Strengthening Communities: Opportunities for Native Youth

Tue, 8/23/2022

This pre-recorded, 60-minute webinar introduces Native teens and young adults to ways they can strengthen their communities through substance use prevention. The webinar is moderated by Mr. Dallas Pettigrew, a Clinical Assistant Professor of Social Work and citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

In the first part the webinar, young people will learn about careers in prevention research and practice. Ms. Sierra Talavera-Brown, enrolled member of the Navajo Nation and Class of 2023 student at Emory University, interviews team members from two HEAL Preventing OUD pdf  16.04 MB research studies: Ms. Juli Skinner (Senior Director of Behavioral Health for the Cherokee Nation and member of the Ponca Tribe) and Dr. Daniel Dickerson (Inupiaq), Associate Research Psychiatrist at UCLA, Integrated Substance Abuse Programs (ISAP). Then, Dr. Melissa Walls (Bois Forte & Couchiching First Nation Anishinaabe), an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University, shares her journey from youth volunteer to Indigenous health researcher.

In the second part of the webinar, Native youth will learn about community-based prevention and education opportunities and ways to get involved. They will see examples of youth art and community projects from the I Strengthen My Nation NIDA Challenge. Then, Mr. Tommy Ghost Dog, enrolled member of the Burns Paiute Tribe and Oglala Lakota, will introduce youth to We R Native, a comprehensive health resource by and for Native youth.

Topics Covered

  • Career pathways in substance misuse prevention research and practice
  • Ongoing research on interventions to prevent alcohol, opioid, and other drug misuse among Native adolescents and young adults
  • Past and future opportunities for Native youth to strengthen their communities through substance misuse prevention


See the event's visual abstract. pdf  653.19 KB

Dallas Pettigrew, M.S.W., is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of Oklahoma and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He was a Co-Investigator and Director of Community Environmental Change in “A Prevention Trial in Cherokee Nation,” a five-year study funded by the National Institutes of Health, testing interventions that prevent underage alcohol use. The program is currently being adapted for broader drug use prevention and mental health promotion as one project of HEAL Preventing OUD. He is also the founding director of the Center for Tribal Social Work in the Anne and Henry Zarrow School of Social Work. Mr. Pettigrew and his collaborators have been awarded approximately $1,600,000 in grants and contracts to support the education, training, and workforce development of tribal child welfare professionals, including $650,000 to provide stipends for tuition and other expenses for social work students who commit to working in tribal child welfare upon graduation. He is also a Global Leader for Young Children, part of the World Forum Foundation, and serves on its Indigenous Peoples’ Action Group.

Sierra Talavera-Brown is a Class of 2023 student at Emory University, majoring in anthropology and human biology. Sierra Talavera-Brown is Diné, born for Meadow People. Her family is from the Navajo Nation in an area outside of Gallup known as the Coyote Canon. Sierra’s interests are grounded in reforming the inequitable approach to healthcare, aiming to better Native American health outcomes. Sierra appreciates the value of integrative medicine and preventative care. She currently serves as the Osteopathic and Integrative Medicine Chair in Emory’s Pre-Medical Association. In 2020, she facilitated a workshop at the American Anthropological Association on Reforming Mental Health Services for Indigenous Communities. She is a research assistant on a NIDA-funded prevention trial, “Community randomized trial in the Cherokee Nation: Connect and CMCA for preventing drug misuse among older adolescents.”  Sierra intends to pursue an MPH and an MD or DO with specializations in integrative medicine to heal from a structurally competent and culturally centered perspective that acknowledges the mind-body connection and is rooted in community engagement.

Juli Skinner, LMSW, Senior Director of Behavioral Health has worked with Cherokee Nation since 2000. She earned her Bachelors in Psychology from Northeastern State University and her Master in Social Work from the University of Oklahoma. Ms. Skinner has extensive knowledge working with Native populations. She has developed strategic plans around interventions regarding activities that promote and support young child mental health. In addition, she helped develop and launch HERO (Helping Everyone Reach Out), Children’s behavioral health department for Cherokee Nation. This program strives to deliver services on the micro, mezzo, and macro levels.  Now, as the Senior Director of Behavioral Health, Ms. Skinner and her team continue to expand and increase services for mental health for the Cherokee Nation, including developing a culturally infused continuum of care to address addiction resulting from complex and historical trauma. She serves as MPI of the NIDA-funded “Community randomized trial in the Cherokee Nation: Connect and CMCA for preventing drug misuse among older adolescents.” 

Daniel Dickerson, D.O., M.P.H., (Inupiaq) is an Associate Research Psychiatrist at University of California, Los Angeles, Integrated Substance Abuse Programs (ISAP). Dr. Dickerson’s research focuses on the development of substance use treatment and prevention programs for American Indian/Alaska Native youth and adults. He is currently co-Principal Investigator on National Institutes of Health-funded studies "Traditions and Connections for Urban Native Americans (TACUNA)” and "Native American Youth Sleep, Health, and Wellness (NAYSHAW)." He was also co-Principal Investigator on "Motivational Interviewing and Culture for Urban Native American Youth (MICUNAY)" and Principal Investigator on "Drum-Assisted Recovery Therapy for Native Americans (DARTNA)."

Melissa Walls, Ph.D., (memengwaa) is Eagle Clan and a first-generation descendant of the Couchiching First Nation and Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe (maternal) and of Swedish/German descent (paternal). She grew up in northern Minnesota along the Canadian border and now lives in Duluth, MN where she serves as Director of the Center for Indigenous Health's Great Lakes Hub and an Associate Professor of American Health in the Department of International Health at Johns Hopkins University. Melissa is trained as a social scientist (PhD sociology, 2007) and is committed to collaborative, community-driven research. She has been working on health equity research projects with Tribal Nations in the Great Lakes region of the US and Canada since 2002. The Great Lakes Hub project focus on topics including mental health epidemiology, culturally-relevant, family-based substance use prevention and mental health promotion programming and evaluation, and promoting better health for families living with type 2 diabetes.

Thomas L. Ghost Dog, Jr. (Burns Paiute/Oglala Lakota |He/His) is the Project Coordinator for We R Native at the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board (NPAIHB). He assists with several adolescent health promotion projects and manages We R Native’s website and social media channels. Mr. Ghost Dog blends NPAIHB’s resources with his own life experiences growing up on the Burns Paiute reservation.

For More Information, Contact:

Amy Goldstein, Ph.D. at [email protected]

Kathy Etz, Ph.D. at [email protected]