The South Dakota Urban Indian Health (SDUIH) Cultural Healing Program is growing. This program offers culturally centered programming designed to build upon the cultural strengths of the Oceti Sakowin people.

Culturally Rooted Classes and Programs

These cultural strengths include language, family, community, spirituality, traditional healing practices, group identity, and more. The option to refer patients to cultural services helps SDUIH promote whole-person wellness.

Current cultural healing programming includes:

  • Therapeutic Coffee & Crafts, in which participants develop their own art projects as a form of positive self-expression
  • Owaste Woechun Inayapi, a leadership group for women
  • Inikaga, a ceremony for physical, spiritual, and mental purification
  • Wocekiya Olowan/Odowan, a drumming and singing group
  • Wounspe Oceti Sakowin Iyapi, a class that teaches the Oceti Sakowin language
  • Various cultural events, such as classes, workshops, celebrations, and awareness events
Artwork created by a participant in the Cultural Healing Program
Artwork created by a participant in the Cultural Healing Program
Dylan Daniels, Cultural Health Nurse
Dylan Daniels, Cultural Health Nurse

Recently, the program hired a cultural health nurse to work with both the medical team and Cultural Health Department. He said this about the importance of culture.

“Our Indigenous teachings carry tremendous healing potential for the spiritual wounds that are often overlooked in Western medicine. I am passionate about integrating these vital aspects of our traditional ways of life into the medical treatment we offer our relatives at SDUIH so that they can receive the best, most holistic care possible.”

A participant of the SDUIH Cultural Healing Program shared this.

“Since I’ve been sober, living a new way of life, the program has helped me to know more about myself: who I was, who I am now, and where I want to go in life as a Dakota Winyan. I get to do traditional crafts that are therapeutic and take away my anxiety and stress. I get to feel as if I am at home with my family. I am so appreciative of this program to be available to me every week. Today, I can honestly say I am a much happier person, calm and relaxed after I leave the group… [This program] has literally saved my life.”

Another success story that emerged from the Cultural Healing Program was shared in the following words.

“This program has been a tremendous help in my life of recovery. Being Native American in the city is hard, but having this program and its activities makes life a little easier.”

One participant said this:

“Spending time with my Native sisters has helped me with spirituality. My loneliness has subsided being around other Native women. I’m grateful for this activity, and I look forward to it every week.”

Another participant shared the following testimony:

“Five years ago, I was soon to be a mother, and I had a strong desire to get my life on the Canku Luta (Red Road) so that my son would have a strong foundation to fall back to when he gets older. I grew up with culture in my life after being adopted, but once I was returned to my mother, that ended immediately. Living in Sioux Falls, I wasn’t aware of any Indigenous programs that were culturally centered. My hobbies and desires are completely focused around Lakota activities.

About 2 years ago, I started attending the drumming/singing Olowan group. Through Theresa Henry, I was able to obtain knowledge on prayer songs, Lakota lyrics, wicoglata etiquette, and skirt teachings. I have learned more about my language and have become more confident in speaking it in front of people. I am more outgoing and eager to meet others than I have ever been before. I feel like I walk with more self-respect and self-love. I have learned a new arts and crafts skill through the quilling workshop. I have even been asked to share that skill with others because I caught on so quickly. I have also dealt with grief, pain, and hardships in a healthy way by attending Inikaga, offered at Good Earth State Park. On November 10th I will be celebrating 40 months of sobriety! My son has attended most of these groups and events with me; he, too, has learned valuable knowledge during Takoja Time and skills at these various groups. He has developed strong relationships with attendees he views as relatives, who he looks forward to seeing again and again.

Most of all I enjoy the community involvement; I want my son to continue growing healthy relationships and receiving positive influences. Having this connection to my culture—learning, growing, and sharing with others like a Tiospaye—is a heartwarming feeling that had once felt like a void. I am truly grateful for all the hard work, dedication, and commitment that has been put into these cultural activities by SDUIH; it has dramatically improved my mindset and outlook on life, not just for me, but for my son, my relatives, and community.”

