Friday, May 24, 2024
Lorenzo Sanford presenting a lecture
Lorenzo Sanford presenting the first of three lectures on the University of Iowa campus in April 2024

In April 2024, Lorenzo Sanford, the youngest elected chief in the history of the Kalinago people in Dominica, traveled to the University of Iowa (UI) to participate in a series of lectures on campus and meetings both on and off campus. As a part of the International Programs (IP) Major Project Award, Sacred Threads: Spirituality, Health, and Collaborative Partnerships for Health in Indigenous Communities, Sanford’s visit aimed to celebrate the resilience of the Kalinago people and engage in discussions on campus surrounding community- and collaborative-based health solutions.

The Kalinago is the last community in the Caribbean claiming direct descent from indigenous Kalinago ancestors, and in an ever-changing world, the Kalinago’s traditions are rooted in their connection to spirituality, healing practices, and the Earth.

“I proposed this Major Project because it's urgent for us to initiate discussions on how we can collectively preserve our culture, language, and traditional health knowledge for the benefit of our community,” shared Jeanine Abrons, clinical associate professor in the UI College of Pharmacy, and recipient of the IP Major Project Award. “I believe Lorenzo's role is significant as he represents the importance of youth and elders working together to preserve this information. As the youngest indigenous chief of his tribe and of the Caribbean, his leadership and motivation to run for chief is truly inspiring.”

The timing of this Major Project is not lost on Abrons as the world emerges post-COVID and the factors the world faces with climate change, and there are many parallels between Abrons’ and Sanford’s paths in the past decade.

“In 2015 and 2017, I responded to assist after tropical storms in Dominica devastated the country,” described Abrons. “Then in 2020, we experienced COVID and the derecho. And even though Lorenzo is from a completely different place and culture, he was inspired to run for the position of chief for similar reasons. In 2017, 93% of his community housing stock was destroyed due to Hurricane Maria. After the hurricane, he started with what he could do as an individual at the time with his skills. He recognized that some people had tools, some had the skills to build homes, and some had supplies. He worked to connect individuals in his community to leverage their collective skills and to build upon this to preserve their culture, stories, and community. Just like Iowa, the Kalinago have a strong history of a connection to the land.”

Jeanine Abrons, headshot.jpeg
Jeanine Abrons, clinical associate professor in the UI College of Pharmacy, and recipient of the IP Major Project Award

In addition to the lectures he presented on campus, Sanford visited the UI Center for Language and Culture Learning (CLCL) to record documentation of the Kalinago language. Claire Frances, director for the center, and her students took the recordings to create an Iowa Pressbook site to highlight the Kalinago language for others.

Additionally, Sanford visited Eco Lips in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to learn more about the company and how they’re producing eco-friendly products. Sanford presented a panel discussion in the College of Pharmacy alongside several campus and community partners, including Steve Shriver, CEO of Eco Lips.

Moving forward, Abrons hopes this major project is the start of further discussions and collaborations on campus about language preservation and the connections that exist between spirituality, health, and well-being.

“Following this project, we plan to apply for new funding to document some language components of the Kalinago people in partnership with Claire Francis and the CLCL,” outlined Abrons. “Additionally, I will apply for a grant to publish a book documenting traditional healing and will use educational portions in learning partnerships with the Kalinago, Jungle Bay, and the University of Iowa. I also could see some new partnerships forming with the Tippie College of Business, College of Education, International Programs, the Kalinago, and Jungle Bay.”

Sanford added, “This trip to Iowa represents new possibilities and perspectives. It opened my eyes to different things that can be done through collaborative partnerships.”

“For anyone considering applying for a Major Project Award, I encourage you to apply and explore what you are passionate about and to consider ways to connect our larger community with your work and the work of others,” said Abrons. “Think about the message you’d like to share and how this award can share that message. The Stanley-University of Iowa Support Foundation and International Programs are incredible to work with and foster a supportive environment. They also see things from different perspectives, which helps connect you to resources and support at the broader university level that you might not otherwise be aware of.”

Media coverage of visit:

(Iowa New's Now) Chief of Kalinago tribe visits Eastern Iowa to share cultural heritage



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.