Published January 19, 2019
“A Return to Tradition” is Theme
“Looking to cultural remedies. This awareness can lead to liberation. The first step is love and acceptance of oneself and of being Indian. A restoration of family is needed. Where there is historical grief and loss, you can also find historical strength and healing. One cannot treat addiction without addressing the spiritual and cultural issues. This is critical to long-term sobriety.” ~ Dr. Cecil White Hat, (Lakota Sioux) 8th Annual Drug and Gang Summit.
RED LAKE INDIAN RESERVATION — The Thirteenth Annual Red Lake Community Wellness Gathering (formerly Drug & Gang Summit) was held on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, January 9-11, 2019 at Red Lake Nation College in Red Lake.
Community Members, Tribal Programs, School Personnel, Mental Health Services and other programs & services from Red Lake, other reservations and non-Indian communities were welcomed. The event was free and open to the public with lunch provided each day – as is the custom among America’s Indigenous Peoples.
There were big changes, a bit of a new approach, to the 13th Annual Community Wellness Gathering. For ten years, up until 2016, the event was known as Annual Drug & Gang Summit. Two years ago in 2017 the event title was changed to the Annual Community Wellness Summit. Then this year the event changed the last word and so the new title – Annual Community Wellness Gathering. A sponsor was added to the normal sole sponsorship Red Lake Chemical Health Programs, partnering up with Oshkiimaajitahdah (New Beginnings). The event was also made possible in part by a grant from SAMHSA.
But that isn’t all. This year also brought a change in venue. The event moved from Red Lake Casino and Convention Center to Red Lake Nation College. “A Gathering at a College,” Many liked the symbolism of the partnerships.
The annual gathering had been held in March but moved to January in order to meet college availability only during a semester break. It was easy to see by the agenda that there seemed to be a greater concentration on healing.
Workshops and presentations were held from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM each day, and Friday until noon. Each morning featured keynote speakers or general assembly presentations in the College Commons. Workshops in the afternoon were held in second floor classrooms.
Breakout sessions touched on healthy and traditional foods, drum therapy, medicine wheel teachings, pow-wow Zumba, (dancing) and more. Most taught about the Ojibwe World View. Teachings about healing, keeping in mind the four aspects of self; body, mind, heart and spirit. All must be in balance; all must be given equal attention. Obaashiing spiritual leader now passed, Larry Stillday once said; “You know, we’ve got to quit telling people what to do and start telling them who they are.”
Registrants participated in a variety of learning opportunities over the two and a half days. Storytelling & Music was featured the 1st night at 7 pm. and a Comedy Showcase the 2nd night. The 2019 theme was “A Return to Tradition.”
Subjects geared more to culture or healing rather than to the past emphasis on the opiate epidemic along, drug and paraphernalia identification, and other such subjects. Related services and informational booths dotted the perimeter of the study balcony.
Each of more than 300 attendees received upon completion of registration, a colorful backpack with small gifts inside, and a folder with agenda and other items enclosed.
“When we break one heart, we break them all, as they are interconnected. If you don’t have balance, you are part of the problem, because it’s an interconnected system. Health is more than the absence of disease; it is a state of optimal well-being. We are doing as our ancestors did. The people were asked, and then all came together and pooled their wisdom.” ~Gichi-Ma’iingan (Big Wolf) ROAD TO PONEMAH: The Teachings of Larry Stillday.
Day 1, Wednesday, January 9, 2019
Chance Rush (Three Affiliated Tribes – Hidatsa) acted as the Community Wellness Gathering emcee.
After an Opening Ceremony/Song, those assembled welcomed the Red Lake Tribal Council and Hereditary Chiefs. The executive directors of the two main sponsors gave opening Remarks: Tom Barrett of Red Lake Chemical Health, and Jerry Loud of Oshkiimaajitahdah programs. (New Beginnings)
To finish out the morning, Jason Hart facilitated a panel entitled “Recovery Revolution”; three groups of three shared their stories. Warriors Down included Keith Lussier, Randy Johnson, and Carl White. Sober Squad was Colin Cash, Gary Benjamin, and Randall Sam, and the third, Women in Recovery with Heather Hoagland, Ashley Diver, and Shandelle Friedman
“In the past, our conferences have been about addiction and drug busts and everything that’s going wrong in the community,” said Barrett in his opening remarks. “We want to put the focus back on the good things going on in our community.”
“We must have respect for all people and all things. We need to work together to obtain wellness. We need to heal. We need education. We must work together. Together we can do it, by working together and No matter what color, we all have to deal with it.”
“The focus is on recovery and breaking the stigma, said Barrett. “There is a concentration more on wellness, the recovery aspect of addiction. You know, once you’ve been to treatment, here’s the recovery that goes with it.”
“We’ve found that many people who are in recovery are able to maintain it just by vowing to practice traditional ways and learning more about it,” said Floyd “Buck” Jourdain, former Red Lake tribal chairman and wellness coordinator at Oshkiimaajitahdah. (A tribal human service that offers a range of job training, GED, childcare, food assistance, and recently added a wellness aspect)
Day 1 Afternoon Breakout Sessions
The afternoon breakout sessions began at 1 p.m., in classrooms on the second floor of the college. There would be two rounds of four or five sessions each.
