Miss Native American USA (MNA USA) Kristina Hyatt, an EBIC tribal member, visited the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation the last week of February. As part of her Smile Drive 2016, through America’s ToothFairy: National Children’s Oral Health Foundation, Hyatt and MNAUSA staff members traveled across the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation visiting area schools and distributed over 13,000 oral hygiene products to the students. The products were donated from individuals across the country.
Hyatt visited 11 schools across the Pine Ridge Indian Reserveration, home to the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and three Head Start programs in Rapid City as part of the National Children’s Dental Health Month. Hyatt, a dental hygienist, spoke about the importance of oral health care among Native American communities. Forty percent of children on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation suffer from moderate to urgent dental needs, including infections and other problems that could be life-threatening according to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. After her presentation and singing the “Tooth Brush” song, Hyatt distributed oral health care kits, hugs, and hand-written notes from the children of Cherokee.
“I have looked forward to visiting Pine Ridge and surrounding schools for several months,” said Hyatt. “It was a busy time, but I enjoyed every single moment. Every single child and every single smile made me feel like I was making a difference. I can’t wait to visit again!”
She added, “The children are so special and have so much potential. Hearing them sing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ to me in their Lakota language made my heart happy. They welcomed me with open arms and for that, I am grateful. They will surely be in my prayers. Until we meet again, remember the brushing song and take care of your teeth for a beautiful, healthy smile.”
Some of Hyatt’s other donations stops in Pine Ridge included the SuAnne Big Crow Boys and Girls Club and the BEAR (Be Excited About Reading) Program. She was also taken on a tour of the Indian Health Service’s Dental Clinic by local dental hygienist Nicole Glines.
During the week-long tour, Hyatt visited and donated hygiene kits to students at Martin Day School (Martin, SD), Batesland Elementary School (Batesland, SD), Wolf Creek School (Pine Ridge, SD), Red Cloud Indian School (Pine Ridge, SD), Little Wound School (Kyle, SD), Porcupine Public School (Porcupine, SD), Our Lady of Lourdes (Porcupine, SD), Pine Ridge Elementary School, (Pine Ridge, SD), Pine Ridge Head Start Program (Pine Ridge, SD), Loneman Head Start I&II, and Loneman Day School (Oglala, SD) and three Rural American Initiatives Head Start Programs in Rapid City, SD.
“Traveling across the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation was such an eye-opening experience for all of us in our group,” DeWayne Dawson, MNA USA publicist stated, “The long distance driving from school to school was well worth it. It was an indescribable experience to meet all the students and see their sparkling eyes and their overwhelming excitement to meet Miss Native American USA Kristina Hyatt. The beauty of the Lakota people, their continuous efforts to keep their traditions, their cultures, and their language alive was evident at every location we visited.”
Hyatt’s next stop on her 2016 America’s ToothFairy Smile Drive will be on April 7-9 in New Mexico where she will visit the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo and Acoma Pueblo Tribes.
– Miss Native American USA