The Mni Wiconi Clinic and Farm will strive to promote community health and holistic wellness for the Lakota/Dakota Nation by reclaiming, revitalizing, and reactiving ancestral knowledges of traditional ceremonial practices, medicines, foods, and all other aspects of Lakota/Dakota lifeways to improve their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
“It is because of this chronic underfunding that people bear unnecessary rates of curable chronic conditions … We need a serious focus on hard resources if we are to make any progress in reversing the devastating loss of life…”Andy Joseph Jr., Colville Business Council Member
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 populations of non-Native people 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 an ongoing sense of mistrust given Indian Health Service’s historic 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. In addition to allopathic medicine, primary care solutions should prioritize traditional Lakota medicine, including ceremony and plant medicine as well as other effective and holistic healthcare modalities such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The central thesis: re-establishing indigenous dignity and sovereignty in healthcare can have a transformative impact on health outcomes for indigenous peoples.
According to our early immersion interviews with Lakota/Dakota elders, creating a space for decolonizing medicine is clearly not possible without decolonizing the diet and creating a model for indigenous food sovereignty. Because the community has limited access to whole foods a farm is integral to the clinic site to teach traditional food cultivation. As such, a 3-acre site has been donated in Fort Yates on the Standing Rock Reservation for the purpose of establishing this exciting project.