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Lions Roar : July 2018
FOR BONNIE DURAN, it felt like coming home. For two months in 1982, she lived at a Tibetan monastery in Nepal. As a mixed-race Native Amer- ican, she’d long witnessed the suffering of her community, and what she learned there about Buddhism’s first noble truth—that suffering is per- vasive—resonated with her deeply. A decade later, her mind- fulness practice led Duran to pursue a doctoral degree in Public Health from the University of California. Today, Duran is a professor at the School of Social Work and a faculty member of the Indigenous Wellness Research Institute at the University of Washington. She is also a fac- ulty member of a graduate program in Indigenous research at Sitting Bull Col- lege on the Standing Rock Indian Reser- vation in North and South Dakota. As Duran has put it, in order to improve the health and well being in Indigenous communities, she works to “decolonize research.” As a Native American, she knows what it feels like to be marginalized. Native Americans face disproportion- ate health problems—including sub- stance abuse and physical and mental illnesses—and are often without access to competent health care. Duran says public health research on Indigenous peoples has often been done without taking their perspectives into account or seeking their permission. She can cite hundreds of studies that have con- tributed to health inequities rather than reduce them. In order to break this cycle, Duran practices community-based participatory research, inviting Indig- enous peoples to lead and co-direct the research process. Instead of pathologiz- ing these communities, community- based research works with Indigenous individuals and organizations to collect data on their strengths. The aim is to revitalize and improve resilience prac- tices that are already in place. Through a number of projects funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Duran and colleagues created a model of authentic commu- nity engagement in health research that was tested on 160 NIH-funded public BODHISATTVAS Our Own Way to Well-Being Native American Buddhist teacher BONNIE DURAN works to “decolonize healthcare” for Indigenous communities. KATHYCHENEY Tell us about a bodhisattva you know at firstname.lastname@example.org health research projects. She has also partnered with tribal colleges and universities on projects to cost-effectively reduce alcohol use and improve academic perfor- mance among Indigenous students by determining what factors contribute to their wellness and success. In addition to her work as a public health researcher, Duran is a Buddhist teacher and co-founder of the People of Color Sangha in Albuquer- que and Seattle, and the first Native American to join the Spirit Rock Teachers Coun- cil. As a teacher, she focuses on sharing the source of her happiness with others. “I love teaching the dharma. Every single happiness in my life is due to it,” Duran says. Duran wrote a grant to introduce mindfulness-based stress reduction to the Colville Tribes in Washington and has found that Buddhist practices resonate well with many Indigenous communi- ties. Regardless of external conditions, she believes mindfulness allows people to find healing and peace in their lives. One project at a time, Duran hopes to improve the health and wellbeing of all marginalized peoples by changing how public health research is collected. “No one knows what the road to well- ness looks like better than the Native communities involved,” Duran says. “Their knowledge and practices need to be put at the forefront when we’re doing research.” ♦ LION’S ROAR | JULY 2018 15