Preserving Tradition, Inspiring Generations

Missouri Breaks Industries Research Inc. (MBIRI) is a community-based research organization located on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (CRST) Reservation in South Dakota. They are a subawardee of the Great Plains Good Health and Wellness in Indian Country (GHWIC) program. Prior to the implementation of GHWIC, MBIRI’s Canli “Tobacco” Coalition successfully advocated for the tribal council to pass a comprehensive smoke-free air ordinance for CRST. Since then, with the support of Great Plains GHWIC, they have not only upheld the ordinance but also strengthened its implementation, encouraged community engagement, and supported enclosed public businesses in enforcing it through the use of no-smoking signs.

MBIRI’s Canli Coalition has played a pivotal role in traditional tobacco education. The coalition, supported by dedicated members since 2009, has been instrumental in community education and events. They organize the Cansasa Retreat, where students and community members learn about harvesting and preparing traditional tobacco, making offering bags, and passing on cultural knowledge. The retreat has grown significantly, with three schools participating and even attracting interest from communities three hours away.

The success of the Cansasa Retreat and the Canli Coalition demonstrates chronic disease prevention through a Lakota lens – preserving cultural traditions, inspiring multiple generations, and always the 7 generations principle. MBIRI’s commitment to cultural preservation and youth engagement is a testament to their dedication and vision for a healthier, culturally rich future.

The Canli Coalition recently welcomed a new youth member and plans to add more youth. The retreat has evolved to include a youth component, with students learning about the cultural significance of traditional tobacco and participating in its harvest. The inclusion of youth has been rewarding, with students expressing enthusiasm and a sense of cultural connection. One group of students showed their appreciation to the staff by singing a traditional Wopila “thank you” song. Approximately 30 students from two schools joined, and next year they plan to include more schools.

The impact of MBIRI’s work extends beyond the immediate community. Their website, FindyourPowerSD, hosts a toolkit to support other tribes in similar efforts. MBIRI’s story is one of resilience, innovation, and community empowerment. By blending traditional practices with modern education, they have created a model for others to follow. As they continue to expand their reach and impact, MBIRI serves as an example to other indigenous communities striving to both preserve their heritage and improve health outcomes.