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Embracing Two Worlds: My Journey as a Native American Woman

Honoring Native American Heritage Month

By Donielle Ancar Brinkley, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, Post-Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

As a Native American, my life embodies the intricate blend of two worlds: the deep-rooted traditions of my coastal Louisiana indigenous heritage and the ever-evolving demands of modern American society. Navigating the complexities of this duality has been a profound journey, filled with struggles and triumphs. To honor Native American Heritage Month, I will share some of my experiences and shed light on the challenges faced by Native Americans in maintaining our cultural identity while adapting to the realities of the modern world.

The Significance of Cultural Heritage

For me, my cultural heritage is not just a part of who I am, but a source of strength and belonging. It is a cloth tightly woven with the threads of ancient wisdom, reverence for nature, and a profound sense of culture and community. However, preserving our heritage and identity is an ongoing battle. The scars of colonization, assimilation, and the loss of sacred lands have left deep wounds within our communities. Reviving and maintaining our ancestral practices, languages, and spirituality requires constant effort and resilience.

Balancing Traditional and Modern American Life

I often find myself standing at the crossroads of cultural assimilation and the preservation of my identity. The pressure to conform to mainstream society can be overwhelming, leading to the dilution of our customs and a loss of cultural identity. Struggling to balance the teachings of our ancestors with the influences of the modern world, many of us experience an identity crisis. This internal conflict is particularly pronounced among the younger generation, who must navigate the complexities of cultural traditions while embracing the opportunities and advancements of contemporary society.

Taking Every Opportunity to Blend My Two Worlds

In my work for TeamHealth, three mornings each week, I drive into East Tennessee as the sun is rising. Three mornings each week, I speak words of respect and gratitude to the Cherokee people for all they gave and continue to give in stewardship of this place I now enjoy as home and a work environment.

As a nurse practitioner deeply rooted in my cultural background, I am driven to address the health disparities faced by underserved communities. By integrating my cultural heritage into my doctoral research, I aim to shed light on the unique challenges faced by individuals who have experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and develop culturally sensitive interventions that promote healing, resilience, and overall well-being.

As a TeamHealth clinician, I aspire to advocate for improved healthcare services for the underserved peoples of East Tennessee and foster a greater understanding of the complex interplay between trauma, cultural identity, and healthcare delivery.

Learn more about diversity, equity and inclusion at TeamHealth .

Maintaining Resilience and Pride through Adversity

Being an Indigenous American is a profound journey of embracing two worlds. As I navigate the challenges of preserving my cultural heritage, overcoming economic disparities, and maintaining my identity, I draw strength from the wisdom passed down through generations, the support of my community, and the unwavering determination to forge a path that honors both my traditional indigenous roots and my aspirations for a prosperous future. Though the struggles are real, the resilience and pride that define us as Natives continue to guide us forward, illuminating a path of cultural preservation and growth.

TeamHealth understands that transparent and authentic conversations on some topics can impact individuals in various ways.