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NATIVE Project based on ‘sacred hospitality for all’


Objibwe, Cree, Coeur d’Alene, Sioux, Spokane, Chippewa and Yakama are among the many tribes represented on the nearly 50-member staff of The NATIVE Project, which serves some of the community of 14,000 urban Indians from about 300 tribes in Spokane, as well as people of all races and ages.

Candy Jackson, NATIVE project
Candy Jackson stands before George Flett’s vision for the center.

During its 25th anniversary in 2014, The NATIVE Project changed its logo to incorporate the motto, “Sacred Hospitality For All.”

The NATIVE Project at 1803 W. Maxwell began in 1989 as a nonprofit, urban Indian organization to provide chemical dependency treatment for youth.  It now includes the NATIVE Health Clinic, which is a Federally Qualified Health Center, a Section 330 Community Health Clinic and an Urban Indian Health Clinic.

Its new logo represents a circle with four feathers of different colors, representing the four directions and as a way to say it serves people of different colors. 

The circle also includes seven black stones representing the Native focus on seven generations—seven generations going back to honor those who have gone before and seven generations ahead looking forward and taking responsibility to protect the next seven generations.

“We offer sacred hospitality for all, welcoming all,” said Candy Jackson, diabetes prevention supervisor and registered dietitian.

In addition to full medical services, the project’s programs now also include a pharmacy, community programs, child welfare services, mental health counseling, diabetes prevention and wellness programs.  It will soon add dental care.

It is open to people of all races, ethnicities, sexual orientations and religions, but specifically is a resource on Indian issues.

At first, about 70 percent of patients were Native.  Now about 60 percent are.  Candy expects it will eventually be 50 percent.  It serves about 75 people a day.

Its treatment, education and activity programs promote drug- and alcohol-free lifestyles; spiritual, cultural and traditional Native values; wellness and balance of mind, body and spirit; and integration of all healing paths.

“We raised funds and saved, first buying the block and then building the new facility, completing it in 2007,” Candy said. 

Candy said that when she came in 1990, the program was in what is now the east wing of the new building.

“We use Native traditions, such as circle groups for sharing. The person speaking holds an eagle feather and then passes it for the next person,” she said.  “We focus on spiritual, physical, mental and emotional being, like the four elements of the medicine wheel.”

The program also includes honoring events such as the recognition of college graduates at Spokane Falls Community College.

Candy completed undergraduate studies at Marquette University in Wisconsin, and a law degree at Marquette’s Law School.

A member of the Bad River Band of Chippewa in Northern Wisconsin, she grew up in Schofield, Wisc.  After law school, she was in legal services and worked on treaty rights for her tribe before coming to Spokane in 1990. 

She left the NATIVE Project for about 10 years to work on treaty rights, water law and child welfare with the Shoshone-Bannock tribes at the Fort Hall Indian Reservation near Pocatello.

Her mother’s death and the death of colleagues with diabetes led her to become a dietitian. 

“We look to our elders for history.  I was concerned diabetes was wiping out so many,” said Candy, who returned in 2005.

The community center program at Havermale offers a variety of education opportunities, including diabetes education.

Candy said she and Donna Brisbois-Burke, a nurse who belongs to the Spokane Tribe, offer diabetes prevention primarily for Indians, serving 250 Native Americans and several non-Natives with insurance.

“Native Americans have diabetes two-and-a-half times more frequently than the rest of the U.S. population,” she said, “and have a greater mortality rate.

“We signed people up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act so more could have health care,” she said.

In her work with diabetics, Candy is pleased that many are able to avoid amputations.

Once a week, staff offer a diabetes class.  Clients meet with a diabetes educator, participate in a support and education group, and have foot exams.

Four times a year, there are diabetes clinic days.  Clients first see the nurse for blood draws, tests and immunizations.  They then see a behavior health counselor, because many suffer depression.  Next Candy evaluates what they eat and their exercise routines.  Donna does a foot exam and checks their medicines.  Then the provider uses the information from these checkups to review the person’s medicines and levels.

Participants have their eyes checked, join an education program, eat a diabetes friendly meal and receive a gift card. 

“We encourage people to take better care of themselves,” Candy said.  “Many are diabetic because of food choices, a lack of exercise and weight.  Most need more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and more activity.”

Candy gives people pedometers to encourage them to walk.  Most are overwhelmed by the recommendation to walk 10,000 steps a day.  So she suggests that they start with 2,000 steps—a mile—and increase from there.

The Wednesday community wellness program at Havermale includes leadership training and mentoring; diabetes prevention, nutrition and cooking classes; drug/alcohol prevention; youth fitness—yoga, zumba, boxfit, basketball and a walking club; cultural activities; a Healthy Me program, and a monthly wellness dinner.  The monthly dinner features different native foods, such as salmon, beans and wild rice, Candy said.

From mid-June through July, Makayla Desjarlais of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and Levi Horn of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe will lead a five-week summer program with the Spokane Public Schools. 

Participants take morning classes and do afternoon recreation.  Up to 75 children aged five to 13 will participate in programs on culture, prevention, math, science, reading, swimming, robotics and field trips.

In April, 89 youth came to an annual leadership camp for 13- to 18-year-olds to discern their strengths as warriors, nurturers, scholars and community activists.

Counseling focuses on outpatient chemical dependency programs, aftercare and relapse prevention, mental health and child therapy.

Paintings by Spokane artist, the late George Flett, adorn walls of the community room.  One shows the vision quest in which he had the vision for the community center and clinic.  Others honor women and children of local tribes, and men from Coastal, Plains and Southwest tribes.

“My Jesuit education opened me to other spiritual ways,” said Candy, who attends St. Aloysius,  and occasionally a monthly Native Catholic Mass, and Native drumming and singing ceremonies.  She also does meditation and yoga.

“We encourage people to pursue spirituality in whatever form is meaningful for them,” she said.

For information, call 483-7535  or visit

Copyright © June 2015 - The Fig Tree