Care in the Hands of the People—An Interview with Sila Rood

On July 16th, 2017 a historical victory was made for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The federal court found that the approval for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was violating national law. The tragedy of DAPL for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe caught the attention of tribes globally and numerous empathetic national communities. Today we are focusing on the importance of plant medicine and how we should continue to salvage medicinal herbs. Torii Labs believes in combining adaptogenic herbs to improve mind and body performance with the goal of supporting your immune system and well being. We sat down with Sila Teal Rood, a current health & sciences student, activist, health and wellness guru, healer, and plant medicine lover. She is working with the first free integrated clinic at Standing Rock to provide accessible healthcare “in the hands of the people”. This clinic will be a place where a patient can consult with a western doctor, indigenous healer, midwife, and herbalist to work holistically on what kind of care one may want. Sila and Torii Labs share a common understanding on the future of medicine, where western practices are complemented by naturopathic and holistic healing methods, where plant medicine plays a major role in both curing and preventing illness.

“Being an activist and a plant medicine lover have to become one in the same, if we sincerely want to protect the resources for plant medicine and if we want to support the indigenous locals vision of what tribal and food sovereignty looks like”, Sila emphasized. The long-term goal is to continue the advancement of plant medicine and integrate it within western medical practices. Recently there has been a plethora of various holistic medicinal practices and perspectives with western medicine combining forces to help the local populations of Standing Rock due to their recent lack of access to clean water. The Do No Harm Coalition and the tribe’s supporters who protect accessible clean water and dignity of their ancestral lands were invited to create a free clinic at the camp of Standing Rock. Mni Wiconi, meaning “Water is Life”, is a free integrative clinic offering holistic health services with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s traditional healers, UCSF doctors and medical services, National Nurses United, Changing Woman Initiative (ingenious midwifery group) and the Global Healthcare Alternative Project. The goal of the Mni Wiconi is to create a space for the practice of decolonized medicine in order to further the health of the community in the short-term with the expanded population due to pipeline resistance and in the long term after the encampments have dissolved. Sila is working on this clinic to provide better healthcare for the reservation. Mni Wiconi arose from the “No DAPL” movement and the people that supported the Standing Sioux Tribe reservation. “I imagine that a lot of us want to see the future of medicine going in the right way—accessibility for all, and a holistic fusion based care that is completely in the hands of the people” Sila’s family has had generations of experience and ties to bettering the lives of indigenous people. She believes it is everyone’s duty to respect and protect the indigenous people.

Protecting the prairies at Standing Rock Reservation is a main priority for the tribal healers and supporters of the Mni Wiconi. The prairies house hundreds of edibles and herbs used for medicinal purposes. These resources are vital for preventing illnesses. “Grasslands make up 4% of America now. The Standing Rock reservation makes up 2% of these prairies and they have been compromised due to the pipeline construction. It is more important than ever to protect these herbs and edibles for the future of plant medicine and holistic healthcare.”  Herbs such as Shepherdia, Argentea, and Buffaloberry can never be regrown because the grounds are deconstructed and tainted with chemicals. The Mni Wiconi clinic sources and preserves herbs to provide holistic healthcare. These herbs and edibles provide solutions for cold and flu symptoms, animal bites, fatigue, pain, and have antibacterial properties. The prairies contain plants and herbs such as Cornflowers, Milkweed, and Wild Tomatillo that produce highly concentrated medicinal properties. These rarities are immensely important in the plant medicine and herbal world. Sila inspires us to help communities that need it most with the goal of providing holistic healthcare in the hands of the people.