BISMARCK Members of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation have opened a new Bismarck facility to give its members a new epicenter for community resources.

The Sage Coulee Outreach and Wellness Facility was built to provide its more than 1,700 enrolled MHA Nation members in the Bismarck-Mandan-Lincoln area with resources for their well-being. The new $6.9 million facility has a workout area, conference center and kitchen, among other communal resources.

"Our mission is to advocate for our members anywhere we can" if they need help finding resources, said Mark Little Owl, the director of the facility that opened in late June.

It also helps members with documentation for various grants the Nation offers to those in need. Little Owl said they help people apply for resources like the Nation's financial hardship grant, which is available to enrolled members to aid with bills, rent and other expenses.

The MHA Nation, which recently opened its Sage Coulee Outreach and Wellness Facility in Bismarck, has about 1,700 enrolled members living in the Bismarck-Mandan-Lincoln area. Michelle Griffith / The Forum
The MHA Nation, which recently opened its Sage Coulee Outreach and Wellness Facility in Bismarck, has about 1,700 enrolled members living in the Bismarck-Mandan-Lincoln area. Michelle Griffith / The Forum

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Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the facility is not fully operational yet, but Little Owl said he hopes it will be in the coming weeks.

The MHA Nation owns a large plot of land in northern Bismarck to house the new 12,000-square-foot wellness facility, which is also across the street from the Good Road Recovery Center, a substance abuse treatment site. New townhomes for women and children are also in the works.

Many MHA Nation members live on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, but its remote location makes access to medical resources more difficult, Little Owl said. Some elders and their family members decide to travel to the Bismarck area to be closer to hospitals and clinics.

In addition to various wellness resources, the facility plans to create programs to improve members' health. Kelly McGrady, a registered nurse and health facilitator for Sage Coulee, said helping others is just something that everyone in their tribe is used to.

"Just growing from our background, just from our culture and our heritage is that we're quick to help somebody in need," McGrady said. "A lot of the elders that moved to Bismarck are moving to Bismarck for health care needs, so if we can help them bridge that gap, it's the best."

The new wellness facility will aid elders who need help getting the most out of doctors' appointments, as some elders may not be comfortable telling their physicians about their needs.

"Sometimes when you get in front of a doctor, you may get stage fright if you don't know what to ask," McGrady said. "I visit with the families beforehand and take good notes and then accompany those clients that want me to go to the appointments. That way, I can then just be that liaison for the family."

Having a new resource for MHA Nation members is exciting, McGrady said, adding they're blessed to have the ability to help.

"We hope to get people in and... just get them connecting with their whole being again," she said.

Readers can reach reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at mgriffith@forumcomm.com.