Centering Indigenous Voices When Developing and Implementing Family Life Education Programs

October 25, 2023 11:00am - 12:00pm
$31 for NCFR student members / $52 for NCFR members & CFLEs / $94 for nonmembers & non-CFLEs
Oct. 25 presenters
Presenters (clockwise from top left): Vanessa Simonds, Sc.D.; Roni Knows His Gun, M.S.; Alma Knows His Gun, B.S.; Sarah Allen, Ph.D.

When developing a program that provides essential resources, it is best practice for Family Life Educators (FLE) to identify strengths and needs of the community with whom the FLE will work. Identifying the strengths and needs of a community is particularly important when a community has strong cultural and traditional values that—if not incorporated in planning and implementation—may result in a program that is disrespectful or harmful to the intended audience. The Indigenous community is an example of a community with whom FLEs must build a relationship with due to the community’s history of oppression and deep cultural traditions.

This webinar will provide an example of addressing critical gaps in Family Life Education by providing new perspectives for developing and piloting a culturally consonant and trauma-informed healthy relationship curriculum for rural Indigenous youth. Specifically, webinar presenters will share their experiences of developing and maintaining a 26-year partnership between Montana State University and an Apsáalooke non-profit organization to provide a Family Life Education program in the Apsáalooke Nation in Montana. Attendees will learn about the techniques used to incorporate Indigenous voices prior to, during, and after program implementation, and strategies that can be replicated when working with the Indigenous communities in one’s own area.

By the end of this webinar, attendees will be able to:

  • Implement culturally consonant practices when developing Family Life Education programs with and for Indigenous youth.
  • Work with Indigenous communities to adapt existing family life education programs, or create new ones in ways driven by both data and cultural relevance.
  • Develop and evaluate strengths-based and trauma-informed curriculum that center Indigenous voices, knowledge, and wisdom.

Approved for 1.0 hour of CFLE continuing education.

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About the Presenters

The views expressed by the webinar presenters are their own.

Vanessa Simonds, Sc.D., is an enrolled member of the Crow Tribe, descendant of the Blackfeet Nation, and an associate professor in Community Health at Montana State University. She earned her graduate degrees from the Harvard School of Public Health with a master’s degree in epidemiology and a doctorate in public health intervention design for social change. Dr. Simonds uses community-based participatory research approaches to address health literacy issues ranging from chronic disease to environmental health among Native Americans. She is committed to designing, implementing, and evaluating strength-based, community-centered outreach strategies in partnership with Indigenous communities. For the past six years, she has collaborated with Crow tribal partners to implement an environmental health literacy program for youth and their families.

Roni Knows His Gun, M.S., is an enrolled member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe located in Southeast Montana. She received her associates of arts degree from Chief Dull Knife Community college, located in Lame Deer, Montana on the Northern Cheyenne reservation. Ms. Knows His Gun earned her bachelors of science degree in community health from Montana State University. She earned her master’s degree in community health. Ms. Knows His Gun began working with the Healthy Relationships team in 2021 and continues to learn valuable insight about Indigenous health and wellness from the professionals on her team. She is continuing her education in the Indigenous and rural health doctoral program at Montana State University.

Alma Knows His Gun, B.S., is a member of the Crow Nation and the executive director of Messengers for Health, a Native American 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization located on the Crow reservation. Ms. Knows His Gun is a leader and a community activist for improved health and wellness amongst her people. She earned bachelor’s degree in health and wellness from Montana State University-Billings. Ms. Knows His Gun has extensive experience in conducting community-based participatory research projects through a long-standing partnership with Montana State University. She has traveled nationwide to present at health conferences to share the program’s successes. Ms. Knows His Gun has co-authored numerous peer reviewed journal articles and publications. She has received various leadership awards in recognition of her work. Messengers for Health also received various national recognition awards for improved health efforts and promotion of health equity. 

Sarah Allen, Ph.D., is an associate professor and department chair of the Family Life and Human Development Department at Southern Utah University. She received her doctorate in family relations and applied nutrition from the University of Guelph in Ontario Canada. Over the past 20 years her research and teaching has centered individual, family, and community health and well-being. Dr. Allen has over 50 research publications in the domains of rural Indigenous mental, physical, and relational health, couple divorce ideation and decision-making, the impact of father involvement on child development outcomes. In 2016, she joined the Crow Tribe and Messengers for Health partnership with Montana State University as research faculty. Dr. Allen is dedicated to promoting health equity through relationship building, education, outreach, public policy, and community-based participatory research.


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