Skip to Content

Avera American Indian Health Initiative

Contact Us

Have questions about how you may partner with or benefit from Avera American Indian Health Initiative? Contact JR LaPlante, the Avera Director of Tribal Relations and a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, at

Keeping with Avera’s mission and ministry, the Avera American Indian Health Initiative’s purpose is to develop a circle of honor with American Indian communities and Avera for mutual goodwill – sharing knowledge, aligning best practices, and providing resources to improve health.

Strategic goals include:

  • Enhance Avera’s understanding of how to provide care to American Indian communities and patients
  • Advance relationships between Avera and American Indian communities
  • Promote mutual sustainability of resources for Avera and American Indian communities
  • Identify opportunities for Avera to collaborate and promote American Indian health equity

This initiative will partner with regional tribes, tribal organizations, and Indian Health Service (IHS), the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen's Health Board and Urban Indian Health to identify needs and provide high quality, sustainable health care solutions that will positively impact the health of Native peoples and their communities.

With efforts that extend beyond health care, Avera’s collaboration may involve a wide range of projects aimed toward improving transportation or infrastructure, and removing barriers.

Cultural Understanding and Education

Avera supports enhanced awareness and knowledge of American Indian culture to promote understanding. Avera supports annual Native American’s Day activities in Sioux Falls in partnership with the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies (CAIRNS). This includes hosting traveling art and cultural exhibits in the Prairie Center.

Through its community partnerships program, Avera funds programs that benefit communities – including reservation communities. One is Teach for America, a program that recruits teachers to reservation communities in South Dakota. Among students living on reservations, less than one in three reads on grade level. Funding from Avera is directed to accelerate learning goals and help more students graduate from high school and go on to post-secondary training or college.

Avera also supports Feeding South Dakota, which delivers food to reservation communities through its mobile food pantry program.

Learn more about Avera’s community partnership program and how to submit funding requests.

Health care professionals can pursue cultural education at Avera’s Continuing Education site, search for American Indian to find these courses. Continuing Education hours are available.

Partnering to Provide Health Care for Tribal Communities

Through collaborations – with both public and private entities – Avera American Indian Health Initiative secures federal grant funding in order to improve access to health care in reservation communities.


Avel eCare® contracts with IHS to provide virtual care to American Indians in the Upper Midwest, as well as educational services to clinical providers at service unit sites. Reservations being served in South Dakota include Rosebud, Pine Ridge, Cheyenne River, Standing Rock, Crow Creek and Lower Brule as well as reservations in North Dakota, Montana and New Mexico.

Services include:

  • Emergency - At the push of a button, your doctor and emergency room staff have immediate access by video to a team of doctors and nurses with expertise in emergency medicine.
  • Specialty Clinic – Your local provider can refer you to see a specialist through a two-way monitor at your local clinic. You can see specialists in areas such as behavioral health, heart care, diabetes, kidney care, pain management and more.
  • Hospitalists – Provides high quality care and management of complex, medical and surgical patients. Through two-way audio and visual technology, local hospital staff have access to experienced, board-certified internal medicine physicians and experienced registered nurses who watch over and respond to patient needs 24/7.

Lakóta Owášte is a school-based counseling service available via telehealth to all school-aged children on Pine Ridge Reservation, designed to help Native children, and their family as needed, receive the specialized behavioral/mental health services they need more easily and with less impact on the child’s school work. To learn more call 605-867-1704 ext: 208 or email

This is a partnership between the Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST) Health Administration, IHS and Avera to bring vital behavioral/mental health services to underserved youth on the reservation via telehealth technology.

This program was made possible by grant number D3F-RH-29304 from the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth, Health Resources and Services Administration, DHHS.

Before Baby: Avera Remote Gestational Diabetes Monitoring Project is a pilot supported by grant funding through which pregnant women diagnosed with gestational diabetes can download a mobile telemedicine application on their phones and visit with a Certified Diabetes Educator and Registered Dietitian about dietary and nutritional guidelines for controlling the diabetes and managing a healthy pregnancy. This program serves Mitchell, Yankton, Pierre, Gregory and Wagner, SD, and surrounding areas.


Avera wants to be a significant partner in health care to help improve the health and wellness of American Indian communities. One example of that is the New Hope Dialysis in Wagner, SD, operated by Avera Dialysis and owned by the Yankton Sioux Tribe.


Research programs study and apply innovative ways to have a positive impact in the lives and health of American Indians:

  • Walking Forward – American Indians on the Northern Plains have one of the highest rates of cancer deaths in the United States. This program funds cancer research, education, screening, diagnosis and treatment. This includes education to raise awareness about lung cancer risks and access to low-dose CT lung cancer screenings.
  • Avera Research Institute – This team, at locations in Sioux Falls, Rapid City and Pine Ridge, S.D., uses research to gain insight into child health and development, particularly in high-risk or medically underserved populations.


To enhance educational opportunities for American Indian students and provide for future workforce development, Avera sponsors two scholarship programs:

  • The Avera Wokini Scholarship program awards $5,000 scholarships to students at South Dakota State University who are majoring in a health care-related field of study. Recipients also benefit from experiential learning, internship opportunities and a mentorship program.
  • The Avera Health American Indian Scholarship program for medical students at the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine provides an annual scholarship of $24,000 for American Indian students who are enrolled members of federally recognized tribes located in South Dakota or the upper Midwest.

Wide Network of Health Care Providers

If you or a fellow tribal member needs expert health care, trust Avera’s wide network of experienced providers at Avera locations across the Upper Midwest. Avera receives referrals for all tribes within its geographic footprint. Learn more about the IHS Purchased Referred Care (PRC) Network.

Count on Avera to provide the care you need when it’s not available at your IHS location. Take advantage of a variety of specialized health services, including:

If you’re looking for health insurance information, visit:

Avera Rural Health Initiative

Moving Health Forward

Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

© 2022 Avera Health, Sioux Falls, SD. All Rights Reserved.