By Jariah Danks and Sherry Stevens
Bismarck, ND – On June 24th, enrolled Members of the MHA Nation (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara) joined dignitaries for a tour of the Sage Coulee Outreach and Wellness Facility during the Grand Opening Event where Chairman, Mark N. Fox unveiled the beautiful, newly finished, outreach facility. The new building is directly across from the Heart View Treatment Center and soon to become a sober living facility.
Chairman Fox gave a specific game plan to assist members and parents of young children recovering from addictions and afflictions, to recover in a ‘continued care’ environment. This is an alternative to being sent off to other states or back into environments where the problems originally arose.
Chairman Fox also explained there will be other breaking ground of facilities in the next few months benefitting the nation as a whole, and especially those approximately, 1500 enrolled members who are currently working and going to school and residing in Bismarck. The satellite buildings are designed for the use by all members, and Fox encourages visits to these facilities by tribal members on Fort Berthold to take advantage of their location as the Bismarck area is the original home of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara people and it “is natural for the members to travel this direction” back and forth along the Missouri River for commerce, work and resources.
The Grand Opening began at 10:00 am with staff giving tours of the new facility. At 11:00, the program began with Rusty Gillette introducing Ken Dean for the prayer and blessing of the food. From there, the MC (Rusty Gillette) acknowledged Young Hawk-Bear Post #253 from White Shield and the drum group, Yellow Face, played the Flag/Honor Song and raised the three flags. Some of the speakers were Chairman Mark N. Fox of Three Affiliated Tribes/ MHA Nation, Luitenant Governor of North Dakota, Brent Sanford, North Dakota’s Indian Affairs, Scott Davis, Mark Little Owl, Sage Coulee Director and Kelly McGrady, Sage Coulee RN/Health Facilitator. Lunch was provided “to go” as Bismarck City Mayor, Steve Bakken spoke briefly about the building project. After the speeches, there was a ribbon-cutting event.
TOUR AND COMMON THEME
The speakers appeared to have a common emphasis on the importance of retaining off-site resources for tribal members. It was also mentioned the new Sage Coulee Building would be serve as the new MHA Satellite location, as well meaning, “It will help tribal members who live off of the reservation receive help from and keep connected to their tribe, “ Kelly McGrady. The building itself, hosts; many offices, a conference room, work-out center, and a miniature kitchen for staff. The intent is for it to be a place where people can work on their health and get the help they need. Kelly McGrady, the onsite Registered Nurse (RN), offered that she and Mark Little Owl know each other since childhood as they lived next door in Bismarck and they often played together and attended the same school. Now that they are adults, they are both involved in helping the Tribe and people at the SC Wellness & Outreach Center. “It is in my blood to help people,” McGrady said.
She first heard about the RN position after the previous nurse left and moved to Arizona. She prayed about it and thereafter, applied for the position. McGrady worked at the prior MHA Satellite location, where she learned more about the new building. This was before COVID struck, and plans to open the new SC Wellness & Outreach location were postponed until now. She served as a Combat Medic in the military, and she was a Combat Medic Specialist from 1995 until 2007. During this time, she acquired her CNA in 2002, her LPN in 2010, and went on to earn her RN in 2012. She will graduate this fall with her BSM. Kelly has expressed, “helping people is my calling,” as she has worked in other programs assisting with mental illness and addiction. One of those programs was the Johnson-Robert Foundation. She explained, “Native Americans have much resilience in their blood. This is thanks to their ancestors.”
The SC Wellness & Outreach Facility (new satellite office) is just one of the many excellent resources available and becoming available for the betterment of medicine; holistic and conventional healing for the MHA people and generations to come.
Good morning everybody. It makes my heart feel good to see everybody here. We are here to celebrate something very important; an accomplishment for our nation and an accomplishment for our people. It is good to see all of our people on this bright, sunny, and warm day. It is going to be a little windy, but it is going to be a great day. Despite everything going on in the world with the Pandemic – we all have our masks, and we are still doing our best to slow the spread and keep it from impacting those we love and those we care about. It is very important, and I appreciate all of you who continue to do that. We have a guest to joining us here today, and it is a special day. Thank you all for being here.
