic in Minneapolis, MN is committed to creating a commercial tobacco smokefree environment across their campus, as well as providing commercial tobacco treatment support as part of their services. Secondly, we discuss a unique partnership to connect several Reservations in the Upper Midwest with vital medical, commerce and government services by increasing Tribal electric vehicle (EV) use across the region.

Native American Community Clinic

Founded in 2003 to address health disparities within the urban Native American population living within the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul), the Native American Community Clinic (NACC) promotes the health and wellness of the minds, bodies and spirits of Native American families. The clinic provides services to their community including medical, behavioral health, dental, substance abuse programs and spiritual care. Their approach within these services aims to address the root causes of health disparities in Native American populations.

NACC joined a peer learning cohort hosted by the American Lung Association in Minnesota this year. In the process, NACC developed a beautiful traditional medicine garden by their clinic and created support kits for people who want to address their commercial tobacco use. NACC specifically addresses the use of commercial tobacco and respects the traditional and medicinal use of tobaccos by American Indians that goes back centuries. It is commercial tobacco that disproportionally harms American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) – which suffer the effects of the highest prevalence of cigarette smoking compared to all other racial and ethnic groups in the country. Today, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among AI/AN populations while cardiovascular disease, often made worse by cigarette smoking, is their overall leading cause of death.

Upper Midwest Inter-Tribal Electric Vehicle Charging Community Network

We are proud to be selected as a partner on the important Upper Midwest Inter-Tribal Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Community Network project announced earlier this month. This Native-led project will increase Tribal use of EVs throughout the Upper Midwest. Through this important initiative, project partners will add EV charging stations to frequently traveled routes from the Red Lake and Standing Rock Reservations and along the Native American Scenic Byway, creating an important resource for all in this Midwest region.

The American Lung Association’s recent “Road to Clean Air” EV report found that a widespread transition to zero-emission transportation technologies by 2050 could save approximately 6,300 lives, help avoid 93,000 asthma attacks and prevent 416,000 lost workdays annually. Our work with several distinguished partners on the Inter-Tribal EV Charging Network project will expand EV use in rural, underserved communities, build the region’s clean energy economy and provide access to advanced vehicles and infrastructure for those disproportionately affected by transportation and health inequities. Indeed, this project will show that EV infrastructure is an effective pathway to a cleaner, healthier future.

Jon Hunter, senior director of clean air at the American Lung Association and project lead for the organization said, “Expanding access to electrified transportation will help ensure that everyone will benefit as cleaner vehicles become more widely available. We are eager to work with Native Sun, SAGE, and other partners to demonstrate the benefits that electric vehicles will produce for the Native communities driving this project and show how this can be replicated across the country.”

As we celebrate Native American Heritage Month and honor the contributions and impact these first Americans have made on our culture, we must also eliminate the disparities that continue to hinder the health, education and livelihood of all under-represented Americans. As president Joseph R. Biden stated in his declaration on National Native American Heritage Month 2021, “Our Nation cannot live up to the promise of our founding as long as inequities affecting Native Americans persist.”

To learn more about how the American Lung Association works with Native American and Alaska Native populations to promote health and wellness, and to take part in Native American Heritage Month 2021, please visit our dedicated webpage.

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