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“Don’t Get Sick After June”: A Seventy-Year Long Survival Strategy for Native Americans Navigating the Indian Health Service

March 11, 2021


Virtual Event, Registration Required

Event Type: 

Lehman Center for American History - "Race, Health, and Inequality" lecture series

“Don’t Get Sick After June”: A Seventy-Year Long Survival Strategy for Native Americans Navigating the Indian Health Service

In the wake of the US federal government’s record-breaking shutdown in January 2019 and the onslaught of COVID-19 just a year later, the severity of Native American health disparities and the precarious reality of funding within the IHS for both reservation and urban communities alike has been thrust into the national spotlight. This paper will historicize these very recent catastrophes in a long-running record of medical neglect, chronic underfunding, and structural barriers to access within the IHS. By unpacking the reasons why, for almost seventy years, the refrain “don’t get sick after June” has remained painfully relevant for American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities, this paper argues that the US federal government’s woefully inadequate and underfunded system of healthcare for Native peoples is one of the nation’s gravest examples of structural inequality and racialized disparity created by the government in the realm of health.

Maria John is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts Boston where she also serves as Director of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Program. Her book project, Sovereign Bodies: Urban Indigenous Health Activism in the United States and Australia, 1950-2020, considers the history of Indigenous community-controlled health services as key activist-led responses to the settler colonial politics of non-recognition and argues that they have served as foundational sites for the realization of non-territorial forms of Indigenous sovereignty in the 20th and 21st centuries.

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Maria John

Assistant Professor at University of Massachusetts Boston


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