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Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc.
Caring for Our People with Disabilities & Chronic Illness

"Making life better!"

picture of smoking teepeeCulture & Disability

"It doesn’t matter the extent of their disabilities. It’s their culture. It’s like feeding. If your child can’t feed himself you feed him because he needs to eat.”
Erich Longie, President, Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc., Spirit Lake Dakota Sioux

There is a lot of talk about “person-centered” language and planning. To assume that culture is not important to a Dakota child with severe mental retardation reveals an attitude that the severe mental retardation is the only thing that matters.

"As a child when I moved to a deaf school off tribal lands I couldn’t participate in my cultural rituals such as pow-wows and ceremonies. My life was like a torn piece of paper. When I could reconnect these ceremonies and my ability to be first a Native American and then a deaf person – my life came together again.
- Mark Azure, Intertribal Deaf Council

When you celebrate culture you don’t celebrate it for all of these reasons like learning better gross motor skills. You do it because that’s what we do. According to Erich Longie, Dakota Sioux, Native American communities in the Great Plains have a history of full inclusion. One example is given below.

  • Example #1: Every pow-wow arena has an area for people with physical disabilities, including those in wheelchairs, with walkers and elderly. Pow-wows are not generally held in the most modern facilities and yet the organizes always make sure there is plenty of room for people with physical limitations and they have the best seat in the house.

fireplace burningGO TO THE COMMONS AREA WHAT WOULD YOU DO? You are working with an individual who, at nineteen years old, is limited in speech, mobility and independent living skills. According to most programs providing disability services, your goal should be to have the person live in as close to a 'normal' way as possible. If he stays on the reservation, he will need to live with family or friends. Also, he has not been able to find a job due to his disability. His mother does not want the young man to move away. He says he doesn't know what he wants. Click here to read answers from tribal members working in the field.

For more on culture and disability, with special emphasis on the Great Plains tribes, click here to download a Powerpoint presentation used in COPT training workshops

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Next: cultural information common to many tribes, particularly in the Great Plains. This page provides general information and is not specific to persons with a disability.

Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc. -- P.O.Box 663, 314 Circle Dr., Fort Totten, ND 58335 Tel: (701) 351-2175 Fax: (800) 905 -2571
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