June 5-11 was Community Health Improvement Week, which honors those working to improve the well-being of their communities and residents. In Chickaloon Native Village, local leaders are working to do just that, providing services for the youngest and oldest members.
“There are so many programs, coalitions, and initiatives we are involved in locally, statewide, nationally, and internationally,” said Lisa Wade, Executive Director of Nay’dini’aa Na’ Kayax (Chickaloon Village Traditional Council), while taking time to expand on the work her community has been doing to improve the well-being of their members.
The Native Clinic in Chickaloon, C’eyiits’ Hwnax Life House Community Health Clinic, is a federally qualified community health center that sees and treats everyone that comes in their doors, and offers a variety of services including x-rays, women’s health exams, limited pharmacy services, behavioral health, and a host of other specialty clinics periodically.
“What this means is that no one is ever turned away from being seen at the clinic. We offer a sliding fee scale for primary care services and other services that have been added on like massage therapy, dental, etc. are offered via reduced rates,” said Wade.
The Tribe is also working to reclaim and share their language and culture through connections across generations, protecting and manage the environment by restoring Moose Creek and the surrounding area. Wade explained the work being done at Moose Creek:
“They also rehabilitated the abandoned Moose Creek campground and have made it a really safe and healthy camping area with two restroom facilities, a pavilion, swings for the children and interpretive historical signage.”
The Tribe has also partnered with organizations to address racism through workshops such as the Mat-Su Equity Dialogues, and continue to create opportunities to reduce trauma for children and strengthen community resilience.
“I have participated in numerous coalitions including the steering committees for R.O.C.K. Mat-Su, and Alaska Resilience Initiative, as well as several community needs assessments,” Wade noted.
“We work with the Indian Education Department at the Mat-Su Borough School district to support cultural activities. One of my favorites for the past two years was helping them make graduation necklaces for all Alaska Native students so that they could have regalia to wear for graduation.”
Wade also noted that her staff are engaged in as many local boards, work groups, and coalitions as possible from transportation planning to health and wellness, and even hosting dialogues on land acknowledgements and how to address issues of equity.
One such service the Chickaloon Tribe is engaged in is the Chickaloon Area Transit (CATS). CATS is an on-demand ride program open to community members to use as a resource to attend college, appointments, and getting to work. It has proven to be particularly helpful to geographically-isolated residents.
The Ya Ne Dah Ah School, an open enrollment school for pre-k thru 12th grade students, has also been working to offer Ahtna language and cultural activities, and is gearing up for a 2-month Summer Day Camp for their students, Tribal citizens, and CVTC staff members
“This year, we are also hosting an archeological camp for Tribal citizens and older students to learn more about the history of our area,” said Wade.
The Tribe has also been focusing on issues that not only affect their members, but communities all across the Borough, such as the ongoing opioid crisis, supporting community elders, offering behavioral health services, and one of the most important resources of any culture-the children, through the services offered at their Health and Social Services Department.
“Our Health & Social Services Department, managed by Philip Ling, houses our Elders programs (advocacy, home delivered food and chore work program, congregate meal program, and transportation to medical and pharmacy appointments), Tribal Opioid Response program working to provide supportive services to individuals and families struggling with substance mis-use issues, Behavioral Health program offering individual supports and weekly wellness activities in Sutton. H&SS also houses our Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) program which helps keep our children as connected to our community as possible in relative placement homes.”
Other ways the Tribe is working on about creating opportunities to reduce trauma for children and strengthen community resilience has been through community celebrations and gatherings.
“We host a lot of community celebrations to bring people together, and always keep our children in mind for these events.”
Wade expressed pride and excitement in the work the Chickaloon Tribe has been doing to improve wellness, connections, and relationships:
“By implementing resident solutions, addressing historical wrongs, and revitalizing their communities to ensure all can experience economic well-being and thrive, they are expanding opportunities for good health.”