Indians will row for a breast cancer cure

Members of American Indian tribes will use traditional means to fight a battle usually waged by the zenith of technology Sunday.

A group from the Tulalip Tribes and the Snohomish Tribe will row hand-hewn canoes in Seattle’s Lake Union in Row for the Cure, an annual fundraiser that benefits the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

“Several of our paddlers have had relatives or close friends who have had breast cancer,” said Michael Evans, chairman of the Snohomish Tribe, which is not federally recognized. “My mother died of pancreatic cancer in December, so this has been on my mind.”

About seven people will row in the Snohomish canoe, which Evans built with his father in 2003.

“We’ll be in the Blue Heron, which is a strip canoe,” Evans said. (Strip canoes are made from strips of wood, usually cedar, as opposed to dugout canoes, which are made from a single log).

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among Indian women, ­according to the Breast Cancer Research Program in California. Those deaths could be reduced by more than 30 percent if Indian women were screened adequately.

That’s where the difficulty lies, said Cathy Curran, a family doctor at the Tulalip Health Clinic. Curran has also helped organize Seattle’s Row for the Cure event for the past eight years.

“Many of the women don’t have traditional health insurance, and for some women, there’s even a problem of getting transportation,” Curran said. “For others, it’s just not feeling completely comfortable getting health care off the reservation.”

The Susan G. Komen Foundation funds two visits by a mobile mammography unit to the Tulalip Indian Reservation each year, Curran said.

That helps, but the biggest problem among Indian communities is that many women don’t understand the importance of early screening, she said.

One canoe from Tulalip will participate in Sunday’s event.

Row for the Cure

The eighth annual Seattle Row for the Cure will begin at 7 a.m. Sunday on Lake Union at the Pocock Rowing Center at 3320 Fuhrman Ave. E., Seattle. The race, which will benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation, will last until about 8:30 a.m. For more information, go to www.rowforthecure.com.

Reporter Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422 or kkapralos@heraldnet.com.

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