What’s in the Heart—a film that takes a positive look at extraordinary Indian people & efforts to heal health disparities in Indian country.
Indian Country Child Trauma Center, Dolores Bigfoot, PhD, Caddo, Director www.icctc.org
Native Welllness Institute, Jillene Joseph, Executive Director, www.nativewellness.com
TThe Center for Integrative Medicine in Public Health, Liz Kaltman, ND, MPH, Executive Director
Association of American Indian Physicians, Dale Walker, MD, www.aaip.org
American Indian Health Policy Management, Tempe, AZ www.aihpm.com
Advisory Council on Indian Health Care, State of AZ, Fred Hubbard www.acoihc.gov
American Indian Health and Family Services, www.aihfs.org Detroit
Arizona Department of Health Services, Michael Allison, www.azdhs.gov
Bernalillo County Off Reservation Health Commission
Dartmouth Medical School, Department of Multicultural Affairs, Shawn O’Leary, PhD
Dine Local Collaborative #15, Regina Begay-Roanhorse, www.dinelc.org/
Center for Cross Cultural Research at Western Washington University, Jeff King
Center - Integrative Medicine & Public Health, Liz Kaltman, ND, MPH, www.cimph.org/
Eve’s Fund for Native American Health Initiatives, Bob Crowell, MD & Barbara Roy, www.evecrowellsfund.org
Foundation for the American Indian, Joan Prentice Andrews, www.fai.org/
First Nation’s Behavioral Health Association, Jeff King www.FNBHA.org
Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board, Rapid City, SD www.gptchb.org/
Regenia Hicks, American Institutes for Research, www.air.org/
Idaho Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health, Bill Elvey,
Indian Country Child Trauma Center: Dr. Dolores Subia BigFoot, www.icctc.org/
Jung Society of Washington, Washington, DC, www.jung.org
Lakota Circle Village Sacred Hoop School, Leonard Little Finger, www.lakotavillage.org/
Lakota Pine Ridge Enrichment Project, Ltd., Maggie Dunne
Leland Fairbanks, MD, retired Indian Health Services physician.
Margo Greene, Therapist Lubbock, Texas
Marcus McKinney, D.Min., Dir., Pastoral Counseling & Community Outreach, St. Francis Hospital & Medical Center, Hartford, CT.
National Association of Social Workers, New Mexico Chapter: Pat Tyrrel, LISW, ACWS
Native American Children’s Alliance, Linda Logan, Executive Director, www.naca.org
Native American Connections, Diana Devine, MBA, CEO www.nativeamericanconnections.org/
Native Bridge, Darcie Pacholl, Founder & President, Lakebay, WA www.nativebridge.org/
Native Wellness Institute, Jillene Joseph, Executive Director, www.nativewellness.com/
National Council of Urban Indian Health, Washington, DC, www.ncuih.org/
National Indian Women’s Health Resource Center, Pam Iron, www.niwhrc.org/
National Indian Youth Leadership Project, Gallup, NM, McClellan Hall, www.niylp.org/
National Network to Eliminate Health Disparities, Rachele Espiritu, PhD, www.nned.org
Native American Mentoring Initiative Big Brothers Big Sisters Jolene Aguilar, MPH www.bbbs.org/
Native Health Initiative, www.lovingservice.us, Anthony Fleg, MD
Native Source, Christopher Stamos, Cortaro, AZ
New Mexico Indian Affairs Department, www.iad.state.nm.us/
New Mexico Public Health Association Marsha McMurray-Avila, www.nmpha.org/
New Mexico Health Equity Working Group: Kristine Suozzi
Northern Plains Healthy Start Program, Pine Ridge, SD
Pine Ridge High School, Pine Ridge, South Dakota, www.prs.bia.edu/
Takini Institute, Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart, PhD, UMM, School of Medicine
Tatanka Oyate Foundation:, e. V. Dr. Dirk Rohrbach, Munich, Germany
South Dakota Urban Indian Health, Donna Keeler, Lakota www.sduih.org/
Southwest Seminars, Santa Fe, NM, www.southwestseminars.org
Tewa Women United, www.tewawomenunited.org
Red Horse Nation, Suzi Landolphi www.redhorsenation.org
Reverend Bob Wells, Houston, TX
Weinreich Communications, Nedra Klein Weinreich, president and founder, www.social-marketing.com
Wings of America, Will Channing, Executive Director, Santa Fe, NM - The Earth Circle Foundation, Inc. www.wingsoamerica.org
Paul H. Wise, MD, MPH, Richard E. Behrman Professor of Child Health and Society Professor of Pediatrics Senior Fellow, Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies Director, Center for Policy, Outcomes and Prevention Stanford University School of Medicine CHP/PCOR
Gerald J. Yutrzenka, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Basic Biomed. Sciences
Director, Diversity Affairs/INMED Satellite Office/ASSP
Pre-Med Advisor/ Healthcare Workforce Development
Sanford School of Medicine
University of South Dakota
Leonard Little Finger, Lakota
S Y N O P S I S
What's in the Heart - Can't be Taken looks at the history and reasons for the alarming health crisis among Native Americans. The film traces the life of a 14-year old Lakota boy who survived the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre, and went on to forge a life based on forgiving “those who had done that to him.” Through the boy’s story, interviews with his great-grandson, health experts and community leaders, the film will illustrate how one community is using both traditional and modern medicine to heal from its past and the myriad of losses suffered since the onset of reservation life.
