Mni Wiconi Health Clinic Partnership at Standing Rock
Mni Wiconi Health Clinic and Farm
The Mni Wiconi Health Clinic and Farm is a paradigm-shifting collaboration between Standing Rock Sioux tribal health workers and leading health organizations to create a free integrative community health clinic for the development and practice of decolonized medicine, where indigenous health perspectives prevail at the center of the healthcare experience.
Since the colonization of the Great Plains indigenous people and the altered ecological landscape of their home of tens of thousands of years, the rise of diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and suicide can be understood as direct consequences of ongoing colonial trauma. Life expectancy among the Lakota Dakota people is 57 years old, compared with surrounding White populations at 75 years old, and other health indices are similarly some of the bleakest in the Western Hemisphere.
Federal responses to create health models have been inadequately funded and culturally insensitive, with many members of surrounding tribes reporting a sense of mistrust, given Indian Health Service’s participation in genocidal activity such as forced sterilization of native women. Local health leaders Sara Jumping Eagle, MD (pediatrics) and Linda Black Elk, PhD (ethnobotany) believe that by centering the healthcare encounter in indigenous understanding of health, medicine and wellness, greater improvement in health outcomes can be possible, simply through creating a culturally-relevant healthcare space, while offering primary care solutions that span the wide range of Western medicine, traditional Lakota medicine, plant medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine. The central thesis: re-establishing indigenous dignity and sovereignty in healthcare can have transformative impact on health outcomes for native people.
Through early immersion interviews with Lakota Dakota elders, it is clear that creating a space for decolonizing medicine would not be possible without decolonizing the diet and creating a model for indigenous food sovereignty. With limited access to whole foods cultivated without the use of chemicals, the elders requested that a farm be integral to the clinic site to teach traditional food cultivation and preparation. A 3-acre site has been donated in Fort Yates on the Standing Rock Reservation for the purpose of establishing this exciting project.
The clinic will be directed by Standing Rock Sioux Tribal members Linda Black Elk, PhD and Sara Jumping Eagle, MD. Linda Black Elk was recently chosen as an Aspen Fellow with the Aspen Institute for her role in developing this innovative healthcare space. The farm will be managed by Luke Black Elk, great grandson of Black Elk Medicine Man. Physician advocate Rupa Marya, MD from UCSF Do No Harm Coalition is developing ties between the clinic and UCSF to enhance opportunities for tribal youth to engage with medical education and to provide UCSF faculty/trainees with education in decolonizing work in medicine while providing Western medical support. MASS Design Group has committed to the creation of the clinic which includes an immersive process and engagement with community in the actual building and design. National Nurses United will offer volunteer nursing staff and Global Alternative Healthcare Project will be providing TCM staff.
We are currently raising funds to create an endowment that would enable the building of the clinic and its operation fully independent of federal funding.
Your gift will be used to make this vision real!
Members of the UCSF community (faculty, staff and trainees) traveling to Standing Rock do so as private citizens, volunteering 100% of their time and effort. Travel and activities, including any medical assistance provided through a free clinic there are not UCSF-sanctioned activities. UCSF has allowed its institutional crowdfunding platform to be used by an interested group of UCSF students and community members who are in the process of completing registration as a registered campus organization. It is their intent to raise funds to create a free clinic at Standing Rock that will operate under the authority of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and not UCSF.