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MHA nation puts organ donor registration on tribal IDs

Vonnie Alberts (on the transplant waitlist), Councilwoman Monica Mayer MD, Alanna Baker (double-lung recipient)
Vonnie Alberts (on the transplant waitlist), Councilwoman Monica Mayer MD, Alanna Baker (double-lung recipient)

The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation launched their new initiative to allow tribal members to register as organ donors on their tribal ID.

This initiative was inspired by the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa becoming the first tribe in the country to add organ donation registration to their tribal identification documents in 2022.

Only about 20 percent of people who identify as Native American say “yes” to donation when approached in the hospital, compared to 60 percent of people who identify as white.

"I think probably the reason as to why we don't have many native Americans signing up to be donors, yet we have a high need for it; the issue there is being informed. If you're not informed, you're don't make good decisions. If you are informed, at least whatever you decide on your own person or your family, you know the information is correct. People have to decide whether or not they would want to support and help and serve or not. It's entirely up to the individual."

Doctor Monica Mayer is a retired physician on the tribal business council for the MHA nation. Her mother was on dialysis for five years until her life was saved by a kidney from an organ donor.

Mayer says she respects people’s choice to not be a donor, but she hopes stories like hers will bring some people around to the idea.

"We have people who have decided individually or by family that they're going to leave with what they were born with and there's no objection to it, as long as they make knowledgeable, informed decisions. I believe that for every elder that passes on, a baby is born. That's just life cycle. Every time a donor dies, a recipient may live, and it comes full circle again."