Hunter Health Clinic

Wichita Urban Native History Tour

Hunter Health Clinic

Wichita, Kansas 67203, United States

Created By: Wichita History Walk


In the 1970s, there were estimated to be around 3,000 Native Americans living in the Wichita area, representing various tribal affiliations. However, little was known about their general well-being. No official surveys or studies were conducted in Wichita at the time to understand the average living conditions, health, education, or employment of the city’s Native American community. These kinds of surveys were generally conducted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which did not have a local Wichita office. Despite this lack of information, it was speculated at the time that likely half of the Native population in Wichita was living at or below the poverty level, but only a fraction of that number received government assistance, which may have been in part because of Natives’ fraught history with the U.S. Government, leading to a deep distrust of accepting any kind of financial help. Rebuilding that trust would take a long time, but until then, something needed to be done to address the ever growing need to address healthcare inequities in this community.

Hunter Health Clinic, which was originally called The Wichita Urban Indian Health Center, was founded in 1976 by Dr. Vernon Dyer, a Choctaw and Prairie Band Potowatomi OB/GYN physician. The clinic was founded out of an urgent need for culturally relevant healthcare services tailored to the Urban Native American community of Wichita. Initially operating from a room at the Mid-American All-Indian Museum, the clinic quickly outgrew the space and, in 1978, moved to a larger location at Central and Grove. By 1980, with Federal funding, the clinic was able to expand its services making the program the first of its kind in the state of Kansas.

In 1985 The Wichita Urban Indian Health Center changed its name to Hunter Health Clinic in honor of Jay and Vera Hunter, who had been revered Native Americans in the community. Jay Hunter, who died in 1981, served as the Executive Director for the Mid-America All-Indian Museum from 1971-1979 and was a teacher for 16 years. Jay also was a long-time board member of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Vera Hunter, who was also a teacher, served as the Indian Student Advisor for Wichita Public Schools from 1974 until her death in 1984 and had also worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Institute of Logopedics. A dedication ceremony was held to formally recognize this transition.

One major change that came with the new name was the expansion of services to include non-natives who were part of “medically under-served" communities. This expansion of access was a big stepping stone for Hunter Health and, by 1987, Hunter Health received recognition as Kansas’ first federally funded Healthcare for the Homeless Center.

Since these early years, Hunter Health has continued to grow and expand its services to natives and non-natives alike in the Wichita area. By 1998, services were extended to Brookside United Methodist Church in Plainview neighborhood and by 2001 to Inter-Faith Ministries (now HumanKind Ministries). By 2010 and 2011, these two locations became the Brookside and HumanKind clinics. In 2019, Hunter Health began operating at its fourth clinic site, located at United Methodist Open Door, on Fridays to increase access to healthcare services for the homeless population in Wichita.

Today, Hunter Health remains the only Urban Indian Health Program in Kansas. The clinic provides comprehensive care to include medical, behavioral health, dental, vision, pharmacy, lab, and x-ray at locations situated near some of the highest need areas in Sedgwick County and the surrounding areas. Not only does Hunter Health provide services to anyone regardless of their ability to pay, but they also reach thousands of individuals every year in community outreach, providing medical services and community health education to those who need it most.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Wichita Urban Native History Tour


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