Tuesday, March 26, 2024
Chief Lorenzo
Lorenzo Sanford, chief of the Kalinago people in Dominica

The Major Project, Sacred Threads: Spirituality, Health, and Collaborative Partnerships for Health in Indigenous Communities, centers on a week-long visit to campus in April by Lorenzo Sanford, the youngest elected chief in the history of the Kalinago people in Dominica. As the last community in the Caribbean claiming direct descent from the indigenous Kalinago, this event series discusses spirituality and healing and the preservation and revitalization of the rich cultural heritage of this ancient tribe.

Three events in late April will provide a unique platform to celebrate Indigenous leadership; discuss spirituality, healing, and cultural preservation; and strategize for community-based health solutions that foster equity and well-being. Join us in embracing the spirit of collaboration and empowerment as we work towards a healthier and more equitable future for the Kalinago Tribe and beyond.

  • Thursday, April 18, 2024 - Healing Horizons: A Journey into Indigenous Spirituality, Culture, and Global Well-being
  • Tuesday, April 23, 2024 - Roots of Resilience: Preserving Cultures, Languages, and Health
  • Thursday, April 25, 2024 - Innovative Alliances: Rethinking Global Health and Sustainability through Unconventional Partnerships

Go here for the full schedule of events

“These talks delve into the interconnectedness of spirituality, the profound healing processes embedded in Indigenous wisdom, and the power of collaboration and empowerment,” shared Jeanine Abrons, clinical associate professor in the UI College of Pharmacy and organizer of this Major Project.

In 2019, Sanford was elected as chief of the Kalinago people and at the time of his election, he was 22 years old. Currently, 27-year-old Sanford understands the weight of his responsibility. His decision to run for chief came the morning after a catastrophic Category 5 hurricane in Dominica in September 2017, and his people were among the most impacted by the storm. As Chief of the Kalinago people and leader of the Kalinago Council, Sanford is responsible for the 3,000-acre Kalinago territory along the island’s northeast coast, directly facing the Atlantic Ocean and equatorial trade winds in Dominica.

Over the six years since the hurricane, the country and the Kalinago people have focused on rebuilding infrastructure with a focus on sustainability and climate resiliency. Chief Sanford and his tribe understand the interconnected nature of the planet, and his people view themselves as guardians of cultural heritage and their environment while facing constant threats of climate change. Chief Sanford has led the Kalinago people through numerous collaborations with organizations such as the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program, and the India-UN Cooperation. His efforts amplify the voices of youth and cultural preservation, seeing renewed efforts related to traditional healing, spirituality, language preservation, empowerment, innovation, and entrepreneurship. He is quoted as saying, “the most profitable future for our communities is to develop a diverse set of activities based on farming, tourism, traditional crafts, and community-based natural resource management."

“This fascinating set of talks is important in highlighting the value of indigenous knowledge,” said Russ Ganim, associate provost and dean of International Programs. “In addition, the events scheduled for this project focus as much on practice as they do dissemination of facts. The result is a vibrant presentation of Kalinago methods centered on promoting social and individual health.”

“I encourage anyone considering attending any of these events to discover the transformative narratives of resistance and cultural preservation, drawing inspiration from the Kalinago people who have lived in the protected community of the Kalinago Territory for generations,” said Abrons. “Immerse yourself in discussions that navigate the changing political, environmental, and social landscape, guided by the stories of those who strive to protect and celebrate culture, history, and health.”

Through the generous support of the Stanley-UI Foundation Support Organization, International Programs' Major Projects Award promotes important contributions to scholarly debates and exchanges on international topics, issues, discoveries, and arts. Learn more about this Major Project and see the full list of events open to the public here.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Daniel Vorwerk in advance at daniel-vorwerk@uiowa.edu or 319-467-1619. 


International Programs (IP) at the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to enriching the global experience of UI students, faculty, staff, and the general public by leading efforts to promote internationally oriented teaching, research, creative work, and community engagement.  IP provides support for international students and scholars, administers scholarships and assistance for students who study, intern, or do research abroad, and provides funding opportunities and grant-writing assistance for faculty engaged in international research. IP shares their stories through various media, and by hosting multiple public engagement activities each year.