Flathead Indian Reservation celebrates 3rd annual Go Red for Women event

Jamie Lozeau of the CSKT Tribal Health Department. Photo courtesy of Alyssa Kelly, Char-Koosta News.

Heart disease causes one in three deaths among women every year, and each February the national Go Red for Women campaign by the American Heart Association puts on a fashion show to raise awareness about heart disease.

For the past three years, the Flathead Indian Reservation has been finding its own voice within the national campaign – with a cultural twist.

Over the weekend the Native American community banded together at the Salish Kootenai College to raise awareness about heart disease with a special fashion show with ribbon dresses and wing dresses.

The show was meant to bring awareness to something more serious.

"I feel this event is important because it gives women who are predominantly caretakers in our culture -- we have grandmothers who will take care of grandchildren, grandmothers who are our cornerstones -- and those are the people who don't take care of themselves. Women don't make time to take care of themselves," said Jamie Lozeau, the diabetes coordinator at the CSKT Tribal Health Department.

Lozeau says there are currently 800 tribal health recipients on the reservation who have diabetes. That means they're at a higher risk for heart disease, and organizers say many of them are women.

"My mom, I lost her at age 63 to heart disease, so it's very prevalent in our family, and it's nice to come to an event and learn more about healthy eating and healthy living," said Marsha Fry, an attendee in the audience.

Lozeau said women present symptoms for heart disease differently, sometimes going in for atypical symptoms like indigestion, fatigue or neck pain. She says it’s important for women to know the risk factors.

“Taking care of yourself is the most important thing, because you can't take care of other people unless you're taking care of yourself first,” said Tonia Jo Hall, a well known comedian in Indian Country, who was invited to the Go Red for Women event to bring some laughter.

"Find outlets that are healthy, and maybe laughter can be one of them. Maybe putting on funny videos, going to a comedy show or just laughing among friends. It always brings back your spirit,” she added.

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