Doctors Trained at Cuba’s Famed Medical School Head to Standing Rock to Serve in Solidarity

Lead Photo: Photo: Miriam Wasser
Photo: Miriam Wasser
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For the foreseeable future, the weather at Standing Rock, North Dakota will continue to reach sub-freezing numbers. But the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and allies have more to worry about than the elements. Their ongoing fight against the 1,172-mile-long Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) project – which runs through sacred lands and threatens the community’s sole water source – has subjected water protectors to increasingly gruesome attacks from law enforcement and private security hired by the oil company. Between mace, security dogs, and water cannons aimed at protestors in 26-degree weather, there’s real concern about protesters’ safety.

As the December 5 deadline for demonstrators to evacuate the campsite looms, doctors trained at Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Cuba are getting ready to head to North Dakota to provide medical assistance. According to teleSur, the group of US-based doctors will arrive at Standing Rock “to humbly serve in solidarity with the Sacred Water Protectors on the front lines of the current human rights and ecological crisis occurring right now in North Dakota.”

ELAM graduate Dr. Revery P. Barnes explained that going to Standing Rock is their duty. “We answer the call to serve in alignment with the mission and core principles of our alma mater and dedication to our commitment to serve underserved communities in our home country. While Cuba instilled in us an unwavering commitment to internationalism, with the acceptance of a full scholarship to medical school at ELAM, we made the moral commitment to respond to the needs of our most vulnerable communities here at home in the US.”

As Wired reports, ELAM – established in 1999 – offers free tuition, room, and board to both Cuban and international students. The school caters to low-income international students – offering them a free six-year education before they return to help their communities. Since its inception, more than 100 Americans have attended ELAM.

The ELAM alums headed to the protest site will work closely with the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council. Just this week, the council said that the Morton County Sheriff’s Department and DAPL security have contributed to “war-like creations.” There’s no word on how many doctors will offer medical assistance in Standing Rock or when they’ll arrive. But as protesters continue to face an uphill battle, the worst is probably yet to come.