Observed annually each November, Native American Heritage Month is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories. This month provides an opportunity to acknowledge and honor the important contributions of Native people.

Zoey Not Afraid
Zoey Not Afraid, Organ Donor

Zoey Cheryl Not Afraid was a sweet, silly, fun-loving girl and member of the Crow Nation. She enjoyed playing basketball, camping, and riding horses and was a “natural born-leader” with a compassionate, nurturing instinct. Zoey was only 11 years old when she passed away, and while her life ended too soon her legacy lives on through her parent’s decision to say yes to organ donation. After her donation, her father, Leroy Not Afraid, shared this message with his family and friends:

“Today, Zoey became a Hero! In the midst of our tragedy. We quickly learned that Zoey could become an organ donor. In honoring, Zoey’s kind and loving spirit. Her mother, Jackie and I agreed to share Zoey’s life with families in need.”

Over the past two years, we have worked closely with Partnerships for Native Health out of the University of Washington to develop a cultural sensitivity training  to help educate our staff about Native traditions and beliefs, and ensure a culturally appropriate communication approach.  This cultural awareness has helped us better serve Native families in our region, and last year we saw a 32% increase in the number of Native families saying yes to donation.

Currently, there are over 1,200 Native Americans waiting for a life-saving organ transplant nationwide. Though organ and tissue transplantation can exceed racial boundaries, transplant success rates increase when organs are matched between members of similar backgrounds. The more families like Zoey’s say yes to donation the more Natives on the transplant waiting list are likely to get a second chance at life.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey, liver recipient

William (Bill) Bailey is a craftsman and noted artist in the Samish Nation community. He received his life-saving liver transplant at the 
University of Washington Medical Center
in 2010 and uses his second chance at life to give back to his community as an active Tribe Leader and Spiritual Healer.   Following his transplant, Bill honored his donor family, as well as members of his transplant team and LifeCenter Northwest staff with a traditional Spread the Table meal prepared by the Samish Nation to demonstrate his thanks and gratitude.  He also uses his art to spread the word about the his gift of life.

We invite you to join us in celebrating the culture, traditions, music, crafts, dance and concepts of life throughout this commemorative month. Click here to learn more about Native American Heritage Month. To read more stories like Zoey and Bill’s visit our Stories of Hope page.