|DR. GARY FERGUSON :: HEALTHY COMMUNITIES CONSULTANT
Healthy Communities ConsuLting
Just because we are native does not mean that we govern from our indigenous values. We need to guard ourselves from falling into what Dr. Eduardo Duran calls “brown-skinned bureaucracy”. We become even worse than our colonizer by enabling, even supporting internalized oppression. This “lateral violence” has its roots psychologically, spiritually from a survival mechanism from the trauma we have gone through as indigenous nations. Many of our elders went to boarding schools where they had to assimilate or be beaten. This wounding created a form of Stockholm Syndrome where we espoused the colonizer values, religion, ways of relating to the world as a survival mechanism. We fell in love with our captor. To anyone who threatened our captor’s rule, we would use the carefully master-minded methods of colonization against our own people. This plays out in governmental organizations like the Indian Health Service, and in our tribal organizations including our corporations formed as a part of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). Many of our elders have maintained and recorded our traditional values that have been passed down for generations. They remind us of who we are and what is important. If our way of leadership or organizational development is not aligned by these values, we need to question the structure and push back against systems that continue to enslave our people. Our future generations are counting on us to heal this historical trauma that is persistent and dangerous to our well-being. It plays out in tribal organizations/corporations who devalue our land and disrespect Creator’s magnificent masterpiece. Our healthcare organizations who only value money, profit and not our first medicines, traditional ways of healing. Our HR policies that aren’t aligned with values or cultural practices like time to hunt, fish, gather in season. We need to reclaim these values and translate them into strong, resilient tribal organizations, nations. My passion is to encourage our next generation of indigenous leaders to question why we do things like we are doing them and make sure they are aligned with what our ancestors have told us is important. We deserve better. Our legacy will be a return to health, sustainability, harmony with God’s creation, and respect for each other.
I had the honor of sharing on KNOM Radio this week during Laureli Ivanoff's radio show Sikullautaq.
I had the honor of presenting as a part of the Cancer & COVID-19 talks with the American Indian Cancer Foundation this past month. Here is the recorded interview with #AICAF's Prevention & Policy Manager Chris Johnson, MA (Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota). The title for our talk is Indigenous Medicines to Support Healthy Immune & Respiratory Systems. There is a lot we can do to stay healthy during this challenging time.
Graphic from the American Indian Cancer Foundation: www.americanindiancancer.org.
I’m excited to announce that I’ll be available for health coaching starting this next month at Wisdom Traditions (www.awisdomcenter.com). It will only be a few days a month at this point, but will allow me to see patients again in between my other consulting work. My health coaching will focus on wellness and helping people connect the dots in addressing their health from a holistic perspective.
You can message me for an appointment through my website: www.drgaryferguson.com. At this point, it will be a cash only business, as I’m not set up to accept medical insurance at Wisdom Traditions. I’m excited to be affiliated with Wisdom Traditions, as they have a wealth of counseling therapies available to address the roots of well-being by treating the trauma underlying much of our mental/emotional/spiritual dis-ease. Wisdom Traditions combines the best of all worlds; an Integrative HealthCare Center that integrates top-notch counseling services with primary care, medication-assisted treatment, and an internationally recognized addiction recovery program. Super jazzed to work alongside Michael DeMolina and his team!
My work as KAANGUX̂ Consulting has been stimulating, rewarding the last few months.
The word “Doctor” has its root in the Latin word “Docere” meaning teacher.
In this spirit of Docere, I have the honor of facilitating great discussions along with teaching/motivational speaking. This past week I facilitated the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Community Development Association (APICDA) Annual Community Conference. It was a rich dialogue culminating in each community coming up with action plans relating to funding opportunities that will contribute towards community well-being. I'm jazzed to see the outcomes from the dedicated leaders from each community, as there are some awesome plans that will be deployed in the next year!
I have passion around addressing the social, economic, cultural and environmental determinants of health. Working with APICDA was a perfect fit, as we address the deeper roots of community wellness through economic development, empowering communities to lead their own change. I see myself as a catalyst in this arena, as we address the levers in helping promote community health.
