National Nurses United

National Nurse magazine October-November-December 2016

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She had stopped to help a woman, and within those few seconds, "I hear the tear gas canisters go off," said Dundon. "It was aimed directly at my face." What happened to Dundon that night was not an isolated inci- dent. More than 600 arrests of camp members have been reported, along with reports of unarmed protestors being tear gassed, strip searched, held in dog kennels, and shot with "less-than-lethal" ammunition. What happened to Dundon next, however, is a threat shared by even more Americans. Millions more Americans. She didn't have adequate healthcare coverage. "I had 72 hours [to save my eye]; I fell through the cracks," said Dundon, whose detached retina required specialized care—quickly. "To finally see the specialist I needed to see, it took me over a week, after going doctor to doctor, hospital to hospital. It was doctors' orders that I get somewhere. It didn't even matter to these people. I got pushed out without having cash right there." Videos posted to social media have captured much of the overt, physical violence committed against unarmed DAPL protestors, gal- vanizing a worldwide movement of supporters who either visited Standing Rock in person or sent donations. As Dundon's story illus- trates, the movement also revealed a systemic and ongoing harm – lack of healthcare access – to water protectors. "It's part of our treaties in agreement for this land that they took from us a long time ago that we receive healthcare," said Dundon. "And obviously I didn't get to receive the healthcare I needed to save my eye." For underserved Native American communities, for the 30 mil- lion Americans who are still uninsured, and for those who may lose their coverage with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, our nation's healthcare crisis can be life threatening. Perhaps it's no sur- prise that in Standing Rock, a nexus for those modeling a healthier relationship with the earth, native and non-Native healthcare pro- fessionals are also modeling a healthier form of healthcare. In the coming months, the Standing Rock community will wel- come the opening of the Mni Wiconi Clinic. "Mni Wiconi" means "Water is life" in the Lakota language and will be a free, integrative health clinic in which National Nurses United will partner, along with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe traditional healers; University of California San Francisco Medical Center (UCSF) providers and stu- dents as part of the Do No Harm Coalition; Changing Woman Ini- tiative (an indigenous midwifery group); Global Health Care Alternative Project; and others. "During my time at Standing Rock, many local residents came to the makeshift medical tents at the camps for primary care medical issues, due to a lack of local resources," says Amy Bowen, RN, a vol- unteer with NNU's Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN), who traveled to Standing Rock three times. "It became very obvious that there was an imperative need for a permanent clinic." A truly revolutionary project, the Mni Wiconi Clinic will address this need for ongoing, free healthcare—created for the people, by the people. Specifically, its development is led by the local Native com- munity, drawing on their particular healthcare needs, on their cen- turies of traditional healing knowledge, and even on their desire for a specific look and feel in healthcare delivery. Dr. Rupa Marya of UCSF is collaborating with RNRN and has traveled to Standing Rock several times, along with Native American UCSF students, to interview elders, meet with partners in the Stand- ing Rock Community, and collectively work toward the clinic's launch. "At the invitation of the tribe, our consortium's goal is to create a space for the imagining and practice of decolonized medicine," said Marya, explaining that under the guidance of native practitioners such as Lakota physician Dr. Sara Jumping Eagle and Standing Rock ethnobotanist and Sitting Bull College professor Linda Black Elk, Mni Wiconi Clinic medical volunteers will receive training in how to not just rely on Western cookie cutter methods. "We hope that it will become a curriculum that will be relevant to all our medical work," said Marya, "because it will emphasize under- standing people's concepts of health before imposing our views on them, taking a moment to emphasize the context of providing care. Especially when we're entering indigenous spaces, understanding that they have tens of thousands of years of their own medical cul- tures. Understanding that our way of practicing isn't the only way, or the most important way." UCSF pharmacy student Tyson Walker, a member of the White Mountain Apache tribe from Whiteriver, Ariz., has also been back and forth to Standing Rock, doing work he says is critical in the development of the clinic: building relationships. "This is a long-term project, and we want to be there 10, 15 years from now. Part of being there is building trust, a sense of responsi- bility," said Walker. "It's social justice and medicine combined." "I think it's so important that during every step of the process, the community of Standing Rock has been and will be included in deci- sion-making," said project volunteer Elizabeth Aarons, an RN and public health policy student at UCSF, as well as an indigenous Alaskan. "By talking with people instead of at them, we can build better rela- tionships between providers and patients, increasing patient satis- faction and patient trust with providers." For now, 12 N A T I O N A L N U R S E W W W . N A T I O N A L N U R S E S U N I T E D . O R G O C T O B E R | N O V E M B E R | D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 6 Navajo water protector Vanessa Dundon lost her eye when she could not access timely treatment after being shot with a tear gas canister. Donate to the Mni Wiconi Clinic Help this free, Native-led integrative health clinic get its doors open. Give here: Donate to help Vanessa Dundon She put her life on the line to protect future generations. Support her medical fund here:

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