YKHC’s Calricaraq gains national recognition and is invited to receive Honoring Nations award

Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation’s preventative services program Calricaraq is one of a chosen few to be honored at a national awards ceremony called Honoring Nations.

Left to right: YKHC VP of Communications Tiffany Zulkosky, Behavioral Health Administrator Ray Daw, and VP of Hospital Services Jim Sweeney. (Photo by Charles Enoch, KYUK - Bethel)
Left to right: YKHC VP of Communications Tiffany Zulkosky, Behavioral Health Administrator Ray Daw, and VP of Hospital Services Jim Sweeney.
(Photo by Charles Enoch, KYUK – Bethel)

Calricaraq has been selected as one of six finalists, out of almost 90 applicants across the nation, to be recognized at the 2016 Honoring Nations Awards presented by Harvard’s Kennedy School in Cambridge, Massachuetts. Calricaraq will receive either a High Honors or an Honors award, which will be announced during the ceremony. Ray Daw is the Administrator of Behavioral Health at the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation.

“The team is very excited to get this award. It took a lot of work for them to obtain the award,” Daw said.

Daw said the team was asked by the Harvard Kennedy School to submit an application to their awards program, which they did last spring. After applying, a team from Honoring Nations was sent to observe the program at work this summer.

Megan Hill is the director of Honoring Nations.

“I think that the programs that we work with are really changing the conversation,” Hill said. “You know, talking about what works in our communities and sharing those stories, and I think just making all of us stronger for it. These are complex issues that many of us are dealing with and trying to figure it out together, I think, is a positive way to go,”

Calricaraq began four years ago, and is a program in YKHC’s Preventative Services under Behavioral Health. It focuses on cultural values that many in the region were taught all their lives. It works to heal some of the complications caused by historical trauma and colonialism by strengthening families through learning from Yup’ik elders, prescribing healthy ways of living, developing curriculums, and responding to tragic events in the region. Their activities include talking circles, healing ceremonies, traditional dancing, prayer circles, craft and tool making, storytelling, teaching values, ancestral wisdom, knowledge, and subsistence activities. All of this is done with guidance from elders.

Rose Dominick at the Camai House after they acquired it for their program. (Photo by Shane Iverson, KYUK - Bethel)
Rose Dominick at the Camai House after they acquired it for their program. (Photo by Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel)

Daw said that Calricaraq started when Rose Dominick, who is now the head of the program, was exploring ways to start a culturally relevant program in their Behavioral Health department. At the time of writing, Dominick was meeting with elders about their program and how they could include cultural values in other departments, so she could not be interviewed by KYUK for this story.

Hill said that the team is invited to be honored during a meeting in Phoenix.

“On October 12, the six programs are going to come to the National Congress of American Indians and we’re going to take over a morning General Assembly, and they are going to be able to share their work with the audience of tribal leaders and program managers across Indian country,” Hill said. “So that’s sort of exciting, and after that we’ll make the awards, and three programs will receive High Honors, and three will receive Honors.”

Hill said that programs selected for High Honors will receive $5,000 and those selected for Honors will get $2,000. All six programs will be featured in both Smithsonian’s National Museum of American Indians, and an online Google exhibit.

The Honoring Nations Awards are a part of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. Their mission is to recognize and share the stories of programs in Native American governments that take steps for self-governance in areas like education, health care, resource management, government policy development and reform, justice, inter-governmental relations, and economic, social, and cultural programs. It was formed in 1998.

Daw said that, for now, the Calricaraq team of elders, behavioral health aides, and tribal representatives will focus on strengthening families and values in our region. He said that the response has been so enthusiastic, that they are barely keeping up with demand.

“We have more requests for gatherings, and meetings, and teachings, than we can manage as a unit. And I think the region has really been responsive to understanding how viable this approach is. There are always people who are asking when Rose Dominick and her team are coming to do a gathering, or coming to do a teaching, or coming to spend time with them,” Daw said.

YKHC will send a team of representatives to receive the award on October 12 in Phoenix, Arizona.