photo: Deanne Fitzmaurice
In writing about the “Indian Removal” that took place toward the end of the 19th century in the US, leaving Indians on reservations far from their land and livelihood, the historian, Howard Zinn, observed that: “The cost in human life can’t be accurately measured. . . in suffering, not even roughly measured.”
What’s in the Heart, a one-hour documentary film in production, reveals a new generation of Indians who are attempting to take this long-neglected measure of the United States’ collective past.
In What’s in the Heart, the Pine Ridge reservation stands in as a case study for hundreds of America Indian (AI) communities suffering from the highest morbidity rates in the US. AI’s of this region have a 629% greater chance of dying of alcoholism, a 538% greater chance of dying from diabetes, a teen has a 150% greater chance of committing suicide, and the infant mortality rate is more than double what it is for the entire US.
While exploring the historic reasons for current conditions, the film transforms statistics into real-life stories as it documents Lakota people working to mend the effects of historical trauma.
Black Elk, Oglala Lakota Holy Man, who escaped the Massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890 as a boy.
The Lakota people and culture have been emblematic of how the world envisions Indians today. Literature and cinema have depicted them as regal nomads of the plains who resisted the might of the US military like no other. The bravery and tenacity of these people who fought to protect their families and way of life lace fictionalized novels brimming with romance and tragedy, rooted in a violent American history of conquest, war and oppression.
What’s in the Heart draws on this theme, but with real-life Lakota who have survived and are carrying on to re-build their communities with the core values of the Lakota.
The challenges the film’s subjects face are enormous since AI’s suffer from the worst health disparities of any population in the US. To our film’s subjects, these statistics are not abstract figures – they represent real-life situations that they have managed to survive and overcome. Now, they are working to prevent the same conditions that they dealt with as children, including poverty, alcoholism, despair and racism while hoping to eradicate the effects that come from these conditions.
What’s in the Heart is told through the voices and perspectives of Lakota people who know that the data about mental and physical health afflictions represent more than numbers in a study. But, rather they represent friends and family members struggling to overcome the social ills and inequities that threaten the health and survival of their culture. These Lakota know that when their ancestors signed treaties exchanging millions of acres of land and resources for healthcare, that these treaties are not being fulfilled.
In fact, the Indian Health Service, which is the federal agency created to oversee the promise of healthcare is chronically underfunded by 50%. A federal prisoner receives twice the allotted resources for healthcare as that of an AI. The film will show the stark reality of these broken treaties through the current conditions on Pine Ridge.
The Lakota stories and perspectives will be supplemented by scenes depicting their every day lives that will be filmed in verite’ style. These scenes will add to the narrative of the continuing struggle for equity in the face of a system inadequately resourced to care for the needs of the people.
Leonard Little Finger, Lakota
Leonard Little Finger and Donald Warne, MD, MPH, both Lakota, are the two main characters. They offer an eloquent unified perspective that combines traditional knowledge gained from oral history with knowledge of policy, law and the data of health inequities. Through the legacy Leonard embodies as the descendant of grandfathers who signed the 1868 Treaty, the viewer will learn what the hopes of these men were. Leonard tells of their desire to create a life where the Lakota might live in peace, and learn the ways of the changing world. We learn how in the late 1800’s, Indians were looking ahead to their uncertain future with the intent to adapt.
An element that will be threaded throughout the film as a reminder of the past is the request by Chief Big Foot who after witnessing the broken promises of the government and the loss of the Black Hills, traveled to Washington to request that a school be built to preserve the Lakota culture. His foresight exemplifies how politically astute Native leaders were in the 19h century in their attempts to deal with the US. This foresight contradicts dominant theories about Native thought in this chapter of America’s “Manifest Destiny.” For Leonard, this historic legacy is one that lingers in the stark reality of his present day community, where poverty, behavioral and medical afflictions are commonplace in the lives of many people and their children. For most Lakota children, the history Leonard carries with him is unknown, yet has a profound impact on their lives today.
