Special edition logo for The Center for Mind-Body Medicine's twenty five years

Healing for Native American Communities

Building Healthy, Resilient Indiginous Communities

Native people are our elder brothers and sisters on this American land. The suffering we see in Native communities today reminds us forcefully and painfully of past cruelty and indifference. It calls on us, as well, to address the imbalances which their physical, emotional, and spiritual pain bring to our distracted attention. In working with them to recover their great gifts — the deep connection with the earth on which we all live, the spiritual practices that affirm individual dignity, the power of community, and a sense of prayerful, compassionate purpose — we heal ourselves as well as the Native people with whom we work.

Learn about our work with Native Americans in the Midwest

Click above to learn more about how the CMBM model has helped the Oglala Lakota tribe in South Dakota with reducing youth suicide

Why it Matters

Native communities throughout North America suffer disproportionately from cardiovascular disease, tuberculosis, diabetes, cancer, substance abuse-related diseases, motor vehicle accidents, unintentional injuries, and homicide and suicide. Great Plains Tribes face particularly harsh challenges.

The counties that make up Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations in South Dakota are among the poorest in the United States, with unemployment estimated at 80%. Economic catastrophe is compounded by centuries of oppression, misunderstanding, marginalization, and neglect. It has taken a serious toll on the physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being of all who live there. In 2015, the rate of suicide among youth on Pine Ridge Reservation was more than four times the national average. Between December 2014 and December 2015, 20 young people living on Pine Ridge Reservation, ages 11-25, took their own lives—200 more attempted suicide.

The epidemic of youth suicides and attempts has been devastating. Reservation leadership -health professionals, educators, tribal healers – asked CMBM to bring its proven approach for healing population-wide psychological trauma to their community.

What CMBM is Doing

Since 2009, CMBM faculty have volunteered their services to many hundreds of youth and their families, and the organizations that serve them -­‐ including schools, hospitals, clinics, prisons, and programs for women -­‐ on Native American reservations in Alaska, Arizona, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. In 2012, at the invitation of Lakota elder Basil Brave Heart, CMBM began to work more deeply in South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian Reservations, and in Rapid City.

When an epidemic of youth suicides occurred on Pine Ridge in 2015, reservation leadership asked CMBM to bring its proven approach for healing population-wide psychological trauma to their community. We are now finishing our first year of an intensive programming on Pine Ridge Reservation. Already, the unique blend of our model of Mind-Body Medicine and traditional ceremony has been a powerful force for change and healing on Pine Ridge Reservation. In the year before we began our intensive, collaborative work, 20 young people had killed themselves on Pine Ridge and 200 more had attempted suicide. In the year since, there have been 0 suicides. Community leaders believe CMBM’s work has been a major factor.

CMBM training at Baton Rouge trauma conference
Alice Bad Heart Bull - Pine Ridge Dormitory

There is a feeling, as well, of hope. A conviction that the evidence-based skills we teach and the supportive community created in our small groups can help the people of Pine Ridge to recover the healing power of their own traditions and equip them to meet the challenges they face.

In the coming three years, CMBM will partner with Little Wound School (LWS) to provide psychological trauma relief services to all 3,000 students who attend tribal schools, as well as their school teachers, counselors, administrators, staff and parents. The program will also develop a Leadership Team to sustain the work after the grant period.

When we learned about mind-body medicine, we realized it was the missing piece of our trauma programs. Now we use the techniques and model as we work on self-identity: reconnecting to our customs, knowledge, people, and tribe.

Native Elder Linda Eagle Speaker

How You Can Help

CMBM is committed to continuing our intensive work on Pine Ridge Reservation as well as working with other Native communities.

CMBM will soon be bringing our work to help support the courageous Water Protectors at Standing Rock – the women and men who are deeply committed to prayerfully halting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and to preserving the life-giving water which it threatens. CMBM is so grateful to the courageous women and men who are bringing our mind-body medicine work to the front lines of this historic movement.

Native Elders at Standing Rock and from half a dozen tribes are also asking us to work with them to address the disastrously high rates of diabetes, heart disease, alcoholism, and addiction as well as depression and suicidality in their communities.

We are deeply committed to this partnership and this work, which treasures and celebrates our earth and the Native people who live on it. We are actively working with Native Elders– our colleagues and teachers as well as our students– to make this a reality. We need your help to do it.

The Impact of Your Support

A small gift can make an enormous positive impact:

$ 25 enable a child or adult in a Native community to learn self-care technique through a Mind-Body Skills Group
$ 100 enable up to 50 children and adults in a Native community to attend a Self-Care Workshop
$ 250 support a full Mind-Body Skills Group (proven to reduce PTSD by over 80%) for 12 children or adults in a Native community
$ 1,000Train a Native community leader, who can reach thousands with Mind-Body Skills Groups and Workshops

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