Ron Mulkey and Jolene Estimo Pitt

ron and joleneTo promote cross cultural understanding, the regional health equity coalition Let’s Talk Diversity is asking community members from different cultures to share their stories about living in Jefferson County including Warm Springs.  This column features Ron Mulkey, of Metolius, and Jolene Estimo-Pitt, of Warm Springs, both of whom are Co-Chairs of the Let’s Talk Diversity Coalition.

About Ron and Jolene:

Ron was raised in Silverton, Oregon, which he describes as a small, predominantly Euro-American farming town at the time.  While Ron comes from an accepting, welcoming family, he acknowledges there was a tension and defined difference at school between children from families in town and those from families who were migrant workers.  Discrimination happened at school and Ron explains, “You fell into it because no one raised the question of why do we say these unkind things about others?”  It was not until leaving his community that Ron credits getting to know people from different backgrounds and cultures than himself.

Coming from an agrarian background, Ron recognizes that his family’s culture of working and eating together kept him healthy physically.  Ron also comes from a Christian background, and as a Quaker, Ron’s faith includes the belief that you can see a bit of God in each person.  Ron expresses the significance of this as having “less fear, less stress, more peace, and more possibility of building friendships.”  Ron also speaks about his family’s and community’s multigenerational interconnectedness as a source of health.  Ron explains, “All of that interconnectedness is important.  We need each other.”

Jolene grew up in California, Oregon, and Washington on and off the reservation.  Jolene reflects, “I think that as a young person, I was a bit confused about who I was or what I was, and it took me moving back here [to Warm Springs] for a while to kind of get grounded and figure out who I was.”   Similar to Ron, Jolene’s culture is also vital to her health.  Jolene asserts, “My culture defines me.”

Later in life, Jolene started going into the longhouse and learning songs and traditional foods.  Jolene speaks of these practices and her connection to the land as defining her way of life.  She states, “My culture is important to me because it tells me where I come from, which is the Columbia and Snake River areas, and that grounds me in a really profound way knowing that my ancestors are literally making up the dirt, the ground for all those years.”  Because of this connection, Jolene explains, “For me a really important healing thing is going back there each year and reestablishing the bond.  We do our traditional services there with traditional songs and traditional foods.”

On our Community in Jefferson County:

Since moving to Jefferson County Ron reflects, “The diversity of culture is a strength of Jefferson County.”  However, his first impression upon moving to Jefferson County was very different.  He describes, “Coming in I heard stories of the tension that some people viewed between the different cultures here.  I wouldn’t say there’s fear but there’s apprehension.  The glorious thing for me has been to be able to be part of our Coalition.  I’m meeting people that I might live here for years and never meet and discovering in some way my own narrow-mindedness.”

Ron acknowledges the beauty of embracing diversity and getting to know people different from you.   Ron explains, “It’s affirming the things that in my spirit I hold as a high value, and that is that we are to love everyone.  The cultural competency training really talks about that.  How can you love if you don’t step outside of your own shoes, take off your own glasses and be willing to put on someone else’s glasses to look at things a little bit differently?”  Similarly, Jolene agrees, “We need to grow as a community.  We need to evolve.”  Overall, Ron asserts, “This is a special community to be part of and I think every distinct part of the community makes it a precious community.”

Healing and Overall Hopes for the Community:

In order to grow as a community, Ron and Jolene also speak of the need for our communities to heal.  Specifically, Jolene speaks of her own family saying, “If I came from these families of leaders for hundreds, even thousands, of years of leadership, then today my family is basically broken.  I had to ask myself at one point: what happened to this great heritage?”  Jolene further explains, “I live it every day.  I think the thing that has been distinguished for our family, and a lot of families, is the breaking of the people from their land and [therefore] being lost.  The reservation is one thing, but I know this is not where we really come from.  I know where we come from and that is on the Columbia and the Snake River.  So for me, going back there gives me that sense of who I am and that wholeness again.  It took me a lot of years to accept that this is where we were put and this is where most of my family now lives.  I’m working on restoring all of that healing in the family.  It’s going to be an intergenerational healing process.”

Jolene continues, “Our healing as Native American people is very different than other communities.  It starts with our family then our ancestors before them and the connection they have to the land, and then as kind of the last thing- the individual.    So, now I’m beginning to be educated about who are the original people from each area and then getting to grieve for them.  Now it’s a regular practice and a teaching.  That’s the first thing you do is you respect the place, the land, and the ancestors that were there.”  Overall, Jolene states, “The whole healing thing, it’s a huge process not only with myself and my family but with the whole community.”

Ron echoes Jolene’s words on healing and the need to heal and grow together.  Ron explains, “We aren’t just healed and then we’re done and take the rest of our lives off.  It is an ongoing experience and training and equipping.  But, it is very much community.  It’s family; it is not just the individual.  I think that’s important.  There are two sides to that.  There’s being culturally relevant but also recognizing that there are things for me to understand.  It is within the community that we long to see healing.    We want to see wholeness and health and happiness for our community.”  As Co-Chairs of the Let’s Talk Diversity Coalition, Ron and Jolene are working towards just that: the healing of past and present wounds and building stronger relationships and community in Jefferson County and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

Central Oregon Health Equity Storytelling Project

The Central Oregon Health Equity Task Force, in partnership with the Let’s Talk Diversity Coalition, is very proud to present a 35 minute video featuring community members sharing their experiences accessing local health services.  Please click on the links below to view the video.