Community well-being wisdom from "The Hidden Life of Trees" by Peter Wohlleben:
"But why are trees such social beings? Why do they share food with their own species and sometimes even go so far as to nourish their competitors? The reasons are the same for human communities: there are advantages to working together. A tree is not a forest. On its own, a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate. It is at the mercy of wind and weather. But together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity. And in this protective environment, trees can live to be very old. To get to this point, the community must remain intact no matter what. If every tree were looking out only for itself, then quite a few of them would never reach old age. Regular fatalities would result in many large gaps in the tee canopy, which would make it easier for storms to get inside the forest and uproot more trees. The heat of summer would reach the forest floor and dry it out. Every tree would suffer.
Every tree, therefore, is valuable to the community and worth keeping round for as long as possible. And that is why even sick individuals are supported and nourished until they recover. Next time, perhaps it will be the other way round, and the supporting tree might be the one in need of assistance. When thick silver-gray beeches behave like this, they remind me of a herd of elephants. Like the herd, they, too, look after their own, and they help their sick and weak back up onto their feet. They are even reluctant to abandon their dead."
We are stronger together! Everyone in our community counts and is important for our survival, wellness. When people suffer in our community, our whole community needs to come together to help them heal, recover.
I had the honor of moderating the Lt. Governor and Gubernatorial Forum on behalf of the Anchorage Downtown Partnership last night. It was a refreshing conversation that allowed voters to tease out the differences in the candidates and also see the many things they have in common. My consulting business is very diverse with facilitating conversations, conferences, meetings being one of my offerings to communities and organizations. "Conversations That Matter" are crucial in our vision for a healthy, vital future for Alaska.
I’ve been enjoying traveling this Spring/Summer, assisting Tribal Health organizations in promoting well-being in their communities. Looking at growing the good, utilizing a bright-spots based approach is crucial to not get lost in the hopeless abyss, the challenges many of our communities face. Often, under our noses, are things that are working. Similar to building a fire, there are often hot embers, positive happenings, that can be used to re-ignite the fire of hope in community. Resilience that we can learn from and be inspired by. What is working in your community? What assets have we possibly overlooked or undervalued? What can we build upon, grow to enhance wellness for our communities’ future?
Greetings and Happy Spring!
I've been enjoying the past few months of transition in my career, as I develop my consulting business. Coming up with a title for my consulting work was a challenge, as my practice is holistic and varied depending on the community, organization or individual I'm working with. Healthy Communities Consultant resonated as the best title for my overall work as a catalyst across Alaska (and beyond). Many have asked what my consulting looks like, so below is a summary of the kind of work that I do:
Some of my current passions include:
Social, Economic, Cultural and Environmental Determinants of Health (Population Health)
Nutrition, Food as Medicine
Indigenous approaches to health & well-being
Botanical Medicine and especially the traditional medicines of indigenous peoples
Incorporating botanical, integrative medicines into Tribal Health System pharmacies
Tribal Self-determination, self-funding and offering of Integrative Medicine, Traditional Healing
Addressing the "Silver Tsunami", making sure our Elders have wellness-based healthcare and advocacy
Trauma-informed Care and non-pharmacologic therapies for resolving trauma
Addressing Homelessness, Housing First
My current bio:
Dr. Gary Ferguson is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor living in Anchorage, Alaska. For the past 16 years, Dr. Ferguson has worked across Alaska to address the social, economic, cultural and environmental factors that contribute to the health, well-being of Alaskans. He is a facilitator, motivational speaker, and technical consultant to communities, agencies, and individuals around how to more deeply address contributing factors to health, well-being. He is Aleut/Unangan, originally from the Shumagin Islands community of Sand Point, Alaska. Dr. Ferguson’s past positions include providing clinical services to his home region at Eastern Aleutian Tribes and serving at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium as Wellness & Prevention Director and Senior Director of Community Health Services. His most recent work includes serving at the Rural Alaska Community Action Program as Chief Executive Officer prior to becoming a Healthy Communities Consultant.