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Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Tobacco-Free Alaska > Community Spotlight > March 2015

March Community Spotlight: Tanana Chiefs Conference Interweaves People, Culture and the Tobacco-Free Movement

Rebecca Fisher TCC - Tobacco is not good for us.

Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC), an Alaska Native Non-Profit Organization based in Interior Alaska, has been implementing a Tobacco-Free Movement throughout the region by working together and promoting cultural values.

The movement began in 2014, as TCC’s Tobacco Prevention Program began working with other TCC departments to implement a Tobacco-Free Policy across all TCC campuses.

Rebecca Fisher, TCC’s Tobacco Prevention Policy Director, compares this sense of unity to the traditional art of Athabascan beadwork. “Our program works like beadwork, “said Fisher, “We interweave everything together joining the beads to the hide to create a beautiful piece of artwork.”

Widespread support for the policy was a necessity. The Tobacco Prevention staff involved every TCC Department, representatives from the interior tribes, and representatives from all TCC’s properties to talk about potential challenges and how to address them. They talked about how the policy worked for everyone, not just employees, but also visitors, Elders and future generations.

“By involving everyone, it has taken the burden of enforcing the tobacco-free policy off of one department,” said Fisher, “It is up to all TCC employees and even visitors to implement the policy, enforce it and make it more effective.”

In September, TCC officially adopted the tobacco-free campus policy, making all TCC business offices and rural properties a safe place for people to breathe smoke-free air.

While the Tobacco-Free Policy was a huge milestone for TCC, it was also important to communicate the negative effect of tobacco usage with the people that TCC’s serves. There are nine Native languages within the TCC region. Fisher, a Gwich’in Athabascan, has been working on translating tobacco prevention materials into her language. The translated materials, which also include a public service announcement spoken entirely in Gwich’in, have received the attention of the National Native Network. Fisher encourages tribes, both locally and nationally, to translate into their languages.

“It’s more than just changing a word from one language to another,” said Fisher, “Translating a poster showing the effects of tobacco use on the body, I need to stops and think, ‘How would a Gwich’in person see this?’ and ‘What will make me think this is important to me?’”

Translating material becomes a bridge between language and culture. By translating materials, TCC is incorporating cultural values; making messaging more relevant to the people they serve.