NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — Modern medicine has been a guiding light for so many people in our country.

However, there’s one group that has been left in the dark for so long: the Native American population.

From diagnoses to healthcare facilities, our tribal lands are struggling to find healing and help within the nation’s healthcare system.

According to a report by the First Nations Development Institute, 54% of American Indians and Alaska Natives live in rural and small-town areas.

In many rural areas, residents may find it hard, to access the healthcare that they need.

But on the Fort Berthold Reservation, changes are being made to ensure that residents have access to healthcare.

“We have to travel up to an hour, hour and a half to get healthcare services. So that’s why we do our best to bring our services to our community members,” said Kathryn Eagle, the CEO of the Elbowood Memorial Health Center.

The Elbowoods Memorial Health Center opened in October 2011.

The center offers a variety of health services for people who are enrolled members of federally recognized tribes.

“Primary Care. We do have some speciality care in the form of sports medicine, orthopedics, as well as pediatry. We also have a dental program,” said Eagle.

The health center also has field clinics in White Shield, Parshall, Mandaree, and Twin Buttes.

The most recent addition to the tribal health care system is the Diabetes Center, which was opened earlier this year.

According to the CDC, Native Americans have a greater chance of having diabetes than any other U.S. racial group.

And diabetes is a common cause of kidney failure, which is why the center practices intervention, treatment, and prevention.

“Once you’re treating someone for a condition, you’re already behind. So prevention is actually the gold standard, it’s where we should be going for medicine. Right now we’ve been doing treatment. We’ve been treating people and that is not working., ’cause nothing’s changed. So we need to refocus our efforts,” said Dr. Anita Martin, the chief medical officer.

Having easy access to healthcare is important for every single community.

It could even save a life.

“We know that as American Indians and Alaska Natives, we’re usually diagnosed later with poor outcomes of a variety of illnesses from diabetes to cancers to other chronic care conditions. Whereas if you’re in the community, people are more likely to access our health centers if they’re right there in our community,” said Eagle.

For generations, Native Americans have taken matters into their own hands, in terms of healthcare.

When help was too far away, they built their own hope within the walls of the community.

That’s why Indigenous healthcare is so important to so many North Dakotans.

The Indian Health Service – an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – provides care to over two million Native Americans across the country.

Although it fulfills treaty responsibilities to provide health care for members of more than 560 recognized tribes, Congress has consistently underfunded the agency, forcing hospital administrators to limit the services offered.

That’s a problem tribal lands in our state face every day.