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 around the globe, as well as numerous empathetic national communities.

Today we’re focusing on the importance of plant medicine and why we must 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 arts & 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,” as she so eloquently says. This clinic will be a place where patients can consult with a western doctor, indigenous healer, midwife, and herbalist to work holistically to provide the care best suited to their unique health needs. Sila and Torii Labs share a common understanding of the future of medicine, where naturopathic and holistic healing methods complement western practices, and 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 goals of the clinic are to reinstate indigenous medicine, continue its advancement and integrate plant medicine with western medical practices. A central mission of the clinic at Standing Rock is to reestablish the healing practices at the core of their native culture. The aim is not to modernize and patent indigenous formulas, but instead to emphasize natural medicine practices and thoughtfully combine them with western methods. The indigenous community is at the forefront of how to responsibly mesh these two healing methods without crossing ethical boundaries.

In joining western and holistic healing methods, leaders from both communities have combined forces to aid the local populations of Standing Rock. The Do No Harm Coalition and the tribe’s supporters who protect accessible clean water and dignity of their ancestral lands were invited to help build a free clinic at the camp of Standing Rock. Mni Wiconi, meaning “Water is Life,” will be 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 Mni Wiconi intends to support the Sioux reservation in their long term medical needs.

Furthermore, the clinic aims to reinstate indigenous medicine and culture, supporting the native people as they help promote the health and livelihood of their community. 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.

Another top priority for the tribal healers and supporters of the Mni Wiconi is protecting the prairies at Standing Rock Reservation. 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 now more important than ever to protect these herbs and edibles for the future of plant medicine and holistic healthcare,” Sila said.

Herbs such as Shepherdia argentea, or Buffaloberry, can never be regrown at Standing Rock because the grounds are deconstructed and tainted with chemicals. Rare indigenous plants like Echinaceae, lobelia, and chokecherry produce highly concentrated medicinal properties, making their growth on native lands immensely important to creating herbal remedies there. Once up and running, the Mni Wiconi clinic will grow native plants to provide holistic healthcare. These herbs and edibles offer solutions for cold and flu symptoms, fatigue, pain, and have antibacterial properties.

Furthermore, these native plants are helpful in addressing the chronic diseases that are a huge cause of death at Standing Rock, making it one of the highest disease and mortality rated nations in the Western hemisphere. The high death rate of people at Standing Rock is extremely pertinent to the importance of the clinic and its need to be built.

“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,” she said.

Sila underscored how the indigenous population takes great pride in their survival despite experiencing harrowing oppression from dominant American culture - with limited help from white communities as a response. Sila believes in the responsibility of the global community to protect the ecosystems on which we all depend for food, medicine and, ultimately, our livelihoods. We share responsibility in respecting the indigenous people and offering our support in their mission to achieve indefinite sovereignty as a nation.

Sila inspires us to give our support to the communities that need it most with the goal of putting holistic healthcare in the hands of the people.

To Donate to the Mni Wiconi Health Clinic and support healthcare in the hands of the people, visit the UCSF Crowdfunding Page Here.