Urban Indigenous Collective helps provide health and wellness services to Native Americans in NYC

BySandra Bookman and Emily Sowa WABC logo
Wednesday, November 17, 2021
Activist shines spotlight on health disparities for urban Indigenous
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Afro-Indigenous New Yorker Sutton King is on a mission to provide advocacy and a safe space for urban Natives.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City has the largest population of indigenous people in the country and Channel 7 is shining a spotlight on one local Native American who is trying to make a real difference in her community.

Sutton King has always been connected to her Native American heritage.

Born in Wisconsin, she's descended from Menominee Chief Oshkosh, who's credited with making sure his tribe wasn't forced to leave their land.

Her early education was on the Oneida reservation, her grandmother's tribe.

"At a very young age, my mom always made sure to remind me of where I come from and who my ancestors are and how important our culture and our medicine is," King said.

King believes lessons learned as a young girl, jingle dress dancing in the pow wow circle to help heal the sick, was preparation for what would later become her life's work.

She moved to New York at 18 for college, eventually earning a master's degree in public health from NYU.

"I always knew I wanted to do good things for my people and help heal them," she said.

Sandra Bookman has more on Sutton King, who founded the Urban Indigenous Collective in New York City:

Her first job was developing culturally tailored simulations that trained law enforcement how to engage with tribal youth without re-traumatizing them.

Next, she took a position at a newly developed urban Indian health program, that didn't quite meet her expectations.

"What I saw there with the urban Indian health program is just a lack of funding," King said.

She also says so-called "blood quantum criteria," which requires an individual to prove the amount of Indian blood they have kept many from accessing the resources they were entitled to.

That's why she founded the nonprofit Urban Indigenous Collective to help provide health and wellness services to the more than 100,000 Native Americans living across the five boroughs.

Related: Celebrate Native American Heritage Month with "Our America: Indigenous and Urban"

"We want to recognize all indigenous people as our relatives and really ensure that they have access to the resources they deserve regardless if they have a paper that says they're this much of a pie of an indigenous person," King said.

It's her way of keeping alive the traditional teaching that culture is medicine.

Celebrate Native American Heritage Month with "Our America: Indigenous and Urban" on Wednesday, November 17, on this ABC station or wherever you stream: Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV or Roku.

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