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Northern Arapaho Tribe Takes Over Its Health Clinic

Northern Arapaho officials on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming say they've experienced some bumps since the tribe took over management of their federal health clinic earlier this year.

The Northern Arapaho Tribe has been working for many years to get full management of their health care system. In January, they finally took over for the Indian Health Services. Tribal Administrator Vonda Wells says the federal government has controlled the tribe’s health system since they were placed on the Wind River Reservation in the late 1800’s.

“We now have the power to define our own health care,” Wells says. “That is the best, the best for the people and the community. For so long we’ve been told what to do by the federal government. But now, that has changed.”

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has recently been investigating claims of widespread malpractice in the Great Plains Indian Health Services program, which Wind River Reservation is a member of. But Wells says, while the tribe was handed over all of the IHS programs, they weren’t given all the money to properly run them.

“We acquired the services but we didn’t acquire all the funds,” she says. “It was exciting because we got there, we got the contract. But it was also, I think, for everybody kind of like, you know, okay, we’re here, we got it. But we need money.”

She says, it’s not an option to fail since people’s lives are on the line, and that the next step is to apply for the many grants and services never available to the tribe in the past.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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