Creating Healthy Places Nutrition Coordinator, Brittany Harris, attended the Akwesasne Tribe’s Grand Opening of the Diabetes Center for Excellence on Wednesday, February 12, 2014. The Diabetes Center has been the dream of several health advocates in Akwesasne for many years, and it was heart-warming to see the dream come to fruition. According to the Let’s Get Healthy Program Manager, Heather Garrow, “Engaging the community in the promotion of a healthy lifestyle is the mission of the Diabetes Center For Excellence.”
Diabetes affects 16 percent of the people living in Akwesasne, compared to 8 percent of people in New York State. These numbers served as a trigger that brought the community to action. The 3.6 million dollar Diabetes Center, boasting 15,000 square feet of space to support the diet and exercise efforts of the Akwesasne people truly provided motivation to celebrate.
The Grand Opening included a beautiful performance by the Haudenosaunee Cultural Group. Young dancers performed a “Three Sister’s Play,” which stressed the importance of the three main Mohawk cultural foods, corn, beans, and squash. We learned that the three can be grown in very close proximity, as the corn provides a natural stalk up which beans vines can climb, and corn and beans together provide shade for the squash plant. This served as a deep cultural connection to nutrition that was strongly felt by everyone in attendance, and served as a great reinforcement of the importance of the Healthy Heart Network’s commitment to reducing diabetes in the North Country.