MHA Nation launches organ donor initiative

Submitted Photo Attending an event hosted by the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation Tuesday are, from left, Vonnie Alberts, who is on a transplant waitlist; Tribal Councilwoman Dr. Monica Mayer; and Alanna Baker, a double-lung recipient. Photo by Bay Wilkinson, LifeSource.

NEW TOWN – A second North Dakota tribe has launched an initiative to encourage its members to register as organ donors on their tribal IDs.

The Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, also known as the Three Affiliated Tribes, located on the Fort Berthold Reservation, hosted an educational event on Tuesday to launch its new initiative. The initiative was inspired by the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa becoming the first tribe in the country to add organ donation registration to its tribal identification documents in 2022.

More than 2,700 people across Minnesota and the Dakotas are waiting for a life-saving transplant, according to LifeSource, a nonprofit organization that manages the donation process in the Upper Midwest. Of those, 140 identify as Native American/Alaskan Native. Only about 20% of people who identify as Native American say “yes” to donation when approached in the hospital, compared to 60% of people who identify as white.

Tribal leadership, students, community partners and healthcare professionals were among those in attendance at the MHA Nation event in New Town. The event featured educational presentations and panels by tribal leaders, community members and LifeSource as well as traditional honor and healing songs.

The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa’s organ donation initiative in November 2022 was inspired by Greyson Parisien, who had surgery at 5 months to correct a heart problem but needed an external device to pump blood through his body, according to an Associated Press story on Dec. 19, 2022. A heart transplant allowed him to leave the hospital after a year and return to the Turtle Mountain reservation. He died suddenly of pneumonia in September 2019 at 21 months old.


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