A Builder Update from Cheryl Kary

North Dakota entrepreneur runs nonprofit that is a resource for Native Americans in the Bismarck-Mandan area


Remember that school project you had in grade school, where you were given a seed to plant in a milk carton? And you had to water your plant carefully and make sure it had sunshine? And do you remember being impatient, checking the soil carefully each day and feeling like nothing was going to ever happen? Then, one day, you see a little sprout poking up through the dirt?

The excitement!

Community Engagement Team meeting participants listen to a panel discuss employment and job opportunities.

The journey to creating the Community Engagement Teams has always reminded me of that school project. I definitely do not have a green thumb — in fact, I’ve probably killed more plant life than Monsanto — but I did have a suspicion that American Indian people in Bismarck-Mandan would want to have their voices heard and make a difference in their community. The tiny seed that started a year ago has developed into three Community Engagement Teams working on a variety of projects, including planning mini-health fairs for the Native community, working toward a full-fledged community health center serving Natives and other marginalized populations, an Armed Forces Day reconciliation event honoring Native and non-Native veterans, and both a Native American youth and Native American parent support group.

The excitement!

The challenge continues with keeping the CETs supported, engaged, and actively seeking relevant partnerships. The intent for the CETs has always been to have their activities be integrated in the communities of Bismarck-Mandan. The Sacred Pipe Resource Center is supporting the CETs by also supporting community events that seek to increase cross-cultural understanding and awareness of Native issues. This is being accomplished through events such as the “A Tribe Called Urban” speaker series, a year-long Cultural Competency Series for Bismarck-Mandan helping professionals, special events such as a special film premiere of a Native-based movie or co-sponsoring a Native rapper and inspirational speaker, and a weekly radio program entitled “Spark (SPRC) Talk.”

This month, the Community Engagement Teams will participate in a visioning session. The visioning session will help the community develop a common vision for the ideal life they want in this community as American Indian people. From this visioning session, the community may add more Community Engagement Teams, or delete or change a CET. In other words, the community drives the activities of the CETs and the priorities for the community.

As the seedling begins to branch out to form other teams and address other issues, it also increases the need for more community members to become involved and take leadership roles, for more volunteers to help with the on-going tasks, for more partnerships to be built with local agencies and organizations, and for more financial support for all of these activities.

The Sacred Pipe Resource Center, the little non-profit that planted a seed, will be focused on keeping that seed nurtured to ensure slow and constant growth.

For more information about the Sacred Pipe Resource Center and our work, please visit www.sacredpipe.net or call Cheryl at 701.426.1315.

Thank you, Cheryl! Read more about her work here.