“It Adds to The Stress of the Body”: Community health needs of a state-recognized Native American tribe in the United States

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Indigenous, Native American, American Indian, Community Health, Community Support


While many of the health disparities, brought on by the cruelties of settler colonization, that affect Native American and Alaskan Native communities and individuals at high rates have been documented, the health risks impacting non-federally recognized tribes are less explored. In this manuscript, we explore the challenges non-recognized tribes face and how without Tribal sovereignty, autonomy, and resources, it is more difficult for non-recognized tribes to provide care and resources for the members of their communities. This study took place in the Gulf South regions of the United States, where there are environmental factors pertaining to industry, global warming, environmental racism, and rurality that further impact the quality of life and rates of cancer, respiratory illness, and reproductive health issues in the Native American communities that live there. In addition, tribes without federal recognition have increased challenges in addressing the lack of access to health equity and may not have the health resources or programming available to them that exist for federally recognized tribes. To explore these topics, a qualitative description methodology was used to conduct 31 semi-structured interviews with women from a state-recognized Native American tribe in the Gulf South to understand their healthcare experiences and concerns. Participants in this study described: high rates of cancer, vehicle accidents or collisions common, barriers to exercising, physical injuries common, chronic illnesses common in the community, loss of family members, and physical violence. These findings indicate that state-recognized tribal members may need increased, improved, and culturally contextualized healthcare programs within their communities, in addition to full recognition of their tribal sovereignty rights. This study begins to address important gaps in the research exploring the full scope of the health risks and challenges affecting non-federally recognized tribal members, while also highlighting their resilience in the face of settler colonialism.


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Author Biographies

Lauren Buxbaum , University of Montana

Lauren Buxbaum was raised in Chicago and studied history and American studies at Northwestern University. She is currently pursuing her master's degree in social work at the University of Montana where she is completing her practicum at a Title X reproductive health clinic. When not attending school, Lauren works for a sexual assault counseling center in Bozeman, coordinating an inter-agency response team and providing community education. Her research interests include reproductive justice, the politics of health care, and the long-term impacts of sexual violence.

Hollis Hubbard, University of Montana

Hollis Hubbard is a MSW student and harm reductionist who cares deeply about health equity and reducing barriers to greater health

Jessica Liddell, University of Montana

Dr. Jessica Liddell (she/her) is an Assistant Professor at the University of Montana School of Work. Her work focuses on pregnancy and childbirth, reproductive justice, community-engagement, and making healthcare systems more equitable. Her recent research explores the use of doulas to improve maternal health outcomes.


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How to Cite

Buxbaum , L. ., Hubbard, H. ., & Liddell, J. (2023). “It Adds to The Stress of the Body”: Community health needs of a state-recognized Native American tribe in the United States. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies, 10(1), 62–83. https://doi.org/10.29333/ejecs/1216



Original Manuscript