11-Year-Old Makayla Sault Refuses Continued Chemotherapy ; Now Her Rights As An Indigenous Person Are Threatened

Dawn Papple

Makayla Sault, daughter of Pastors Ken and Sonya Sault from the New Credit First Nation reserve in Ontario, Canada, asked her parents to stop the chemotherapy treatments she has been getting for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). Instead of chemotherapy, the indigenous girl has asked her parents to give her Ongwehowe Onǫhgwatri:yo: (traditional medicines). The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples asserts that indigenous people are guaranteed the right to use traditional medicines and health care practices without discrimination, according to Two Row Times, a newspaper aimed at the Ontario-wide Native Americans as well as Haudenosaunee communities in the United States.

In response to Makayla Sault's parents granting their daughter's request for traditional medicine, McMaster Children's Hospital has decided to report the Sault's chemotherapy refusal to the Children's Aid Society. McMaster Children's Hospital is also pursuing court action with the governmental Consent and Capacity Board to determine if Makayla and her parents are of sound mind. If any of the parties are determined to be of unsound mind, the Children's Aid Society will forcibly remove Makayla from the New Credit First Nation reservation and start her back on chemotherapy. That action would violate another article in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which states that indigenous people, such as Makayla, cannot be forcibly removed from their lands. Additionally, it would hinder the the Ongwehowe Onohgwatri:yo: treatment process she has been getting.

Makayla did receive 11 weeks of chemotherapy, which according to medical examination, brought the ALL into remission. The chemotherapy experience was awful for Makayla, and despite being prescribed anti-nauseants, including medical marijuana, Makayla had no relief from vomiting. Makayla's father told Two Row Times, "They kept saying that she is our mystery child," in that the medications would not help relieve his daughter's suffering.

"Coming to the last weeks of her treatment alarms started to go off inside of me," Makayla's mother, Sonya Sault told the Native American based paper. "It was that maternal instinct that told me that we're not doing the right thing with her. She was so weak that when you went to go and talk to her you would have to get right down just to be able to hear what she is saying. I remember Makayla said to me, 'Mom I can't take this anymore. I want you to get me out of here. I don't want to go this way no more'." Her mother explained that after the first course of chemotherapy was over, "Makayla said to me, do you have the power to get me out of there? If you have the power to take me out of there I want you to take me out of there. I'm telling you mom it's not right. The way that we are going it's going to kill me."

While on break from her chemotherapy, Makayla said she had a spiritual encounter where she says Jesus told her she was healed. This spiritual encounter, which was honored by the members of the New Credit First Nation, gave the government agency the ammo it needed to accuse her of needing a psychiatric evaluation. To make matters more disturbing, the Sault's were told that if they did not continue with the two-year course of chemotherapy for Makayla, all three of the family's children would be apprehended into government custody. The traditional medicines Makayla has been on, under the guidance of a traditional healer on Six Nations, have improved Makayla's health. She feels so well that she will be entering a track and field competition at her school, something that would have been impossible at this time had Makayla Sault chosen to continue her chemotherapy.

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