A new leader’s plans for South Dakota Urban Indian Health

Eye on KELOLAND

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – South Dakota Urban Indian Health‘s mission goes beyond just meeting the physical medical needs of patients. As a non-profit corporation funded through Indian Health Services, their goal is a more holistic form of care.

Michaela Seiber has big plans for South Dakota Urban Indian Health.

“I think we will grow and we’ll be able to move locations closer to downtown where a lot of our patients are. And I would love to see us in a bigger building and providing more services like dentistry, physical therapy, having a pharmacy on sight, having a bigger cultural space for people to come and gather and pray and, you know, get together with each other. I think that’s really something that could happen in the near future,” Seiber said.

Seiber took on the role of CEO for the non-profit health care organization in February. She first started working at SD Urban Indian Health in September of 2020 as a grant project manager.

“In November, our previous CEO passed away suddenly and I just knew that was a space I wanted to fill. So I threw my name in the hat to the board to consider and it’s been a long couple months of interviews and you know, talking with the board and talking about my goals,” Seiber said.

Growing up in Sisseton and being a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, Seiber says it means a lot for her to be able to provide health care for Native people.

“So much was taken from our relatives and they were promised health care in exchange for their land and so many other things. And, you know, we haven’t really seen a great health care system set up for our relatives, especially in urban areas. So it’s just astounding to me to think like decades ago my ancestors, you know, going through that and now here I am really getting to take charge and provide care to some of my relatives. It’s just like, we’re indigenizing the space in such a cool way,” Seiber said.

Her first goal as CEO was to set up a Cultural Health Department, which she has already done.

“That was my main goal to get started off the bat, to just, you know, show we prioritize culture here and we need to get back to that. You know, culture is medicine and I think that, you know, the western ways of treating people, you know, they’re good for some people but we just need to also make sure that we’re incorporating culture,” Seiber said.

Theresa Henry is the director for the Cultural Health Department, or the Zaniya Oyate.

“That means that we’re going to have practices or rules that we follow to help the people heal holistically in the community,” Henry said.

Henry has worked with SD Urban Indian Health for three years. She says this program is an expansion of previous services they offered, but it’s an expansion they’ve been hoping for.

“We’ve been praying and doing our best to work towards more holistic health care, especially cultural-based services for the Native people here in the community. So, I feel that one of our prayers have been answered with Michaela coming to the program,” Henry said.

Seiber also wants to expand who the organization works with.

“So that’s a big goal of mine is to make sure we’re thinking about culture. And also providing that to other health systems in the area so that they can begin to refer patients to us, Native patients, and we can provide the cultural needs. Even if they don’t come here for medical needs, they can come here and get some cultural needs met,” Seiber said.

But South Dakota Urban Indian Health isn’t just for Native Americans.

“You know, although we have ‘Indian’ in our name and that’s our primary focus, we are welcoming of all folks regardless of their race and I really think I want people to know that more and understand that we will be working harder to make sure that we’re serving all of our relatives, not just our Native relatives. Although, you know, a lot of our programming will be focused toward them, I think, and everyone will benefit from having a holistic inclusive health care facility here in Sioux Falls, ” Seiber said.

South Dakota Urban Indian Health has clinics in Sioux Falls and Pierre.

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