“THANK YOU” TO RUSTY GILLETTE
If you look around at all the things we are developing, I’ll explain those briefly but before I do, we did not get a chance to thank him. However, he steps up and helps us, each time we ask him – he’s a Dance Champion, Arena Director of all the major Pow Wows, he is a Star Athlete from the Bismarck-Mandan area and throughout the state and when he steps up to do that, I do appreciate him, and you all know him as Mr. Rusty Gillette. Let’s give him a round of applause (crowd applause).
Chairman’s roll call for other council members (Dr. Monica Mayor – North Segment)
ACKNOWLEDGMENT AND GRATITUDE
Thanks to other staff doing an awesome job getting things organized; Mark, Drew, Marie, Darrell, Gabe – Thank you for all that you do. You’ve done an awesome job – Let us give all of my staff a round of applause.
Recognition of DRUM GROUP – Yellowface
Recognition of Post 253 and reverence for our flag
Recognition of Ladies Auxillary
TO DO FOR THE PEOPLE
Let me briefly explain where we’re at today. When I became Chairman of MHA because of you, our enrolled members, who asked me to step forward and assume this position to try to do things for the people – I came out here and I looked around. There was nothing here but grass and fields. I was standing out by the firework station back behind us and to the left, and there was literally nothing here or down below but a steep slag, a grade downward.
SELLERS WHO BELIEVE IN OUR CAUSE
I heard it [the lot] was for sale and I saw a “For Sale” sign – I started to think, “You know? That’s a half a step to home. People will come by here on their way in.” A lot of land is owned by an individual here. The individuals who owns this land are involved with real estate, and his name is Dr. Ronald Knutson, who could not steal away from work today, and his wife, Ruth, who is in Fargo today – both are strong supporters of what we’re trying to do. Both individuals really support the things we have built.
In our dealings, I have to commend and want to be very thankful and acknowledge the Knutson’s – Ron and Ruth Knutson because we acquired this property for less than half of the market value. Believe me, I know because I searched, and I searched.
WE ARE AN ANCIENT TRADE CULTURE (CAPITALISM)
This is America where it’s driven by capitalism, profitability and there’s nothing wrong with that because long ago, we were Capitalists as well. Our Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara people were one of the two primary North American indigenous trade centers – We had; corn, beans, squash, watermelon – all of these staple crops. We had a strong agricultural program. We had other trading histories, as well. A lot of our people and tribes, for thousands of years, would travel to this center. There were only two major North American indigenous trade centers in all of North America, and we were one of them. So, all of these tribes to the East, all the way south to Mexico; to the West Coast – Oregon, Washington and all the way from New York; the New England area, Canada – come down to trade. They came here to the trade center. There were two trading events; one in the spring, and a major one in the fall. Our people were able to do this, and that’s the history from which we come. It’s also the history we are trying to return to as both, the MHA Nation and as the MHA people – because that’s what we have behind us.
THE VISION – HOW CAN WE AFFORD IT?
Price per square foot is what things go for now. So how are we going to acquire this beautiful land down there with the creek going by that you see? How can we pay for this but still afford it? And if it weren’t for them, I think we’d still be shopping and looking for somewhere to build – but they were very gracious in saying, “We believe in what you’re trying to build here,” so they sold it for far, far less than what they could’ve gotten from somebody else – like they got from Shopko up on the hill.
You can see a lot of things happening here now – there’s a street here now where one was not before, and it won’t be long before there’s a bridge incoming and we’ve got more developments to the North and the East of here. These are some of the things that we need to acknowledge.
ARCHITECT, RANDY LINDEMANN AND TOUR
My right-hand guy here, he’s an architect, and he’s done so many projects with me. He’s done an awesome job, and he’s out of Minneapolis. His name is Randy Lindemann. Such an awesome job, and so it’s very beautiful for those of you who got to tour inside, and you got to see that this is an awesome job, and it’s also under budget.
