Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes Success Story: Diabetes Wellness Program

Subawardees of the Southern Plains Tribal Health Board, the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes have been successful in promoting a healthy lifestyle for Tribal members through nutrition and physical activity. They have done this by creating a Porch Plant Program, distributing healthy and traditional foods, and enhancing a local walking trail and walking club.

According to community feedback about our programs, we found that there is a need for sustainable access to fresh vegetables/herbs. We gathered needed information and developed our Porch Plant Project. This project provides community members with young tomato and sage plants. The plants are first grown indoors to ensure strength and success for their new homes. They are in large pots, which allows them to be moved around as needed for sunlight exposure, designed for homes and apartments without yards. Participants have expressed excitement at the ability to grow their own food and ceremonial herbs. We will continue to grow this program to include more “seed to table” education and resources for our Tribal members.

Another program designed to increase healthy food access is the fresh food box distribution to approximately 200 registered individuals a month. Limiting enrollment allows for generous amounts of healthy food per box. The food boxes contain fresh fruits and vegetables, two pounds of ground bison, and educational materials. The materials include both nutrition education as well as healthy recipes. During the ceremonial season, our team delivers food to the ceremonial grounds for each camp. The food is delivered, safely, via a refrigerated truck.

Increasing safe and accessible areas for physical activity has been another program success. A public walking trail was enhanced with signage and educational materials along the Buffalo Trail in Concho, Oklahoma. This ¾ mile long walking path provides a public place to be active. A walking club of approximately 20 people meet at the trail weekly and healthy snacks are provided. The new signs explain the uses of buffalo parts, the connection and relationship between the Tribes and buffalo, the history of hunting, and the more recent history of the Tribe’s growth and management of the buffalo herd in Concho. In addition, a trailhead sign was constructed of brick from the Seger Indian School in Colony, Oklahoma that was built in 1893. The original brick was hand made by Tribal members, and an audio narration is included at the trailhead sign.

Through collaboration with other Tribal agencies, we are able to take our buffalo program and walking club on the road. During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes purchased a 16-foot Mobile Medical Unit (MMU), and created an agreement with the Clinton Service Unit. This agreement staffed the Mobile Medical Unit with a doctor, a nurse, a lab tech, and a medical assistant and took IHS clinic services on the road to the Tribe’s smaller communities. Diabetes Wellness and Good Health and Wellness took advantage of that opportunity and also collaboratively took our services along with the MMU. We provide our client based services to those clients who otherwise can’t make it to Concho. The walking club will also be brought out to include and incentivize Tribal members to walk a mile or more a day barring any limitations.