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Mni Wiconi Health Clinic Partnership at Standing Rock

Help create a free integrative health clinic led by indigenous health leadership at Standing Rock! 

Broadening Vision with Mass Design Group and Fundraising!

April 25, 2017

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 


Thank you!

Rupa Marya  


Mass Design Group, Colin Kaepernick and Beyond!

January 30, 2017

We are excited to announce that we are pursuing a partnership with Mass Design Group to design and build the Mni Wiconi Health Clinic at Standing Rock. They have been building clinics and hospitals around the world for Partners in Health and have been using architecture to make the invisible structures of violence in our society visible so that we can move with more equity and healing. Their lead architect Michael Murphy described the course he is teaching at Harvard for architects on decolonizing medical architecture, through understanding why hospitals and clinics look how they do and how the spaces themselves define and redefine the power dynamics of how we relate to one another. We have also decided after several conversations with Lakota Dakota folks to include a farm/garden/seed saving component to the clinic compound, recognizing that there can be health sovereignty if there is no way to develop food sovereignty. The architects are incredibly excited that Haudenosaunee seed steward Rowen White from Sierra Seeds and farmer and ecological designer Benjamin Fahrer will be involved. We will convene back in Standing Rock in just over one month to start assessing the site and mapping out the design plan which will involve community dialogue and training to be able to employ local labor to get it done. Very exciting and inspiring times! Look at all we can do with a little support from our friends. 

We also want to thank SF 49er Colin Kaepernick who donated $50,000 to our fundraising efforts. His dedication to social justice through racial equity is inspiring. Those funds will be helping us with staffing of the clinic and giving us access to have a mobile clinic space to go visiting around the Standing Rock Reservation which is over 3500 square miles. 

Thank you to each and every person who has donated to help us make this vision a reality. We are still fundraising to be able to ensure the first 3 years of clinic operation are covered as the folks there develop the plan for keeping the clinic going through grants and programming. Please help us continue to spread the word. While big donations are great, most of the $300,000 we have raised to date has come through donations of $25-100. We can do this together! 


Rupa Marya, MD

Local Lakota Health Leadership!

December 08, 2016

We just returned from Standing Rock, where our team of 4 faculty at UCSF helped respond to injuries and health issues due to the snow storm on December 5th and the plummeting temperatures in North Dakota this week. We have been helping with supplies and staffing for the current health urgencies on the ground and worked to ensure people remaining in the camp have adequate winter shelter with heating and that those with vulnerable health and inadequate winter shelter were accompanied to safe shelter. 

At Standing Rock, we met with local Lakota health leaders who are interested in directing this free integrative community clinic. This is a very exciting step in establishing deep community investment in the clinic and allows the project to be a space that is truly indigenous led, by women who are culturally Lakota and excellently trained in health sciences. 

With this exciting new development in mind, we are continuing our fundraising to a goal of $1 million, to be able to design and build the clinic with community input and natural building techniques, stock the clinic with necessary equipment, create the correct invisible structures to ensure longevity, solvency and safety and provide a way for these local health leaders to jump into this project and make it self-reliant. Throughout the winter, we will be continuing our work in developing decolonized perspectives in medicine and start engaging community discussion around how the clinic should look and feel and what spaces are necessary for healing from a Lakota point of view. We will be incorporating community input into the design and building of the clinic structure and have exciting dialogue starting with Tesla/Solar City to get the clinic running free of fossil fuels. We are hoping to start building the structure as soon as the snow melts and ground softens in the Spring 2017. 

This exciting project will be a first in the nation and can provide a new model of engagement with indigenous health issues, with native practitioners and perspectives leading the way, locally self-determined healthcare without federal oversight. Please help us make the vision real. It is truly the most exciting thing that I have personally participated in during the past 20 years of my work in medicine.

Thank you!!

Rupa Marya, MD

Mni Wiconi Health Clinic Under Indigenous Leadership

December 01, 2016

As our work develops around the longterm Mni Wiconi Health Clinic, we had an incredible meeting with Do No Harm Coalition members and Native American Health Alliance members where our Native American medical and pharmacy students who recently returned from Standing Rock assumed leadership of how our clinical work proceeds, modeling our decision making with what we are learning and participating in with the indigenous leadership at Standing Rock. These passionate and talented students will serve as our circle of advisers for the UCSF aspect of the community health clinic, with their input and leadership guiding the project. We recognize that we cannot practice decolonized medicine without the work of decolonizing our own mentality and our ways of relating. It is an honor to serve these NAHA students and to bring forth a model of interaction that will teach and humble me throughout my years of practice as a physician. We are committed to working to birth this project in correct relationship with all the healers at the table and the community we are serving. This medicine is so powerful, because it is awakening us to our own colonial wounds and wounding through the process of serving. To our young doctors in training--Carolyn Kraus and Kara Harvill, pictured here with Lakota physician Sara Juanita Jumping Eagle--and to our pharmacist in training--Tyson Walker--We are at your service. Water is Life. It is an honor to accompany you.