LATE (SAFE) OPENING
We also waited to have the grand opening until after the onset of the Pandemic, because it wasn’t too cool to have us all inside during April or May with the Pandemic in full force and by the way, time is on our side here. However, we must still wear masks and stay six feet away from each other. As I said, time is on our side; we’ve got our masks, and we’re starting to move around without as much worry but still, inside buildings, Walmart, Menards – anywhere air is not moving about – person to person – PLEASE wear a mask and use hand sanitizer.
VACCINE – KEEP WEARING MASKS /SOCIAL DISTANCE
That vaccine is coming, and the longer we dig down and bear through this by protecting ourselves and definitely others by wearing masks and other things (social distancing measures), the closer we’re going to get to this vaccine then we can relax and go back to our normal again.
TREATMENT CENTER IS ACROSS FROM WELLNESS FACILITY AND OUTREACH
Across the street is where we celebrated a grand opening a few years ago (Chairman Fox points in the direction of the treatment center). We have a brand-new treatment facility, and now we have this building built here; this is a ‘Wellness Facility and Outreach.’ Now the ‘wellness’ part – you can figure out; clients from across the street can utilize it, membership can use it, whether you live here or come down for the day, we are trying to promote wellness; that’s why the facility is built with areas for exercise, areas to hold conferences and we are going to promote nutrition, things on health care, medicine – we are also going to do informational seminars throughout the year in regards to COVID.
TRANSITIONAL LIVING CONTINUAL CARE
The building site behind you, it could be a matter of 3 or 4 months, but we [grand opening with our members, architects, designers, and builders] will be right behind you, doing this again. It is called a ‘Transitional Living Unit.’ Those are designed for women and women with children who are suffering through addiction problems. Women who get treatment but need ‘continuation of care’ (continual care). This comes after 90 days of treatment and rather than sending them over to Arizona, or sending them home – back to the same environment that helped produce their situation or problem (which brings with it a 90% chance of relapse, an environment that helped produce the problem) instead, we need to give them continual care here. We need to have the additional housing units and, and they will be able to work, or go back to school, united with their families. They will have the support of staff, outreach, outpatient work, and they will be able to continue on, and success has been shown in Arizona that this works. If you simply send them back to the same spot, it doesn’t work.
THE INVESTMENT WE ARE MAKING – THE VALUE OF ONE LIFE
It costs millions of dollars to build these buildings. It costs millions to build that beautiful facility over there and millions to build this one, and we are not done yet. My point is, “What is the value of one life? Even one life to get sober?” Myself? The value of a life if only one person gets sober and then stays sober and then in addition to them going out and getting others sober; you get that positive benefit.
A SOBER PARENT IS THE MOST MOVING OF ALL
What really moves me the most, is the looks of the children when their parent is sober. That love in their eyes when the parent is doing what they’re supposed to do. This is the way life is supposed to be; close, supportive, doing things together. I’ve seen this over and over. It changes their world. Children get all happy, and children will carry that hope, and they will get older, and they will break that chain of addiction – that chain of despair, which is something we didn’t create. With what was done to us – hundreds of years ago. That trauma carried forward – but you know what? We have to change it; we have to break it because no one else is going to change it for us. The investment is going to be long term. Our people who get sober and stay sober, the stronger we are going to become. The stronger our children will be and their children after that.
WE ARE NOT CASH COWS
That’s the investment we are making here. We’re not cash cows. Don’t worry about being a cash cow because I have to raise money. I am the Chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Tribal Business Council – not Tribal Traditional Council, not Tribal History Council, not Tribal Social Council; I am the Chairman of the Tribal Business Council, and my job is to run the business of the Tribe in getting revenue so we can have programs, we can help people, we can provide services, we can help lead people in the right direction, we can overcome this economic and social despair and then we can build things like this. If I do my job right, as well as the rest of the Council, to continue to raise revenue, to continue to apply it towards our people – not just sit back on some taxes of some royalties, and that’s what our job is, as well.
You see it today behind me. We’re going to celebrate this today, this is something awesome, “Wellness and Outreach”. Outreach, and why? We have 1500 enrolled members living down here. I tease Monica because she says, “I have the biggest Segment.” I say, “Well, I have a bigger Segment here,” and I think my granddad was a little jealous a bit on that (crowd laughter). We have so many people here; we definitely need services here. We need jobs, that’s why the Mayor, I’m glad he is here, the same for our Governor, he is here, our Executive Director of Indian Affairs Commission, and Scotty- I’m glad he is here, as well. We need to build some infrastructure; we need to build some housing, and we are not done yet.
