Artwork submitted from American Indian artists for the American Cancer Society's Circle of Life program, which promotes cancer awareness to American Indians. Art by Gary Robinson, Tribal Eye Productions, Santa Ynez, California

South Dakota Reservations Part of National Pilot for Culturally Sensitive Cancer Education and Prevention

Charlotte Hofer

National Minority Cancer Awareness Week is April 17-23, and the American Cancer Society is working to reduce the disparities in minority cancer treatment. For the past year, the American Cancer Society Circle of Life pilot study has been examining the effectiveness of culturally appropriate educational tools for minority cancer awareness and prevention. Two South Dakota-based tribes, the Cheyenne River Sioux and Standing Rock Sioux have been a part of this preliminary field testing.

“In the past, cancer awareness education has been geared to the general public, or only Native women. Now the American Cancer Society has information available for men and women, and it can apply to every tribe,” commented Dana Dupris, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe member in Eagle Butte.

First emphasizing breast cancer prevention, Circle of Life now has expanded to cover lung, prostate and colon cancer--all types of cancer seen frequently in Native populations.

“These new educational materials and the Circle of Life program will bring greater awareness to a minority group that had previously been ignored in the cancer prevention movement,” added Dupris.

Circle of Life is an educational program designed for American Indian audiences. Educational materials are illustrated with Native art and can be customized for any tribe. The materials are culturally specific to an American Indian audience and their outlook on health and wellness.

‘The American Cancer Society, along with many tribal partners, created this program to reach out more effectively to a culture who hadn’t been responding to other materials,” said Roberta Cahill, American Cancer Society. “With culturally relevant information available, the hope is that the message will be better received and will create action in Native American communities to save more lives from cancer.”

The Circle of Life website will be available in September to American Indians looking for cancer and health information relevant to their community. The program aims to increase the understanding of cancer and its causes, promote wellness and prevention of cancer, and emphasize the importance of support during treatment. For more information, visit the American Cancer Society at

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