(Kings, CA) In February 2023, the Red Medicine team was honored to meet with Santa Rosa Rancheria (SRR) Tachi Tribe Education Director, Danny Llamas to address concerns about youth use of commercial tobacco products such as vaping. This meeting launched a very productive and positive partnership. In the last 4 months the Red Medicine Project and SRR have held 12 community-based commercial tobacco activities. These began with a multidepartment staff training with 27 professionals in Education, Recreation, Culture and Environmental Protection on the difference between commercial and traditional tobacco and gathering their perceptions on tobacco. From February to June the SRR and Red Medicine teams provided 4 youth trainings to over 100 youth, in total. In March, the SRR Education Department selected youth to accompany Red Medicine at the annual Youth Quest event in Sacramento, CA. A video product of the trip was created that is in review and will be made for the SRR Education Department to use to acknowledge the youth leaders. Mr. Llamas also invited RMTPP to host a tobacco education table at a community-wide blessing and collaborate with multiple Santa Rosa Rancheria departments to organize an Earth Day program. The Earth Day program included co-presenting with the Environmental Department Director, Shana Powers, to 58 youth and 20 staff attendees on the importance of Earth Day, and the harms of tobacco litter and waste. Red Medicine was surprised by all the great questions the youth had for the presenters! The SRR and Red Medicine teams then undertook Earth Day beautification activities including seed bombing (planting), a cigarette butte clean-up, and topped off the day with a “Keeping Tobacco Sacred” coloring contest.
In May, the SRR teams included Red Medicine in organizing a community 5K plus health fair event. Red Medicine was honored to accompany SRR Tribal Chairman, Leo Sisco in encouraging runners at the finish line, handing out medals, checking times, and giving water and drinks. It was truly an amazing event with runners of all ages including youth as young as 4-5 years old, elders, parents, and toddlers in tow. It was incredible to participate as a guest in such a positive and community health affirming event! The 5k event also gave us the opportunity to introduce and engage partners such as Maria Grijalva, a local health advocate from Tulare County and the National Kidney Foundation’s Annual National Advocate awardee to come and speak about kidney health. This topic is critically important to Native communities where Type II diabetes, smoking, and vaping rates are higher than the general population. The Kidney Foundation provided us with swag for the youth participants which was a hit. The Red Medicine Project and Ms. Grijalva hosted joint tables at the event and were pleased to have so many community members come and ask questions. We were able to provide resources and information about kidney health and smoking (also provided by the National Kidney Foundation), and resources for quitting. Many families made pledges to “Keep Tobacco Sacred” and to provide smoke free homes to support health.
In June Mr. Llamas invited Red Medicine back to provide an educational session with 65 tribal summer youth workers. This invitation presented a challenge – how do you keep 65 teenage youth engaged in a 4-hours multi-health topic training? The challenge spurred creativity. In partnership with Red Medicine’s sister program Tulare Youth Rising (marijuana prevention) we developed an American Indian commercial tobacco and marijuana prevention BINGO game! Led by Red Medicine Project interns, the SRR youth summer workers were provided a session that included a high energy icebreaker and the BINGO game with lots of educational facts on tobacco and marijuana while engaging them in playful competition. SRR and Red Medicine wrapped up the grant year with the 12th activity – a MASC session. 11 SRR representatives from various departments convened with Red Medicine to strategize on the need to raise the level for combatting commercial tobacco. It was an amazing 4 months - we are honored to work with SRR and look forward to more excellent work ahead!