WE ARE NOT DONE
We have another 40-unit apartment building we hope to start this fall; we will start digging and put the footings in the ground. We need housing, temporary housing, a mortgage program to start being able to obtain more housing for those who are here. We need more jobs, more work too. Go onto the next step, and we’re going to have to join (inaudible) or other company and build some manufacturing to build some income for our people for employment, and we’re going to have to work really hard on that. There’s no reason in the world we can’t have a place to have 100 to 150 of our enrolled people employed and provide more income for our people. So, we’ve got all of these things in place and we have two more things to build.
We have a phase two here on this building. We are going to go to the West (points west), and we are going on to that property. We have an area between one of the housing units over there, on the far right, on that property. We have an area over there for a splash pad, a recreation area, a ‘Happy Birthday Party’ for your child. We will set it up and build that here in Bismarck. Our people are working hard, going to school, they’ve got jobs, trying to make a living and they deserve support services.
THIS IS OUR HOME
After all, this was our home along the river – all along the Missouri River. This has always been our home. This is where we’ve always existed for hundreds of miles South and hundreds of miles North. This is home for us, and it’s natural for us to move this direction. Everything we do is an important part of what we do and how we live.
Thank you for listening to me today. I wanted to acknowledge our purpose and thank everyone who has assisted with the building amid the Pandemic, and we will work through this and be back to our new normal.
Bismarck City Mayor, Steve Bakken
We’re proud of that – we’re proud of that piece of heritage that comes with being a resident of Bismarck, or the mercy that the Tribe is bringing as well. This facility is absolutely amazing. When Chairman and I first started talking after my election, and he rolled out the plans of what’s across the road, what this is going to be and what is going over there. Wow! What an amazing project for North Bismarck and for the residents of Bismarck to share in, as well. I have my eight-page speech here, but I’ve decided to be a little bit brief here, “It’s with the sincerest thoughts I thank Chairman Fox and the Tribal Council for having the vision for a facility like this and not only this building, that building, but for what it brings to Bismarck and that big piece to the city of Bismarck, so it is with heartfelt thanks, Thank you from the city of Bismarck,” Mayor Steve Bakken.
North Dakota Indian Affairs Director, Scott Davis
Thank you, Chairman Fox, for the invitation today. Thank you team, for all you’ve done in putting this work together for this blessed day. As your relative, these things are a little personal to me; I know Brett and I were just talking about and it seems like it was just yesterday, when we were part of the grand opening for the treatment center.
Like the First Lady, I’ve been in recovery for almost 15 years now, so places like this are really personal to me. I see my brother Darrell in the crowd who I worked with at United Tribes and learning from Darrell about wellness and taking care of yourself and being balanced. When you go through these processes in life – and we all do; it teaches you a lot about who you are and about your family and who you are as a proud member of your Tribe.
Aside from all the great things Chairman is doing for your Tribe – buildings, the quality debates that Brett and I’ve had with Chairman Fox – and there were some good ones … [P]rior to him being Chairman, Mark was always the ‘go-to guy’ for when it comes to debates and advocacy here at Capital – he’s doing a tremendous job, and I really applaud him for that. Chairman, you’ve done very well for your Tribe. You’ve built more things under your leadership than in my 11 years of doing this. I’ve been through 23 chairs in my 11 years, and Chairman’s unfortunately come and go as they say, “It’s Tribal politics – it’s a tough job.” The Chairman has always been committed, and I attribute that to balance in his life. That’s kind of where my focus is at as your relative. Places like this; treatment centers, wellness centers – we all know that we come from historical trauma – there’s no doubt about it, everybody has it. It’s like this Pandemic, it’s a virus. When we talk about our historical trauma, we also have that, and I go back to what you said, Chairman when you said, “It’s up to us to fix that, and I completely believe that because there’s only so many things that government can do and that your Chairman can do, that your counsel can do, but somehow, we have to make up our own mind to get rid of that bad spirit that’s holding us down.”