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USD Center for Disabilities Establishes Oyate' Circle

The University of South Dakota Center for Disabilities is launching an educational outreach effort focused on Native Americans with disabilities. The Oyate’ Circle will host educational workshops in tribal communities. 

Jim Warne is a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe and has more than 20 years of experience running disability-focused training groups in San Diego, California. He’s been hired to lead the new program, and says he’s excited to help his own tribe and others in the state.

Warne says the workshops will include input from disability counselors, tribal vocational rehabilitation groups and staff from both USD and tribal colleges.

“I want to have kind of a buffet of services and awareness in terms of where folks can come in and just be aware of the variety of services available,” says Warne.

He says each workshop will produce a handbook of materials for participants that he calls “Disabilities 101.”

Warne says rates of disabilities are disproportionately high for Native Americans, but treatment can be difficult to find.

“And a lot of that has to do with the poverty realities on many of our reservations, as well as the health care. The Indian Health Service does what it can but it’s underfunded so therefore it doesn’t have access to a lot of the disability specialized services and supports in the medical field,” he explains.

In addition to partnerships with tribal colleges, Warne says the Oyate’ Circle will also give diversity presentations to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The Oyate’ Circle’s first workshop is on May 25th at Oglala Lakota College, with more scheduled around the state in July.