Someone You Should Know: Native American advocates offer spiritual-based programs through non-profits

Someone You Should Know: Native American advocates offer spiritual-based programs through non-profits
Published: Jul. 28, 2022 at 11:22 AM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Serene Thin Elk is the Chief Behavioral Health Officer at South Dakota Urban Indian Health.

“This place is a place of no judgment, it’s a place to learn about your identity and your culture and hopefully heal some of those effects of intergenerational trauma and then their own personal traumas as well,” said Serene.

She gets her passion for helping others from her upbringing.

“From a young age, I have been very much involved in the ceremony and the healing arts community, very open, we would have people from all over the world come and visit our community. It was something that was kind of ingrained in me and part of who I am that I love people and I love working with people. Was born into this world as a Lakota Nakota woman,” said Serene.

Serene explains how her clinic is open to all individuals and focuses on specific needs.

“What makes us stand out from other clinics is that we really do have three pillars, medical department, behavioral health, and cultural health, which is huge to have that cultural health piece. From a Native perspective, it’s really important to involve anything related to culture and spirit,” said Serene.

South Dakota Urban Indian Health works with other non-profit organizations to provide more support for the people who need their services.

“Individuals that she might serve are also individuals that we serve here at Generation Red Road, so there is collaboration within our organizations, and that’s part of recreating and reinventing opportunities,” said the founder of Generation Red Road J. Carlos Rivera.

Generation Red Road is a Native American non-profit helping tribes all over the country find ways to heal and revitalize their communities.

“We wanted to provide for our Native communities as a spiritual-based program. So our program really bridges the gap between Western concepts and Indigenous concepts. Bringing both of those together,” said Rivera.

Carlos is working with the Sissiten and Rosebud Sioux tribes currently.

“A lot of our communities experience over 300 years of trauma that has been passed down from generation to generation and trauma is visceral, it’ll stay in the body until we do something,” said Rivera.

“And my journey is also included in this, it’s why I do the work that I do, is having to rethink the way I look at life and how I see my future,” said Rivera.

Both Serene and Carlos are dedicated to healing and offering hope and guidance to those struggling in their communities.

“Part of what’s helped Native people to be resilient through the hundreds of years of colonization really has been our lifeways and our culture,” said Serene.

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