Over the past two months, we have been working closely with Mass Design Group to define the scope of work of the Mni Wiconi Health Clinic and to imagine the buildings that will hold this important work. The clinic was gifted a 3 acre parcel of land by the Standing Rock Medic Healer Council, to build the clinic and surrounding farm and garden that will allow us to fully realize the vision of the work we are manifesting.
In March, we traveled back to Standing Rock to meet with Linda Black Elk, Luke Black Elk and Dr Sara Jumping Eagle together with architects Michael Murphy and Sierra Bainbridge and ecological farmer and permaculture teacher Benjamin Fahrer to outline the mission of the project, which we defined as creating a space to support the Lakota and Dakota people in decolonizing medicine and diet to improve their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
Those days we were at Standing Rock, another funeral was taking place for a young person on the reservation who had commit suicide. Throughout the pipeline struggle, I saw that the news that never made the news was the suicide that occurred that month.
When I think about the studies which document the alarmingly increased rates of suicide in indigenous societies around the world and the way that loss of ethnic identity is such a strong risk factor for suicide, I cannot think of a better case for creating space for indigenous healing practices to flourish and to help reconnect communities to their own wisdom through decolonizing approaches to medicine, lifestyle and diet.
These next few months will be a time of raising more funds for the building structures. Through our incipient design process, we will require $6 million to get the project built with all the spaces and amenities that are required as outlined by our Lakota health leaders and to get our initial operating budget covered. As we defined those required physical spaces they included a community kitchen for hosting feasts and for doing cooking demonstrations and herbal preparations, an inipi (sweat lodge), exam rooms that were big enough to hold families in consultation because that felt culturally more appropriate, space for conferences and teaching, a mobile clinic that could visit the remote areas of the reservation, greenhouses, a seed kiva and a pharmacy/apothecary space.
We are incredibly fortunate to have your support and also to have Mass Design Group putting this project forward in their own work to help get it fully funded. With the current federal administration cutting funding to Native American healthcare, it is becoming increasingly necessary for us to find more resilient structures of funding that can help carry these kinds of projects forward, especially with the active nature of the Lakota and Dakota people for standing up for their rights to dignity and cultural heritage.
We have our noses down to the grindstone to get this phase of predesign complete as we move into more fundraising and then into deeper community engagement in the design phase. If you have contacts with foundations or individuals who might want to support this work, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.