Sunday, July 16, 2006

Lakota Clinic Update

Got a letter over the weekend from Emily Bull Bear, one of the founders of Sacred Choices Clinic on the Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux Reservation. For those who didn't catch it the first time around, Cecilia Fire Thunder, president of the Oglala tribe, responded to South Dakota's proposed abortion ban by vowing to establish a Planned Parenthood clinic on tribal land, where draconian state laws would not be able to impede a woman's ability to seek either contraception or pregnancy termination. This issue is particularly salient on the reservation, where women are subjected to rape and other sexual abuse at rates four to five times higher than their white counterparts in South Dakota. The original check I wrote was returned by the tribe, fallout from Fire Thunder's impeachment, initiated by council members opposing her stance on abortion. However, alternate funding outside the purview of the tribal government is now possible. The text of the letter follows:

Thank you for your most recent generous contribution toward the creation of a Planned Parenthood style center on the Pine Ridge Reservation. A group of women have since then applied for non-profit corporation along with establishing a bank account. These women are from the same community as the President and each day receive more calls from women across the reservation who want to be part of this endeavor.

The Pine Ridge Reservation is 150 x 50 miles covering 2.7 million acres of land. There are nine district governments across our land and the community of Medicine Root has been selected to be the site for this project. The women all agree that along with reproductive services, the wellness model of mind, heart, body and spirit will be provided. This includes therapeutic services both western and Lakota methods for women who have been raped, sexually traumatized or abused at anytime in their life cycle.

Due to the high rates of chronic illness and diseases, the Indian Health Service budget is spent on treatment and overhead for staff and facilities with little left over for education, awareness and prevention.

We are returning the check/money order that you sent and are respectfully asking you to send another check/money order written to Sacred Choices P.O. Box 23, Kyle, South Dakota 57752. In the self addressed stamped envelope enclosed. We can then send you a receipt for your records and ours.

We appreciate your support. Please visit our website at or

Again, thank you very much for your support.

Wopila Tanka (a big thank you),

Emily Bull Bear

This is encouraging for a few reasons. It's gratifying to see a group of women come together to actualize the vision initiated by President Fire Thunder, after the apparently successful attempt by the tribal council to not only silence her but remove her from power. I am also pleased to see the holistic approach and wide spectrum of services the clinic is planning on offering. Rather than being "just" an abortion clinic, Sacred Choices will be a full health care facility intended to address sexual assault, overall women's health, and education and prevention.

Hopefully Sacred Choices will succeed in its mission. Hopefully it can become a model for other groups of oppressed or under-represented women to grab the initiative and exercise self-determination in procuring health care that will otherwise be denied or watered down by political pressure. May this be a fresh start and successful endeavor for the women of the Oglala Nation.

note: a PayPal link is up and running on the Sacred Choices website now

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