Our Last Day on the Res
After 3 days of consulting on patients with Rheumatologic and Neurologic Diseases we finished off the week with education for both the staff at Pine Ridge Hospital and the Wanblee Clinic as well as for ourselves.
We stopped on the way to Pine Ridge to visit the Wounded Knee Memorial. It was quite moving to wander through the cemetary on the site. We also visited the Heritage Museum and Red Cloud School which are located in Pine Ridge. We indulged our shop till you drop tendencies to take advantage of many pieces of beautiful hand crafted jewelry sold in the gift shop and then wandered through the museum where many pieces of original Native American art was displayed including several elaborate and simply beautiful head dresses. We learned the feathers and adornments on the headdresses were earned by acts of bravery and therefore the chief did not necessarily always have the most elaborate display. There was a Catholic church on the site which depicted the 7 stages of Christ using Native American characters and large and elaborate stained glass windows.
We then arrived a the Pine Ridge Hospital. Sharon Barnhart NP from rheumatology gave a wonderful and comprehensive lecture to the staff at Pine Ridge Hosptial about Rheumatoid Arthritis. The lecture was well attended and the staff was quite appreciative of the information she provided. We then returned to the Wanblee Clinic which has become our home away from home the past week She repeated the same lecture on RA as well as another on systemic lupus. We were able to chart with some of the staff and continued to learn more about their culture. One of the employees talked about how she had moved off the reservation 20 years before. Her mother however became ill and asked her to return home to care for her. Without any hesitation that is exactly what she did. Her remark was “that is what you do.” She is the single parent of a teenage daughter and there was no sense of regret or unhappiness about this abrupt change in her life.
I have only scratched the surface of understanding the complex and rich culture of the Lakota people. There is a sense of great need to help in anyway possible to help return these people to their previous level of prosperity.
Mary Goodsett MD