Lakota Lands Tour educates people on the troubles that the Lakota faces

About 50 people participated in the "Classroom on Wheels" that was put on by Monument Health and The Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies

RAPID CITY, S.D. – Monument Heath and The Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies (CAIRNS) teamed up and hit the road for the Lakota Lands Tour.

Lakotalands Groupactivity

Photo Courtesy: Monument Health

This “classroom on wheels” is designed to educate people about life in Native communities and  give participants a better understanding of the troubles the Lakota face.

“I’m sure there’s many reasons (for the tour), but one is a lot of people have not been in the reservation. There’s a lot of stereotypes or just uncertainty about what these reservations are like,” Craig Howe, Founder, and Director for CAIRNS, said. “Those of us who grew up there, it’s just home. So, it’s fun to show people how these reservations are there.”

The tour traveled together on a bus with about 50 participants to see more of the Lakota communities in South Dakota, mainly on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

“Each of the people that are here, they all have a role, an important role in their organization. It might be with our Department of Health in South Dakota. It may be with our Department of Social Services. It might be a physician from Monument Health. It might be a professor with the (Sanford) School of Medicine,” Paulette Davidson, President and C.E.O. of Monument Health, said. “We have people that understand health care, they understand their role, and if we work together and really try and solve some of the issues, I think we can do things that we haven’t been able to do before.”

While on the bus, people learn about the 200 years of history and culture of the Lakota and Howe was an instructor on the trip.

“They began with a lot of historical information just to help us understand the last couple of hundred years, what rules and laws have been enacted that have either negatively impacted or had other significant consequences on the Lakota people from this region. That was really important to understand the history and what some of those changes in the rules have resulted in,” Mark Larson, M.D., Gastroenterology Consultant at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, M.N., said. “We got to understand educational situations, health care situations, land allotment situations — everything that impacts a community or a tribal area and the people involved.”

To see the lives in the reservation, tour members were taken to health facilities, grocery stores and public parks. The group traveled over 500 miles to different towns like Kyle, Interior, Scenic, Martin and White Clay.

Kelly Stacy, M.D., Executive Health Director of Monument Health, said, “Being a primary care doctor, I work a lot with diabetes and medical conditions. And you tell people, ‘go eat vegetables, go eat fruits.’ To actually go into the grocery store and realize that how little selection of those things they had and yet the box of Cheerios was $7.50. That’s one of the better cereals. I saw a box of Twinkies that was actually quite a few Twinkies. It was $4. To actually see what they’re facing every day, we were given $20 to have lunch on and try to pick something healthy. We met it, but it was one meal versus trying to feed a family of three or four people or more.”

The workshop’s main focus is to educate people and anyone who were on the tour can pass along the information to the community that they’re from.

“This is my state, and embarrassingly, this was a section I hadn’t seen. It was just incredibly eye opening and frankly, it just opened my eyes — we have all of South Dakota to care for, not just the certain populated areas of this state. And I will go home with a new found attitude and insight.” Tim Ridgway, Vice President for Health Affairs and Dean of the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine, said. “I want to be part of the solution, and I want to do that both as a physician myself, but more importantly, to educate our future health care providers, because I think that’s the key.”

The seminar wrapped up Wednesday with everyone brainstorming practical ways to solve some of the issues that they saw in the communities they visited.

CAIRNS is a non-profit in the Lake Creek District of the Pine Ridge Reservation. They do a lot of educational material in different ways — like film festivals, educational art exhibits, videos and the bus tours. They also make educational resources for classrooms, K-12.

To learn more about CAIRNS, click here to visit their website.

Categories: ConnectCenter1-Culture and Art, Local News, South Dakota News