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Conference to Explore Western, Native American Healing Practices

The May 11 Medicine Ways Conference at UC Riverside also will honor new School of Medicine and its commitment to underserved communities

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Native American healers — those trained in American medical schools as well as those skilled in traditional practices — will discuss ways to promote the health of Native people at the 32nd annual Medicine Ways Conference at the University of California, Riverside on Saturday, May 11.

The conference, “Native Medicine and Modern Society: Bridging the Gap,” also will honor the new UCR School of Medicine and its commitment to improving the health of underserved communities.

The conference begins at 9 a.m. and continues until 7 p.m. at the Highlander Union Building, Room 302. Admission is free and the event is open to the public. Parking costs $5. A continental breakfast, lunch and dinner will be provided. Advance registration is requested and may be made by contacting Joshua Gonzales, director of Native American Student Programs, at or by calling (951) 827-3850.

“Over the years this conference has addressed medicine, music, song, politics, literature, history, and health issues,” said Cliff Trafzer, professor of history and the Rupert Costo Chair in American Indian Affairs. “This year, we will focus on the use of Western and Native medicine ways and their importance to our people. We will offer speakers who will address issues surrounding physical, mental and spiritual health of Indian people, including ceremonies, rituals, violence, addiction, and health care.”

Native American students at UCR sponsor the Medicine Ways Conference through the office of Native American Student Programs and the Native American Student Association, with support from the Rupert Costo Chair in American Indian Affairs and the California Center for Native Nations.

“The students originated the conference years ago to discuss issues important to the health, survival, and well-being of American Indian people in contemporary society,” Trafzer said. “Since spiritual life is central to Native America, the students wanted to honor this aspect of American Indian culture.”

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Dan Calac, chief medical officer of Indian Health Council Inc., a consortium of nine tribes dedicated to Indian health, wholeness and well-being. IHC’s main facility is next to the Rincon reservation in Pauma Valley, with a community health center located on the Santa Ysabel reservaton.

A member of the Luiseño Band of Mission Indians, Dr. Calac earned his medical degree from Harvard University. He was the co-principal investigator for the Preventing Underage Drinking by Southwest Indians Program sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and is a principal investigator with the California Native American Research Centers for Health, which seeks to increase the quantity and quality of research on the health of Native Americans in California and to increase the number of Native American students and faculty in California universities.

Also presenting at the conference will be:

• Kenneth Coosewoon, a Comanche medicine man who heals using the sweat lodge. He introduced sweat lodges into U.S. prisons for Native American inmates.

• Rita Coosewoon, a Comanche medicine woman who uses medicinal plants in healing.

• John Iyot, a Lakota Sioux who is a family, drug and alcohol counselor.

• Beverly Patchell, a Cherokee traditional healer and head of the Native American Nursing Program at the Oklahoma University Medical Center who specializes in drug, alcohol and family care.

• Mary Madrigal Sandoval, a Cahuilla who is a nurse at the Soboba Indian Clinic and counsels patients on managing their diabetes.

• Al “Atl” Gonzales, a Mexica-Xiclaka who is a traditional healer using the sweat lodge and Sun Dance.

• Matt Leivas, a Chemehuevi singer of Salt Songs, the sacred songs of the Southern Paiute that describe the physical and spiritual landscape of the Colorado Plateau.

• Sylvia Lorenzo, a Yaqui student in her first year at UC Riverside who is majoring in anthropology. She will offer a contemporary, interactive dance workshop.

• Alex Tortes, a Cahuilla from the Torres Martinez Reservation who is assigned to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Tribal Liaison Unit.

Later this month Native American Student Programs and the Native American Student Association will sponsor the 32nd annual UCR Pow Wow, an inter-tribal social gathering that celebrates Native American culture through singing, drumming and dancing. The two-day event begins at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 24, and continues on Saturday, May 25, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the UCR Sports Complex, 1000 W. Blaine St.

Vendors will sell food, handmade Native American jewelry, arts and crafts, and other merchandise. Admission is free. Parking costs $5.


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