What Indigenous People's Day Means to Roswell Park

At Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, we acknowledge that our differences are indeed our strengths when it comes to meeting and exceeding our goals. We serve diverse communities throughout Western New York, many of them facing a wide range of challenges and health disparities, especially when it comes to cancer.

One such group are the local Indigenous communities of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) People. This year, Roswell Park will celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day on October 12 along with Columbus Day.

We join many other regional institutions and employers in this movement, which has grown rapidly across the country since the 1977 United Nations-sponsored conference at which a name change for the holiday was first requested. The change is a peaceful way to confront long-term discrimination against Indigenous peoples in the U.S. These acts of discrimination against these people have contributed to their multigenerational lack of trust in health and governmental organizations, and created disparities in many areas of health care, including cancer research and treatment. It is a gap that Roswell Park is determined to close.

"Utilizing Haudenosaunee values and teachings, our good minds at Roswell Park are working together to strengthen our role as leaders in Western New York and amplify the presence of Haudenosaunee peoples as good neighbors," says Rodney Haring, PhD, MSW, Assistant Professor of Oncology and Director of the Department of Indigenous Cancer Health

Earlier this year, Roswell Park took a step forward to collaborate with Haudenosaunee Nations and other Indigenous communities by establishing the Department of Indigenous Cancer Health to reduce cancer’s impact on Indigenous communities regionally, nationally and internationally.

The Department of Indigenous Cancer Health has begun working with the Haudenosaunee communities to expand opportunities for cancer-related clinical trial education, cancer screening, prevention and wellness outreach through distributing newsletters and offering webinars with experts from various health fields.

Indigenous Cancer Research at Roswell Park

Established in January 2020, read about the Department of Indigenous Cancer Health.

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"As executive director of Native American Community Services, and really as a community member, I know historically our people's relationship with hospitals hasn't always been a positive one. It's where a lot of our people felt you went to die. Roswell Park has taken initiatives to be more inclusive of Indigenous people," says Michael Martin, Executive Director of Native American Community Services of Erie and Niagara Counties, Inc. "This is particularly true for the Haudenosaunee people, who are prominent in this area. Through the work of Dr. Rodney Haring, and the new center, as well as acknowledging Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Roswell Park is creating a continuum of care that's more holistic and inclusive for us."

A keystone philosophy among the Haudenosaunee people is something known as the seventh generation principle, a belief that when making decisions today, we have a responsibility to think about how the decision will affect not only the next generation, but seven generations in the future. With that mindset, Roswell Park, the Center for Indigenous Cancer Research and the Haudenosaunee leadership look far ahead to reduce cancer's impact for today, tomorrow and all future generations.

"We thank you for joining us in honoring and celebrating Indigenous Peoples here in Western New York and around the world," says Dr. Haring. "I am confident that it is moments like this that will bring our communities together and create a stronger world for the next seven generations to thrive."