Making A Difference.
Kathleen M. Riley, ND (Guest Post)
About 10 years ago, I was introduced to the plight of the Lakota-Sioux tribe by Rochelle Ripley, who created a non-profit organization called HawkWing in Glastonbury, CT. At that time I was moved by her efforts to solicit donations of new books for children on the reservation.
Funding for education had been so poor that there were no libraries in their schools and teachers were not financially able to provide extra books in their classrooms for the children to borrow, and it is well known that education is the key to success in life.
Since many houses on the reservation do not consistently have electricity, never mind a phone or the Internet, having access to books is imperative. As a naturopathic physician, I interact with many people who dedicate their lives to serving others, however, this particular organization struck a chord in me.
HawkWing was birthed from a promise made by founder Rochelle Ripley to her grandmother to some day return to the reservation to help her people. Rochelle’s expression of her grandmother’s dream has expanded to organizing biannual medical missions to the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota.
During my first medical mission to the region, I treated many tribal members, elders and children alike. My work involved conducting medical exams, testing for lead and mineral deficiencies, and educating individuals and health care providers about the importance of nutrition in an effort to assist them in dealing with their main health concerns.
Last December I joined a holiday giveaway mission where I brought zinc and vitamin D supplements to the Sioux to help support their immune systems as well as consulted with over 40 people. Much of that trip was spent on teaching stress coping strategies.
According to Rochelle Ripley, alcoholism, diabetes, suicide, and cancers are prevalent in that region of our country. Unfortunately, the land that the Sioux inhabit and their water supply has been contaminated with mercury, arsenic, and radioactive uranium from abandoned open-pit uranium mines. Their rivers are so polluted with mercury, that they have been advised to not eat any fish from them. Adding to their poor health and living conditions is the fact that most of the people residing on the Cheyenne River Reservation subsist on less than $3000/year. Given these numbers, it is easy to see that poverty is a major obstacle in obtaining clean water, food, and adequate health care.
In my desire to make a difference for this population, I piloted a grassroots project where I taught the Lakota-Sioux how to grow alfalfa sprouts in mason jars. This program was well-received by tribal members since it required very little water and gave great results. Alfalfa sprouts contain Vitamins A, C, K, riboflavin, folate, thiamin, B6, niacin, and pantothenic acid. They are also a good source of dietary fiber and contain small amounts of some key minerals and protein.
At the request of tribal members for more alfalfa seed, I secured a small grant for this Seeds of Hope project and brought 150 lbs of alfalfa seed, and 300 wide-mouthed mason jars with screen mesh to South Dakota during Hawkwing’s medical mission this past June.
This particular mission was an exciting one, as this was the first time we were joined by dentists who are much needed at the reservation. Currently, there is only one part-time dentist for a population of over 12,000.
This medical mission was Hawkwing’s largest. Joining me were 2 other naturopathic physicians, a PhD, RNs, a respiratory therapist, an acupuncturist and a La Leche League leader, to help educate the tribal women about the importance of breast-feeding. Statistically, the Sioux in this region suffer a 25% infant mortality rate, the highest in all of North and South America. With an unemployment rate over 90% there are also high depression and suicide rates at the reservation.
Cancer in the community is high due to the depleted uranium in their soil, poor diet and other heavy metal toxicity. In an effort to address this challenge, I needed to find a product that I could easily dispense without having concern that the recipients would detoxify at a rate that would be considered dangerous. Without adequate monitoring, a rapid detox might inadvertently create more problems.
So, I had to adjust my usual protocol to respect the fact that between our medical missions, the people on this reservation will have limited access to medical personnel. Therefore, the most logical choice was to use broccoli sprouts.
The benefit of using broccoli sprouts in supplement form is that it is nontoxic and yet highly effective. During the 1990’s, a research team at Johns Hopkins isolated a cancer fighting phytochemical called sulphoraphane. In 1997, their research concluded that broccoli sprouts offered more antioxidant activity and cancer protection than broccoli alone.
Since our program relies heavily on donations, and all volunteers pay their own way, I sought the assistance of the people at Seagate. They responded by giving our mission a generous donation of broccoli supplements.
All the individuals I treated during my week on the reservation this June were grateful to receive this whole food supplement. The cancer rate is very high and people are frustrated by their limited ability to slow it down. Word spread that I had brought the Broccoli Sprouts and several people sought me out asking for bottles for themselves and their families. Everyone was so appreciative and asked me to please thank my sources of donations.
Many have asked me why I choose to support the efforts of Hawkwing. My answer is quite simple. I was frustrated that there are areas in the US where people live in such deplorable conditions. The Lakota-Sioux reservation, which is vast in acreage, is so grossly under-served, and most Americans are unaware of what is happening there. While I am fortunate enough to have food on a regular basis and a roof over my head, many on the reservation simply are not. Participating in these missions affords me an opportunity to give back.
I chose to support Hawkwing specifically because it is a charity where I am able to witness all of their efforts going directly to the people who are in need. I am proud to support this greatly under-served area in our nation and I encourage others to join me.
If you are interested in donating your time, expertise or money to this cause, please visit Hawkwing’s website at www.hawkwing.org.