Quicktime Video file:

mp4 file version for PC and iPads:

The Task Force is also excited to share the voices and stories of our community through the Central Oregon Health Equity Task Force Report.  This report includes community wisdom and recommendations on what creates a more equitable and inclusive experience when receiving health services.  Please click on the link below to download the report.

CO Health Equity Task Force Report

LPSCC Resolution Passes!

The Let’s Talk Diversity Coalition partners with Jefferson County Local Public Safety Coordinating Council (LPSCC) to promote Equity within the justice system

Resolution Signing 032Madras, OR (November 22, 2013) – The Let’s Talk Diversity Coalition, based in Jefferson County and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, has been working in collaboration with the Jefferson County Local Public Safety Coordinating Council (LPSCC) on a Resolution that will ensure a system-wide approach for ensuring cultural competency training for justice system professionals.  The Coalition and LPSCC worked collaboratively to draft a Resolution that encourages fair and equitable treatment at every stage of the justice system, as well as encourages justice system agencies to adopt policies requiring ethics and cultural competency training.  To view a copy of the Resolution, click here: LPSCC Resolution.

Resolution Signing 022 The Let’s Talk Diversity Coalition is one of three regional equity coalitions (REC) formed in Oregon to address policies and other social factors that influence health and lifelong wellness in underrepresented populations.

“Any training that can make us better at our jobs is worth pursuing.” said Dan Ahern, Presiding Circuit Court Judge and LPSCC member,  “If training can be given that improves our ability to work with the people of diverse cultures who come into contact with our respective agencies, we have made good use of our training time.”

The Let’s Talk Diversity Coalition, comprised currently of 25 local and regional organizations, is no stranger to this work. The group formed in 2008 and has Resolution Signing 039focused on building a sustained movement toward cultural competency and multicultural understanding. Since its inception, Let’s Talk has brought together over 550 community members from all backgrounds in 15 half to full-day diversity workshops to promote cultural competency. Collaboration with the justice system leaders in Jefferson County through LPSCC provides additional capacity for our communities to foster fair and equitable systems.

“We are seeing a movement toward cultural competency training as one policy solution to improve justice system outcomes” said Jeff Lichtenberg, Jefferson County Community Justice Director and LPSCC member. “To truly provide equitable treatment, we must have a multi-system approach to understand the backgrounds and cultures of those we serve and make sure system resources are culturally relevant.”

The Let’s Talk Diversity Coalition and the Jefferson County Local Public Safety Coordination Council held a public signing ceremony of the Resolution on Friday December 6th, 2013 @ 2:00pm at the Jefferson County Annex Building, 66 SE D St., Madras. Photos are from this event.

Resolution Signing 030

CLEA Dance


On Saturday November 9th, Comunidad Latina en Accion (CLEA) hosted a dance fundraiser at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.  CLEA is a community-driven group that aims to promote healthy eating and active living for all Latino families in Jefferson County.  The group consists of around 20 individuals who would like to see our community get healthier. The group has also selected a leadership team that consists of Guadalupe Estrada (President), Israel Reynoso (Vice President), Blanca Reynoso (Treasurer), and Gabriela Diaz (Secretary).

The dance brought together nearly 200 adults and 65 children.  It was wonderful to see all ages enjoying the music and dancing.  The Group Magnum 501 and DJ Dino donated their time and talents to play music for the dance.  Food vendors Tacos Emanuel and Eulalia Burgos from La Cabanita provided a healthy, delicious menu.  A raffle of donated prizes included four bikes and three gift baskets.  Bikes were donated by Reynoso Jewelry, Madras Produce, and Guadalupe Estrada.  Each bike winner also received a helmet from Safe Routes to School.  Gift baskets were donated by the Let’s Talk Diversity Coalition and the Jefferson County Health Department-Healthy Communities program.  Madras Athletic Club also provided several complimentary introductory memberships.  A big thank you to all who helped make this dance a success! 

  The funds raised from the dance will support future fitness activities and nutrition education for the Latino community.  This fall and winter, CLEA will be offering a Zumba Class, Volleyball, and a Cross Fit Training Class.  Zumba will be every Friday from 5:30-6:30pm Nov. 22nd to Jan. 17th at Studio K for parents and children 8 years and up.  CLEA will also be meeting for Volleyball through the Family University Program at Madras Primary every Wednesday night from 6:00-8:00pm.  Finally, the Cross Fit Training class will run every Monday from 5:30-6:30pm at the Madras Athletic Club Nov. 18th to Jan. 6th for children 12 and up and their parents. These activities are offered to the community free of charge.  We invite everyone interested to attend and help CLEA in building a stronger, healthier Latino community. 

For more information, please contact either Erin Tofte (541-325-5001 ext. 4221) or Minda Morton (541-325-5040).  You can also find out more about Comunidad Latina en Accion on the Facebook page “CLEA.”