From running to kickball to swimming to snake dancing, about 10,000 Native American youth across the country got moving on November 15 for the inaugural NB3FIT Day.
Encouraging healthy lifestyles among Native children, the Notah Begay III (NB3) Foundation launched NB3FIT this month, a national campaign to help promote physical activity in Native communities. One hundred fifteen tribes and Native American organizations across 26 states sponsored physical activities for a minimum of one hour on one day.
From the tundra to the desert, youth learned yoga, biked, hiked or played basketball, among several activities. Youth in the Village of Barrow, Alaska, participated in traditional Eskimo games, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation held the Mvskoke Youth Games, and the Ho-Chunk Nation had double ball, lacrosse, and snake and green corn traditional dances in Black River Falls, WI. Youth and their families were treated to a 9-hole golf scramble tournament in Cochiti Pueblo, N.M.
“Tribes and Native organizations heeded the call and displayed a commitment to improve the health and fitness of Native youth,” said Justin Kii Huenemann, NB3 Foundation President and CEO. “The number of events taking place across Indian Country on one day was amazing and inspiring. Any effort to improve and strengthen the health of our children rests in our hands as parents, families, communities and tribal nations. No one is going to do it for us.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that young people ages 6–17 participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily for the best health benefits, which is crucial in Native communities where an estimated one-third of Native youth are overweight and one out of two Native children will develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime.
In the Pueblo of Zuni, N.M., more than seven dozen youth and their families participated in a 2-mile walk and run, dodge ball, soccer, flag football and Zumba at the Zuni Fairgrounds sponsored by the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project (ZYEP), a nonprofit providing youth activities. Youth and their families also participated in a community clean up.
The outdoor music and chatter at the fairgrounds prompted residents of all ages to partake in the day’s events, including some adults who didn’t have children with them. They walked and danced, said Andrea Pepin, ZYEP nutrition education coordinator.
“An elderly woman came out when she heard the music. I said, ‘You’re welcomed to join us.’ She jumped right in and started to Zumba,” Pepin said. “That totally spoke to what NB3 Foundation’s goal was — get as many kids and people out moving for one hour that day. We had kids from 2 years old to that individual that came out from her home, which was really special to us.”
Consistent physical activity can improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels, according to the Health and Human Services Department. Regular physical activity among youth helps control weight, improve strength and endurance, build healthy bones and muscles, reduce anxiety and stress, and increase self-esteem.
In Akwesasne, N.Y., more than 150 members of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe walked or ran while learning about their clanship in the event sponsored by Project Good Mind, a new nonprofit dedicated to the Mohawk teachings of using a good mind in every day interactions with yourself, others and the earth. Participants where given a white tree seedling to plant as a reminder to be mindful and take care of the earth.
“It’s important for all of us adults and leaders of our communities to set the tone and pave the way for our youth to understand how important our physical self is and we do that by showing them,” Project Good Mind Co-Founder Shannon Hall said. “It’s getting them to understand that physical activity affects you emotionally, spiritually and mentally, which makes us whole.”
At the NB3 Foundation headquarters in New Mexico, the organization sponsored the first NB3FIT National Cross Country Race for youth and adults at the Santa Ana Golf Club. The event included an open 5k and 3k, and a 1k for ages 1-10. The day also included an All-Native American high school race that also was an official qualifying race for Wings of America’s National Team. With over 200 runners, the day was enjoyed by young and old alike who participated and cheered on the runners.
“National NB3FIT Day was a monumental event that created awareness and activity for Native communities across the country,” Foundation founder Notah Begay III said. “The sooner that tribal communities realize the urgency of the health epidemic facing our people, the sooner programs can be mobilized to level off the devastating impact type 2 diabetes is having on our children.”
To view images from events around the country, please visit the NB3FIT Day Photo Gallery.
For more tips on staying healthy, nutritional information and physical activity, check out our recent NB3 Foundation Fall Newsletter.