Michigan Three Fires Cancer Consortium Addresses Tribal Cancer Rates

SAULT STE. MARIE – The Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan was recently awarded a five-year National Comprehensive Cancer Control Program grant of $210,238 per year, in order to impact and decrease colon, breast, and lung cancer, improve quality of life among cancer survivors, and decrease cancer morbidity and mortality for Michigan’s American Indian population.

The Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan’s project, Three Fires Cancer Consortium, will work to address cancer related health disparities among Michigan’s American Indian population through the use of policy, systems, and environmental change strategies.  Five tribes are included in this program consortium:  Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Bay Mills Indian Community, Hannahville Indian Community, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.  The combined population of the participating tribes reaches 54,077 American Indians across 31 counties.  In addition, resources gathered from the project will be shared with all 12 Michigan tribes.

“Disparities in health care and health status have persisted among American Indian and Alaska Native populations for decades” said Cathy Edgerly, Program Manager with Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan.  Edgerly continues “Among many health issues faced by these populations, cancer has become an increasingly evident public health issue.  While cancer incidence rates among non-Hispanic whites have been decreasing, an increase in cancer incidence rates have been noted among American Indians and Alaska Natives.”

“We see higher incidence rates at younger ages; often outside recommended screening guidelines among Michigan’s Native American population” said Noel Pingatore, Project Investigator, with Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan.

In order to address these disparities, the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan will implement strategies while working closely with the tribes through the Three Fires Cancer Consortium leadership team; the leadership team, which includes a member from each tribe, is tasked with four key priorities:  primary prevention, early detection, survivor needs, and cancer disparities.  

Strategies include: small media campaigns to promote commercial tobacco cessation and colon cancer screening; alcohol screening tools and counseling services; provider education to address cancer survivorship needs and resources; and tribal clink-community health linkages to increase the use of cancer related preventive health services.

The Michigan Three Fires Cancer Consortium project is set for success with a strong collaborative effort from tribal health agencies, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan Cancer Surveillance Program, Michigan State University, and American Cancer Society. Each of these partners will ensure that program strategies are informed by surveillance data and that the evidence-based, culturally tailored interventions will promote health equity while meeting the unique needs of Michigan’s Native Americans.


The Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan, Inc. is a 501(C)3 non-profit corporation duly organized under a state charter filed April 16, 1968.  The agency represents all twelve federally recognized tribes in Michigan.  The agency is divided into several different divisions, including:  headstart; early headstart; health services; behavioral health; environmental services; child, family, and education services; and administration.  The agency employs approximately 160 employees. 35 of these employees are based in the agency’s central office in Sault Ste. Marie, while member tribes have offices and staff on site.  Visit to learn more about the agency. The Michigan Three Fires Cancer Consortium is funded by the CDC under grant number 1 NU58DP006275-01-00

Media Contact:

Mike Willette

Communications Specialist

Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan

906-632-6896 x.110