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We Still Believe

Living Together, Screening Together

Lumbee Tribe holds educational workshop on healthy living

Living Together, Screening Together community outreach program draws about 150 tribal members to Harvest Church in RaynhamWednesday night

RAYNHAM – Cancer is the leading cause of death among Indians in Robeson County.

And, it’s one of the most preventable.

Dr. Cherry Beasley is hoping to spread the word about the importance of living healthy, getting regular checkups and other measures to stop the spread of the deadly disease that is ravishing her Native American people.

Beasley is a UNC Pembroke professor with more than 45 years experience as a nurse. She knows the devastating effects of cancer and knows that her people don’t have to die from it.

“Most cancer can be prevented through healthy living,” Beasley said. “A person’s lifestyle contributes risk factors, including obesity and smoking. We need to go back to our traditional ways of life and start eating healthy.”

This is the sixth community health outreach program for Beasley since January. She has preached the message of the importance of healthy living constantly each time around.

She presented a 20-minute segment in the Living Together, Screening Together community outreach program Wednesday night at Harvest Church in Raynham. The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina and the American Indian Center for Health Education and Technology sponsored the three-hour program, which featured educational workshops for elders and games for the children.

Lumbee District 7 Councilwoman Jan Lowery is the chair of the tribe’s health committee. She too has been spreading the word of healthy living. Lowery has an extensive background working in healthcare as well.

“We need to just get back to the basics,” she said. “We need to eat healthy and get rid of sugars in our diet.”

Maintaining healthy eating tips was the ideal topic for Lumbee Chef Pat Dial, perhaps the most popular of all the presenters at the workshop. He prepared low fat, low sugar deserts for a dinner prior to the workshops. Once inside, he provided tips to tribal members on cooking more healthy dishes.

Dial explained how traditional Lumbee dishes seasoned with pork could be just as tasty seasoned with a more healthy meat like turkey. He drew a warm reception from the crowd when he told the story of cooking smoked turkey legs on green beans instead of using ham hocks.

He also explained how salty pork like fatback can be consumed healthier and yet retain its flavor by simply washing away some of the salt and soaking it in a garlic based oil mixture.

“We need to take in less a salt and sugar,” Dial said. “But, you don’t have to sacrifice the taste of your cuisine, but just learn to modify it.”

Dial also encouraged people to buy locally grown produce. He said fresh fruits and vegetables were always part of the Lumbee diet, but tribal members have gotten away from it through the years.

He said it’s time for the Lumbee people to go back to the old ways to regain their health.

“We have to find healthy ways to eat and stay true to our culture,” Dial said.

Kathy Woriax is the director of the Changing Lifestyles Living Longer Program. She said the program’s purpose is to promote healthy lifestyle choices among the Lumbee tribal community as a way of life.

“We are educating our Lumbee tribal membership in ways to prevent chronic diseases such as cancer, obesity, and diabetes and the importance of early screenings proper diet, exercising regularly, and routine health exams in an effort to improve their quality of life and to close the gap in health disparities,” said Woriax, who has more than 30 years experience in healthcare.

Woriax has seen the health issues her people have faced first hand since the 1970s working with her late father, Dr. Frank Woriax. Diabetes is one of the worst health issues among Indians here that she has had to deal with.

She shared a story about how a former patient came for a visit and was hesitant to remove her sock. She said when she finally convinced the patient to let her examine her feet, she found that two of the patient’s toes had rotted completely off, a third was hanging on by a thin stand of skin and her toe was completely black.

The Harvest Church sanctuary drew silent, save only a few gasps, after Woriax showed them a model of a rotted diabetic foot with an ulcer three inches in diameter on the sole.

“This is what uncontrolled diabetes can do to you,” she said as she held the gel-coated model foot up for all to see. “You have to be real careful about having diabetes.”

The Lumbee Tribe’s Changing Lifestyles Living Longer program serves as an educational platform to educate the Lumbee tribal membership on how to prevent chronic disease specifically cancer, obesity and diabetes.

The huge numbers of Indians here dying of breast, colon and prostate cancer weighs heavily on Dr. Cherry Beasley’s mind. She is hoping her people return to their traditional ways.

“We have to get back to who we are as a people,” Beasley said. “We have to take care of each other. We can solve our own problems.”

Changing Lifestyles Living Longer is a grant-funded program through the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health, Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities.

For more information on the Lumbee Tribe’s Changing Lifestyles program, call Director Kathy Woriax at (910) 521-5580 or Michael Brooks at (910) 674-7960 or visit on the web.


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