November 23, 2016

We are overwhelmed with excitement and gratitude to have reached our goals in fundraising for the Mni Wiconi Health Clinic. We now have the funds to secure necessary equipment, structures, basic medications, and supplies to start the long term project! We will be starting our clinical service in the upcoming month and will have several groups of health workers from UCSF out to develop our clinical work out at Standing Rock. We are also simultaneously continuing to develop our curriculum on the practice of decolonized medicine, which is a work in progress informed by indigenous scholarship and active inquiry from our partners and our own native students and supporting faculty. We truly believe that the development of decolonized medicine has the potential to radically change how we think of medical care and standards of practice, moving into a more humane, balanced and encompassing vision of health.

What is deeply inspiring is that most of the donations that carried us well above our goal were $25. It is inspiring what we can do together, with mass support. As we move into a period of time where divisiveness may define the ethos of our national political stage, we must remember that we can work together, forge our own partnerships and work together at the community level to ensure the safety, health and dignity of all.

All subsequent donations over $150,000 will be used to directly support the Medic Healer Council's immediate health needs at Standing Rock protest camp. Your donations here are tax-deductible.

Lastly, please take a moment to tell call the White House and insist that President Obama put a stop to DAPL. This is an urgent public health issue--We stand with people who are insisting on their right to maintain access clean and healthy drinking water and we deplore all methods of violence used to counteract this peaceful protest. Call (202) 456-1414.

You all inspire us. Thank you for your support! Onwards in health and justice.

Rupa Marya, MD

Faculty Director

Do No Harm Coalition

Pictured below: Our Native American Health Alliance at UCSF students Tyson Walker, Carolyn Kraus and Kara Harvill with UCB/UCSF faculty member Dr, Seth Holmes at Standing Rock today.

We reached our first goal--Let's Keep BUILDING!

November 22, 2016

We are grateful for your support. We have extended our goal to cover needs that are immediate in the Standing Rock Camps. All equipment that we procure for use in the camps right now will be used longterm in the clinic once the camps have dissolved. This include EKG machines, exam beds, stove for herbalists, iSTAT point of care lab testing and medications which we are mobilizing this month.

We will be extending our fundraising to include building the clinic structure in the Spring. We will be engaging the community to imagine what the clinic should look and feel like and will rely on natural building materials with the goal of creating a completely energy-efficient structure.  

This week, we have one faculty member Dr. Seth Holmes on the ground with three Native American students from UCSF, Carloyn Kraus who is an MD/MPH candidate, Kara Harvill who is an MD candidate and Tyson Walker who is an PharmD candidate. They will be conducting ongoing interviews around community needs and continuing to develop the curriculum on decolonized medicine and serving where needed. The perspectives of these indigenous health students are invaluable to the process of how we develop our clinical response.

We are also currently working with the IHS to obtain flu vaccinations to offer to the camp community. Thank you for helping us protect the protectors and to create an exciting longterm vision of partnership with tribal communities!

Rupa Marya, MD

Phase II . ..Mni Wiconi Clnic

October 25, 2016

Thank you to everyone who has donated to our work so far!

During our first assessment trip to Standing Rock, we met with the tribe's healer and professor of ethnobotany Linda Black Elk and other community members to develop ideas how to best serve the community in the long run. What we dreamed up is the creation of an integrative medicine clinic that would be free of cost to patients, staffed as a collaboration between traditional tribal healers, National Nurses United, Herbal Medics, Changing Women Initiative (a Navajo-based aboriginal midwifery group), Global Alternative Health Care Project and UCSF.  This entity will be called the Mni Wiconi Health Clinic, which translates to Water is Life Health Clinic and will be a longterm partnserhip, which will allow us to serve the community in a responsible way and to develop a curriculum around decolonized medicine in partnership with our clinical collaborators. As we are working out the nuts and bolts of our partnership, we are seeking funds to help make the process as smooth as possible. Funds that we raise now will be critical to help the clinic cover general liability insurance, basic costs of operating and securing equipment and medications that are needed locally. 

I will be heading out to Standing Rock again in early November, to meet with community members to gather information about their prior experiences and stories around allopathic medicine, in order to start our clinical work together with a strong understanding of historical trauma and successes related to interactions with allopathic practitioners. 

This is an incredibly exciting opportunity to create a new model of healthcare interaction, that will broaden our own minds as physicians and caregivers and deep our capacity for empathic care. 

Thank you for supporting us!