BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — November is Native American Heritage Month and 23ABC is highlighting an organization working to help that population.
With more than 20,000 Native Americans that live in Kern County, their assistance is greatly needed.
Here at the Bakersfield Indian Health Project, they have served over 200 Native Americans in the past year.
“We serve all of the Native American, American Indians, and Alaska natives who reside in Kern County and we do medical, we do transportation, case management, and behavioral health services for our Native American population,” said Angel Galvez, Chief Executive Officer at Bakersfield American Indian Health Project.
Angel Galvez said a health organization like the Bakersfield American Indian Health Project, is extremely important because Native Americans don’t always want traditional forms of medicine.
“With American Indian, Alaska natives, there is culture, tradition and there are holistic ways of healing, so we focus on the mind body and soul.”
Galvez said he often hears people say, ‘I didn't know there were any Native Americans here in Kern County’.
“There are roughly an estimated 24,000 Native Americans that live here in Kern County, and we have one Native American Indian tribe that is federally recognized but there are also other Native Americans that are native to this land.”
That is why Galvez is so proud to work at BAIHP because he knows he is helping a community that is often overlooked and underserved.
“If you look at research and really look at the health disparities, you’ll find that Alaska natives and American Indians suffer the highest health disparities than any other ethnic group.”
This year Galvez plans to celebrate Native American Heritage Month by reflecting with his peers.
“We choose a day where we can gather and bring a culture and celebrate wellness and resiliency and celebrate the hardships that our people are faced with every single day/”
He said he knows how difficult it can be for Native Americans, “I would tell them that never give up and it’s important that they know we’re here to serve them.”
Galvez said that anyone who comes in these doors behind him will be treated with cultural and mutual respect