Ribbons used for arts and crafts
Ribbons used for arts and crafts
A Cultural Healing Program class
A Cultural Healing Program class

The Power of Care Management

SDUIH Care Managers help connect patients with a variety of supportive services and programs, such as cultural classes, housing services, health care coverage, and family supports. They have successfully assisted many patients in obtaining the supports they need.

The Care Manager at the Pierre location provided this account:

“[I] met a young single mom at a medical appointment.  During discussion, I found she needed food.  She was unemployed and had spent what money she had on rent.  I used the clinic’s van and took her to the food pantry.  She did have difficulty trying to decide what food to choose.  I helped her with some quick meal planning ideas.  A few days later she came in because she had applied for a job at the local newspaper and was not getting a return call.  We called the newspaper together, and I was given the HR department’s phone number.  I called that number and talked with HR.  An interview time was set up right away.  The patient did go to the interview and got the job.  In fact, the HR person called to thank me and asked if there were more of our patients who needed employment.  I did refer others to the newspaper.  The patient did call me to tell me she had gotten her GED.  She expressed how grateful she was for my encouragement.  A few weeks later she called and asked if I would write a letter of support to her landlord to save her apartment because she was going to a 30-day treatment program.  I did so.  She came back and continued with her newspaper job for a while longer.  She also asked to use me as a reference for a new job, which pays more, and she had saved money to buy a car for her own transportation.  I have heard she is sober/clean and remains at her current job.”

This Care Manager also shared this experience:

“A young woman and her bedridden boyfriend had just moved to Pierre to be closer to his family.  She became ill and was hospitalized.  She was a newly diagnosed diabetic when I met her at the clinic for her follow-up discharge appointment.  She did not have much money, and she could not get back to Rosebud for her new diabetic medication and supplies.  I called the local pharmacy and explained the situation.  They were generous enough to get her a free glucometer, test strips, and 10 days of medication until she could get back to Rosebud to get her prescription filled.”

The Sioux Falls location shared this story about helping a patient connect with family support services.

“We have a patient who came to us in crisis back in March 2020 after fleeing a domestic abuse situation and his wife’s increasing meth use. The patient has five school-aged children. Our Care Manager connected him to services at Children’s Inn while our CNP made a report to Child Protective Services.  CPS opened a case with the goal of keeping the kids with their dad, while the mom had a protection order placed against her. CPS connected him to TANF, and he was able to access daycare services and financial support for the children while he searched for a job, as he had recently been furloughed due to lack of work at his construction company during COVID-19. Over the next several months, he attended weekly behavioral health counseling at SDUIH as well as receiving medical services as needed. The patient was hired last week at a new construction job and was able to secure housing in a safer neighborhood through his church. He is meeting all goals in his CPS plan, and his children are attending public school.”

The Pierre Care Manager provided this success story about assisting a patient with obtaining health care coverage.

“The front desk asked me to help a patient get his Medicare card renewed.  He was having trouble trying to follow all the phone prompts when he called the 800 number.  I met with him for over an hour and made the necessary phone calls to renew his Medicare card and found out the reason for the delay was because they did not have the most current address to mail it to him.  I talked to three different places to change his address and did a follow-up call to make sure his Part D card was also being sent.”

Trauma-Informed Care Training

A crucial opportunity the BH2I program has brought to the SDUIH Cultural Healing Program is trauma-informed care training. This training helps program staff develop a compassionate, patient-focused approach to care.

Social Needs Screenings

Social needs screenings have enabled behavioral health personnel to be responsive to a variety of patient needs.

For example, when a 58-year-old patient visited the Sioux Falls clinic, the Behavioral Health Care Manager screened her for social needs and found that she was experiencing mental health issues. The patient agreed to receive weekly counseling and trauma-specific treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. Within 3 months, the patient reported a significant reduction in symptoms and a sense of regaining control over her life.

Access to Psychiatric Care

Prior to the program’s partnership with psychiatric consultants, many patients who had advanced mental health care needs had to wait several months for psychiatric care. Through the integrated care model, they can now access a psychiatric care at any time.

In addition, the team meets with the psychiatric consultants monthly to review evidence-based practices, new research, and recent case studies. This collaborative approach has helped strengthen the Behavioral Health team and ensure timely care for patients with complex behavioral health conditions.

The SDUIH behavioral health care team
The SDUIH behavioral health care team