Addressing racial wealth gaps

Our Commitment

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

Report date
January 2015

What has been most instrumental to your progress?

Our project experienced some serious delays as several barriers had to be dealt with before getting the activities started. By far, the most effective assistance we received to help us stay focused through resolution of the barriers was the encouragement and trust of the Standing Rock elders. As the project was delayed, the elders would continue to ask about the “Bush” and remained interested and patient for its start. Conversations and questions from the elders (both formally in “talking circles” and informally when “bumping into them” at various places in the communities) were always focused on “when” the project would start, never “if” the project would be starting. At each encounter, we tried to take the opportunity to remind them of the eventual goals of the “Bush” (as it has become known), and we continued to receive their support, as they reminded us of the importance the project, to meet the needs of the elders through home & community-based services.
Also, as we had to weather various delays, the patience and understanding of our partners on the project was also instrumental in keeping our focus, and getting done what we could get done realistically. The Directors for the Nutrition for the Elderly Program (NFE), and the Community Health Representative Program (CHR) continued to be helpful in making future plans for coordination of their programs with the “Bush” employees, in anticipation of the Program Coordinator being hired. A special thanks is due to the NFE Program for getting the supplemental transportation program started first, as this was something “tangible” that we could finally report as initial progress to the elders. We also appreciate the CHR program for holding onto the office at the CHR Building that now houses the Bush Project. Office space is extremely limited on the reservation, and keeping the office space available for the Bush Project during the long delay was pivotal to being able to start the activities once the staff was hired.
The continued support and interest of the Tribal Health Director throughout all the challenges of getting started was also pivotal in keeping the goals of staffing the Bush Project “on the front burner” with the other Tribal Departments.

Key lessons learned

It was important to keep communicating with the elders and our partners on the project, even when the project experienced unexpected delays. As the project now has been fully staffed, we did not have to “go backwards” in explaining the project activities, as we had been keeping people informed, even throughout the delays.

Reflections on inclusive, collaborative or resourceful problem-solving

Our project is targeted to creating resources for elders and people with disabilities to be able to live at home as long as they can as they age. This is a challenge in a rural reservation community that has limited resources and scarce access to those few resources. From the beginning preparation of the project application to the Bush Foundation, the “inclusive” element has been the most important element of our community innovation process. This is not to diminish the valuable partnerships among Tribal programs which have been essential to moving the activities of the project forward. But the “inclusive” element has grounded the entire project, that is, the elders who are going to benefit from the project, are integrally engaged in contributing their own knowledge and own assessment of needs, and in also proposing and brainstorming possible solutions. This pattern has been evident in the 4 talking circles which have taken place thus far. In fact, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe can honestly call the Community Innovation project “our” project.

Other key elements of Community Innovation

A shared commitment by Lakota people to the value of respect, and particularly respect for elders, has made it easy to generate support and enthusiasm for this project. As we have explained the project to health programs, community members and Tribal leadership, there has been a shared appreciation of the importance of the project, and good wishes for its successful completion.

Understanding the problem

We had much “anecdotal” evidence that elders needed home-based care and home-maker services. The “anecdotal” evidence has been validated repeatedly in the initial “talking circles” we have been able to hold, and in the immediate demand for the “supplemental transportation” once it was started through the Nutrition for the Elderly Program. We are more certain than ever that this community innovation project is going to be instrumental in making a very long-term contribution to the elders of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. We are planning concurrently for “next steps” that we will follow-up after the assessment information is fully collected through additional talking circles and home visits. We do anticipate that the community innovation project will provide the “hard evidence” that will be needed to take those “next steps” to actually build a coordinated network of elder resources.

If you could do it all over again...

We would have asked for a two year period for the grant at the outset, rather than having to ask for an extension. (Refer above to “key lessons” about being more realistic with our timelines)

One last thought

We would just like to express our appreciation to the Bush Foundation for choosing the Standing Rock people to receive a Community Innovation Grant. This project has given us the “grounding” to pursue additional resources to plan programs that we hope will coordinate an array of services in the community. We are hopeful that this project is a vital link to the potential for future, sustainable, community-based services for elders and people with disabilities.
We especially appreciated the phone calls and the “on-site” visit from our Project Officer. It was so helpful to be able to explain “where we were at” and to have Margaret Arzdorf-Schubbe actually meet our team in person at the CHR office.