Joe Simmons exemplifies community service and leadership. He runs our community non-profit on a shoestring but always managing to serve the community by preserving cultural events like the Inter-Tribal Gathering where he serves on the planning committee.
The Nebraska Panhandle borders on South Dakota and is home to approximately 2,500 Native Americans, as reported in the 2014 Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs report. These individuals are comprised of both land-based and reservation-based Native Americans whom often traverse back and forth over the border of Nebraska and the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, which is only 15 miles from Chadron, NE, a recently designated Federal Promise Zone. The Pine Ridge Tribal Promise Zone is situated on the Indian Reservation of the Oglala Sioux Tribe in the southwest corner of South Dakota.
The area is home to nearly 35,000 residents, nearly half of whom live below the poverty level, as noted in the April 2015 USDA report. “The region has a chronic housing shortage and needs investment to develop reliable water, sewer and solid waste infrastructure. Unemployment rates are high among residents, and approximately 53% of students do not receive a high-school diploma. Substance abuse is pervasive and affects 99% of residents directly or through a member of their close family.
The prevalence of alcohol and drug use threatens public safety as 90% of violent crimes on the reservation are attributed to substance abuse.” In the April 29th, 2016 article printed in the Rapid City Journal, Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture, stated: “There is probably no other place in America that needs the focus, the coordinated effort, the additional points and the personnel more than the Pine Ridge area,” Vilsack said on a conference call with reporters.
Through reports from Nebraska’s Commission on Indian Affairs, CNAC serves the largest overall number of Native American families, either land-based or reservation-based in Nebraska with a reported 2,500 served in 2014. In 2011, a comprehensive Nebraska Panhandle Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) addressed four top priority health areas and addressed in the 2012-2017 Nebraska Panhandle Community Health Improvement Plan are: Healthy Living, Mental and Emotional Well Being, Cancer Prevention and Injury and Violence Prevention.
In addition to these core areas, it is important to note that the teenage suicide rate on the Pine Ridge Reservation is 150% higher than the U.S. national average for this age group, which clearly impacts both Pine Ridge and the Nebraska Panhandle. Lack of appropriate Behavioral Health services perpetuate the concern. As described in this project, the use of peer services has been identified as a mechanism for helping these young people quickly, within their cultural realm.
Chadron Native American Center (CNAC) is a 501(c)(3) organization located in the northern panhandle of Nebraska which is structured to manage multiple small grants focused on prevention, awareness and overall health of Native American individuals within the community. Steeped within the mission of providing an array of services which promote healthy lifestyles and generate leadership development opportunities for the Native children and youth,including families and elders, and to increase the resiliency of individuals and the people, CNAC continually promotes traditional values while celebrating diversity.
CNAC is imbedded within the Panhandle, which is home to 85,468 individuals of various ethnic and cultural descents, including 16.2% of the total population being racial/ethnic minorities. This includes the largest Native American population in the state at 2.7%. Through reports from Indian Affairs, CNAC serves the largest overall number of Native American families, either land-based or reservation-based, in Nebraska, with a reported 2,500 served last year.At the beginning of this year, Chadron Native American Center (CNAC) made a goal to increase services to those in our community living in poverty. Chadron Native American Center is striving to address the extreme disparities in health, fitness, educational support and community development from Chadron to the Pine Ridge Reservation. Every day as Native Americans we know how complicated it is to overcome the environmental and societal stresses that have historically kept our communities in despair. CNAC has been helping people for 18 years and watched the struggles of urban Natives that have left the reservation to better their life but still struggle with poverty, separation from their land, community and traditions. Our memories of poverty and what came with it will never lessen until resources are provided to help create a center for support, access to consistent fitness, mental health, educational, and community involvement that allows for traditional ways to become the strength to our youth as the ancestors intended. This last year is an indicator that our community is losing the battle for health and wellness as the average lifespan for a male on the Pine Ridge Reservation has dropped from forty eight to forty seven years old. This is unacceptable, especially given that the nation average lifespan is seventy eight point nine years. The male "elders" and leaders of our community are also the fathers who need parenting support, fatherhood programs, economic growth and renewal of community traditional support systems that have been eroded to be invigorated. CNAC is located in Chadron Nebraska, where poverty is noted at a higher rate than the entire state of Nebraska.
Life expectancy on Pine Ridge is the lowest in the United States and the 2nd lowest in the Western Hemisphere. Only Haiti has a lower rate.
We love our community, so feel free to visit during normal business hours.
502 W 2nd St, Chadron, Nebraska 69337, United States
Monday - Friday: 9am - 5pm
Saturday: By appointment
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