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Messengers for Health

Speaking out

to educate and encourage

About us

Messengers for Health is an Indigenous 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located on the Apsáalooke (Crow) Reservation in Montana.



Growing, fostering, and supporting trusted and respected community leaders to improve the health of Apsáalooke (Crow Indian) men, women, and children using solutions that respect and honor Apsáalooke strengths, culture, stories, and language. We utilize traditional methods of knowledge transmission, harness cultural strengths and value the guidance, knowledge, and expertise of our community members.   


We accomplish our mission through community outreach and education.

At the root of its existence, Messengers for Health is instrumental in developing unity and collaboration of efforts toward the common goal of health and wellness for our tribal peoples. We are from the community and so are well aware of the health issues and the most appropriate manner by which to approach them. 

We train community members as advocates who go out into the community and use the Crow cultural perspective to educate their relatives and neighbors about disease prevention, accessing resources and support.

Messengers for Health

 “Women are the backbone of the Crow community.


Cure the women and you cure the community.”

We are Unique

We are the only Indigenous non-profit organization in Montana that focuses on health and wellness of the community by using local cultural strengths. We know that solutions are in the community, they do not come from the outside. We have built working relationships across multiple and diverse public and private sectors. These are strong and healthy relationships where we act as a bridge to bring people together to build a healthy community in a synergistic manner, which has never existed before in the community.


We have worked in multiple topic areas including women’s and men’s health, healthcare provider cultural competency, chronic illness self-management, healthy relationships, elder support services and mental and emotional well-being.


Messengers for Health began in 1996 with a dialogue between members of the Apsaalooke (Crow) Nation and a Montana State University faculty member who were invested in health equity. They jointly developed a program to study the effectiveness of utilizing community women (called Messengers) to deliver education and encourage Crow women to receive cancer screenings and to partner with the Indian Health Service to provide high quality care to tribal members. They received two research grants from the American Cancer Society in 2001 and 2005.

Since 2001, Messengers for Health (Messengers) has been actively providing community-based health projects in the Apsáalooke community. Messengers became a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization in 2010. We have an established trust relationship and integrity with the community. Messengers has built a strong foundation and continues to build on this foundation to improve the health and well-being of the Apsáalooke people. Messengers has forged strong partnerships with local, regional, and state health entities to collaborate resources and efforts to improve health. We are viewed as a trusted and viable resource for health amongst the Apsáalooke people.


Community members take the lead to ensure that the approach, structure, materials, tools, and all aspects of our projects are culturally consonant with the culture and will resonate with the Apsáalooke people. We are led by our Founding Executive Director Alma Knows His Gun McCormick, a Crow tribal member and recognized community leader. We are also led by our Executive Board of Directors, who is comprised of tribal members who are educators, health leaders, and elders, and who provide direction and support to the organization. We have been nationally recognized as a very effective and successful organization and in 2018, received a national award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for promoting health equity. 


At the root of its existence, Messengers for Health is instrumental in developing unity and collaboration of efforts toward the common goal of health and wellness for our tribal peoples. We are from the community and so are well aware of the health issues and the most appropriate manner by which to approach them. 


Our programs are developed using cultural strengths with community members in facilitator and leadership positions. We believe that by grounding our programs in an Apsáalooke context, utilizing traditional methods of knowledge transmission, and harnessing cultural strengths to improve community health, there is a greater likelihood of lasting impacts on individual and community health. We have worked in the community for over two decades and have built trust and integrity. Community members know that they can turn to us as a viable and vital resource. 


Health disparities experienced by the Apsáalooke are rooted in a complex interplay of factors, including colonization practices that forced a rapid shift in diet and activity patterns, ongoing economic, geographic, and political impacts of the reservation system, generations of poor health care access, and the physical and mental effects of historical and current trauma and loss. Our programs address these root causes because we realize that it will take our cultural strengths, values and spirituality to heal. Many tribal members struggle with grieving from past and current trauma and losses and turn to unhealthy behaviors to cope (such as substance use, food, negative relationships). This negatively affects their health and we believe the solution is to use cultural strengths to guide and support them on the path of healing their broken hearts. We provide strategies to enable community members to get through the grieving process in a healthy manner with inner healing rippling out to broader community healing.

The Cancer Education and Outreach program was successful with these outcomes:


Before Messengers for Health:

There is no Crow word for cancer and saying this word outloud was to ask for it to come upon you. Women did not talk with other women about cancer screenings or share with others – including family members - when they had a cancer diagnosis. Women received cancer diagnoses alone, went through treatment alone, and often only at the end of their life shared their diagnosis. There was a lack of communication between mother and daughter relationships regarding sex. It is difficult to convey the strength of these cultural taboos and the efforts it took for Messengers to breakthrough these barriers. Many community members shared that the health care providers at the Indian Health Service could do much better at building positive patient-provider relationships.


Effects of the Program:

The community impact of Messengers for Health has been dramatic. Not only are Crow women now talking about cancer screenings to each other, they are approaching project staff in public and asking for appointments to be scheduled. Cancer survivors are speaking out in public and a support group has started where people publicly show that cancer is not a death sentence. Cervical cancer, once a quiet and deadly epidemic among the Crow women, is now discussed openly. The statistically significant increase in knowledge of cervical cancer and the positive shift in attitudes regarding screening and care are notable.


Culturally sensitive training materials for community outreach workers, as well as videos, training, and a mentoring program for the education of providers at Indian Health Service are in place. One tribal member viewed the overall impact of the Messengers for Health with, “Women are the backbone of the Crow community. Cure the women and you cure the community.”


I know I can always call upon

"Messengers for Health" if I ever need help. I am a healthier person for all the help and information they have shared with all of us. 

Definitely an oasis in our community!!!!



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