Lower Sioux Health Center

Date: June 5, 2019
Interviewer: Sarah Ballew, Headwater People
Interviewee: Stacy Hammer (Bdewakantunwan Dakota), Director of Community Health

Quick Stats about the Lower Sioux Health Center
The Lower Sioux Health Center was the community’s first clinic and opened in March 2015. Since opening, they have grown from a community health office of 4 people to a clinic of 24. They provide primary care, Dietitian services, dental and retail optical services.

The Health Center is located in Morton, Minnesota, about two hours southwest of Minneapolis.

The Health Services Program consists of the following components.

  • Contract Health Services
  • Community Health Nursing
  • Health Promotion/Disease Prevention
  • Diabetes Coordinator
  • Dietitian Services

The Mission of the Cansayapi Wozani Ti is to provide dignified, personalized, sustainable, and accessible services that proactively incorporate Dakota knowledge and wisdom to promote whole health and wellness.

Key Considerations:
There is a challenge of trust between the Lower Sioux Indian Community and their non-Native neighbors. There is a local clinic and hospital located about 8 miles from the reservation, but that facility did not serve Native people until 1955.

Strengths, Keys for Success:
The clinic has a keen understanding and practice of coordinated care. Pharmacy, physicians, nurse practitioners, dentists, and nutritionist all reside in the same office. It represents a truly integrated continuum of care.

As community members with an expertise in what kind of healthy foods program might make a difference in their context, the clinic partnered with policy writers to develop Honor Little Crow’s Healthy Indigenous Foods Initiative.

Because the clinic hires within the community, there is a higher level of accountability to the quality and relevancy of service to the community. Communication between the clinic and community members is strong because staff comes from the community.

The clinic’s strength of connection is reflected in the ways the community helps to shape programs and projects. Services like checking blood sugar numbers, develop deeper levels of agency with patients because of the relationships with nutritionists who can present trends in context and connect disparate readings to a larger story.

Paying special attention to the interests and observations of community youth has also been a strength. Young people inspired and became leaders in a project resulting from the Tribal Council approving a 50% discount for vendors offering healthy foods at the powwow.

Health Services’ first food sovereignty survey had 67% participation from the community. From what was learned from that survey, they focused on solving the problem of access to traditional foods. Now bison and wild rice are both available in the convenience store.

They just conducted the first comprehensive community health assessment since the 1990s and had an amazing turnout. 525 people took the survey, 430 of which were enrolled tribal members (there is a total of 1100 enrolled in service area).

Barriers and Challenges:
Some of the work is going to start shifting more into the mental health side of things. There is a need to start putting that focus there to address the decision to consume healthy foods once there is access to them. That is up to the individual. But, if the individual is struggling mentally, food is probably one of the last things they’re thinking about. A lot of the community is struggling with mental health.

Primary Funding:
Shakopee is a key partner. They’ve worked to continually build partnerships in other Native Communities and have some incredible ones with the American Indian Cancer Foundation and NB3.

Insights for others:
This kind of change requires a lot of patience. It was hard to imagine all that’s happening now, 6 years ago.
Listening to the community has been fundamental to our success.

Partnering with others outside of their community has been immensely positive. As a small community, it can be challenging to branch out and develop relationships outside, but its been very fruitful.