Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

MDH Office of American Indian Health holds launch celebration at the Capitol

The Minnesota Department of Health officially launched Minnesota’s statewide Office of American Indian Health (OAIH) at the Capitol on Wednesday. The office was created to improve the health and well-being of American Indian communities in Minnesota and to ensure Native communities are represented in all MDH public health activities.

"Today we gather to connect, learn together and highlight the establishment of MDH’s Office of American Indian Health in state law,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Brooke Cunningham. “We are also celebrating the important work being done by sovereign tribal partners and our continued support of tribal nations and urban American Indian communities as we work together to strengthen public health throughout the state.”

The event included speeches from Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan, Commissioner Cunningham, state lawmakers, MDH Director of OAIH Kris Rhodes, and tribal and urban American Indian health leaders, as well as a round dance.

The office’s activities include supporting the promotion of public health in American Indian communities through partnerships, targeted initiatives and a broad spectrum of public investments in housing, transportation, education, health care, economic opportunities and criminal justice.

“Nijiikendam ji-ayaayaan omaa noongom, [I am glad to be here today,]” said Rhodes. “It’s rare for states to have an office like this, and we are proud to be leading the way here in Minnesota. Our work is grounded in respect for tribal ways of healing, and we recognize health as a complete and balanced state of wellbeing. We are excited to celebrate the launch of the Office of American Indian Health. Miigwech!”

As part of the celebration, the office honored two state employees for their dedication to the establishment of OAIH: Jackie Dionne, former MDH tribal liaison and current tribal liaison for the Minnesota Department of Commerce, and Dr. Melanie Peterson-Hickey, MDH cancer programs.

There are 11 federally recognized tribal nations who share geography with the state of Minnesota. American Indians nationwide and in the state of Minnesota have lower life expectancies and higher chronic disease incidence than the general population.

Legislation authorizing the office was passed in 2023 to improve the health and well-being of American Indian communities and ensure tribal and urban Indian communities are represented in all of Minnesota’s public health initiatives. In addition to the new office, MDH continues its commitment to strengthening government-to-government relationships with the eleven tribal nations by following the Tribal Consultation Policy that requires all parts of the department to consult with tribes before taking actions significantly affecting one or more of the tribes in Minnesota.

To learn more about OAIH, please visit the Office of American Indian Health webpage.



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