Granddaughter of Gerald One Feather, Oglala Lakota
photo: Deanne Fitzmaurice
Paha Sapa (Lakota) for the Black Hills -considered the most sacred place on Earth. photo: Deanne Fitzmaurice
The two dates that the film will focus on are the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie that gave the Black Hills to the Lakota (President Grant then turned a blind eye and allowed settlers to overtake the area when gold was later discovered) and the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre. These two events serve as constant reminders to the Lakota who are left with a sense of betrayal while watching daily preventable suffering and death. Archival photos will be used selectively to add impact to moments in the film drawn from oral histories. To enhance these photos, we will film stylized reenactments of a 14-year old boy survivor of Wounded Knee as he staggers, alone, starving and freezing with the pain of two wounds. Yet, with Lakota values so ingrained within him, this boy persevered to create a life based on “forgiving those who had done that to him” in the face of the brutal death of his family and community. Other reenactments will show exchanges between Leonard and his grandfather who was that 14-year old boy.
Donald Warne, Lakota physician, public health expert, professor of AI health law and policy, will introduce the audience to the supporting characters of health care workers and community members who are working diligently to counter the inequity of a severely underfunded healthcare system by providing education and wellness to their community.
Natalie White Plume, Lakota and baby Angelina (All 5 of Natalie's babies have been Healthy Start babies. She speaks poignantly about what the program meant to her during each of her pregnancies.)
photo: Deanne Fitzmaurice
Northern Plains Healthy Start program will be featured because of its success in lowering the infant mortality rate in the region where it is the highest in the nation. Dr. Warne states that he is amazed at the quality of the programs and the people who run them throughout Indian County; the only thing missing is the funding promised by the US government.
Roberta Ecoffey, Oglala Lakota, Coordinator of the Northern Plains Healthy Start Program and Deondra Tyon, Oglala Lakota, her adopted daughter.
photo: Deanne Fitzmaurice
The target audiences will first and foremost, be all Native American people from all demographics, as the issues in the film speak directly to their experiences. In addition, the film will be of particular significance to those working in social work, public health, mental health, anthropology, medicine and nursing with Native people. We also aim to reach activists, advocates, lawmakers and clinicians working in the trenches with minority health disparity issues on all fronts – no matter what ethnicity they are focused on.
The film will also be of interest in the general population who hold an interest in Native American culture. Nancy Southgate, Associate General Manager of Content at KAET/PBS/Phoenix (www.azpbs.org) providedWhat’s in the Heart with a very strong “letter of support” indicating the station’s interest in partnering with the film for the outreach and engagement campaign. She indicated in her letter that she would be glad to speak with any potential funder. According to Ms. Southgate, “This film is a perfect fit with the public television audience, as it is issue-driven and of critical national importance. It speaks to vital American issues and core values. It will be compelling, informative and uplifting, whether one is knowledgeable in Native culture or not.”
When dealing with such an alarming crisis, merely raising awareness isn’t good enough anymore. From the beginning, we have envisioned the film as a tool for a broad campaign to ignite change, and turn these disparities around. It is our intention to pose questions throughout the narrative that motivates people to take action. So, these questions create a higher likelihood of success and sustainability of the campaign and participation by the audience and the various stakeholders.
We plan to have What’s in the Heart available to as many people as possible. Since the film is a tool for advocacy, we are planning to launch it across every available platform.
With the goal of advocacy comes the importance of creating community. The combination of state-of-the-art communication technology, interactivity and content globalization now enables and fosters the formation of a community with shared interests. We fully intend to stimulate discussions and debates around the content, such as social media sites, polls, blogs, forums, video casts, video responses, talkbacks, and others.
The film will be used as a tool to increase the capacity of healthcare advocates, healthcare consumers, and other stakeholders to influence public debate, share public policy, and build effective alliances. It is expected that Indian community leaders, policy advocates, legislators, lawmakers, health care workers, educators, activists and others will use the film as a potent illustration when they advocate for their own initiatives or endeavor to replicate the ones exemplified in the film.
The film will also be used in Indian schools from 4th grade through post-graduate education. It will be used as a tool for students to understand why their people are plagued with such horrible health disparities and there are hopeful solutions available. Screenings will be offered through various tribal and governmental offices such as department of health in states that have large Indian populations. Educators in the fields of Indian studies, Indian law, public health and social work will be offered the film and the accompanying.
Kitty Farmer, Producer
Tuffy Sierra, Oglala Lakota, Co-founder of the Takini Institute with Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart, PhD, Hunkpapa & Oglala Lakota
photo: Deanne Fitzmaurice