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Seneca Nation awarded grant to bolster healthy living

The Seneca Nation of Indians has been awarded a $25,000 Culture of Health Prize by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation for its continuing work to give Senecas across Western New York the opportunity to live healthier lives.

The nation announced this week it is one of eight winners out of 200 applicants across the country. Efforts that helped win the prize include an approach to address physical, psychological, economic and environmental health concerns across the Seneca community.

“As a sovereign nation, we want to control our own destiny and provide a strong, healthy and vibrant nation for our younger generations,” Seneca Nation President Todd Gates said in a news release. “Foremost in our mind is the need to take care of our people and provide them the opportunities and services they need to be the best they can be. Health, for us, has to incorporate every aspect of life, because every aspect of life for the Seneca people has been under attack for generations. We want to make the Seneca Nation healthier and stronger than ever.”

“For the past five years, RWJF Culture of Health Prize communities have inspired hope across the country. We welcome these new eight Prize communities who are forging partnerships to improve health for their residents,” said Dr. Richard Besser, foundation president and CEO. “There are now 35 prize-winning communities across the country that are thinking big, building on their strengths, and engaging residents as equal partners to tackle the problems that they see.”

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The most recent other seven winning communities are Algoma, Wisc.; Allen County, Kansas; Chelsea, Mass.; Garrett County, Md.; Richmond, Va.; San Pablo, Calif.; and Vicksburg, Miss.

The Seneca Nation had secured the prize by demonstrating how it excelled in the following six criteria:

– Defining health in the broadest possible terms.

– Committing to sustainable systems changes and policy-oriented long-term solutions.

– Cultivating a shared and deeply-held belief in the importance of equal opportunity for health.

– Harnessing the collective power of leaders, partners, and community members.

– Securing and making the most of available resources.

– Measuring and sharing progress and results.

“This award helps the Seneca Nation continue along what has been a path for growth and restoration,” Gates said. “In just the last several years, we’ve built new on-territory health centers, re-introduced our traditional Seneca language in our Early Childhood and adult education programs, created job opportunities and skills training for our people, and taken a strong stance against drug and alcohol abuse in our community. That important work must continue.”

Learn more about the work of all the winners through a collection videos, photos, and more at


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