Healthy Traditions – Plants, Herbs, & Foods
- Healthy Traditions – Plants, Herbs, & Foods with Reyna Lussier, Erin Kelly, Niclole Buckanaga & Veronica Bratvold,
- Women in Fitness with Lenetta Jourdain, Liz Strong, & Laurel Lussier
- Never Give Up with Eugene Standing Cloud.
- Medicine Wheel Teachings with Dennis Jones aka Pebaamibines (Traveling Thunderbird) filling in for an ailing Rene Gurneau
- Wawiinge Nimama Idash Abinoojiyens “Be Well Baby & Mother” with Janet Drouillard, Shelley English, & Karen Barrett
The second set of workshops for the day repeated the first except; “Be Well Baby & Mother” was replaced with “Medication Assistant Recovery Services” (MARS) with Beemus Goodsky & Mamie Bender
At 3:15 pm, all met for a General Assembly for a Short Film Zhagoojitoon “To overcome” with Thomas X Barrett. This was followed with Closing remarks and closing song.
From 7 to 9 pm Donnie Applebee & Music Artist Annie Humphrey invited all back, for Storytelling & Music.
Day 2, Thursday, January 10, 2019
Thursday was “ROCK YOUR RIBBONS DAY” with many in attendance wearing ribbon shirts and skirts.
After an Opening Ceremony/Song, Emcee Rush introduced Red Lake Nation Tribal College President Dan King whose talk was entitled “Fly with Eagles.” Next up was Frank Goodwin with Minobimaadiziiwin “Good Life Teachings” followed by a break and then Digital Storytelling, NDigidreams with Kailee Fretland & Connie Berg.
Day 2 Afternoon breakout sessions included:
- Pow-Wow Zumba with Athena Cloud
- Talking Circles-Recovering from Grief and Loss with Frank Goodwin
- Seven Circles of Wellness by the Red Lake Wellness Team
- Traditional Teachings with Dennis Jones aka Pebaamibines (Traveling Thunderbird)
- Mewinzha Ondaadiziike Wiigaming “Long ago Women Birthing in Birthing Lodge” with Natalie Nicholson & Millicent Simenson
The second set of workshops for the day repeated the first, which was followed by a full assembly with Chance Rush presenting.
“As community leaders, we can encourage balance in others by being an example ourselves,” he said. “Wellness is a gift that needs attention and commitment. We may hit bumps in the road, but we can accomplish anything we set our minds to by implementing our spiritual, mental, physical and emotional selves.”
“Indian country needs to share its ancient knowledge,” Rush said. “I don’t care what tribe you’re from. As a matter of fact, I don’t care if you’re tribal or not tribal. We all have to buy into discovering our gifts, and sharing them. If you are with us, if you see our World View, if you ceremony with us, if you pray with us, if you live with us, you are us.”
“We have to buy into healing on a community level, but also on an individual level,” he said. “You have to buy into what you want to become, you have to believe in what you want to become…where you find healing is by knowing who you are.”
“One thing I love about the Red Lake community is they’re really welcoming and they want to be teachers. They want to teach the outside world about Ojibwe language, about Anishinaabe ways,” said Chance.
Again, gathering participants were invited back in the evening at 7 for a Comedy Showcase with Jon Roberts & Adrianne Chalepah.
Day 3, Friday, January 11, 2019
After an opening ceremony, Floyd “Buck” Jourdain joined Rush as facilitator as Rush had to catch a plane. There were remarks by Executive Director Tom Barrett followed by a hand drum exhibition. Daniel Dickerson presented a PowerPoint presentation entitled Drum Assisted Therapy.
Jourdain, now the emcee, had the attention of the crowd when he told a story about how we came to Red Lake from the East. He reviewed the day and gave a flattering introduction of Dennis Jones, before reminding all, “We all have our gifts, and we must use them and share them for the betterment of the community, Jourdain said.
Last item on the agenda, as is often the case at these Wellness Gatherings, a Healing Ceremony was held. Pebaamibines (Dennis Jones), a self-described wannabe comedian, poked fun at an Irish photographer calling attention to him as he photographed. “There he is, the Irishinaabe! His relatives are the O’Neal’s, the O’Brien’s and the O’jibwe’s.
He then got quite serious and spoke of his Little boy Water Drum and its Teachings before conducting a healing ceremony.
It was a stimulating two and a half days with many participants staying to the very end. Nearing noon, a meal of Red Lake Walleye was served with wild rice, beans, scallop potatoes, roll and deserts. A closing Round Dance, and drawings for prizes closed out the three-day summit.
“Circle and stand near the drum for your family, friends, and relatives, for those who suffer, which are having a hard time. Pray that they will heal, here in this place. To live right, we form a circle and we all become one. When you create that circle you are connecting, connecting to all our relatives around the world. Call on our spirits to protect ourselves.” ~ Larry Stillday, (Obaashiing) 8th Annual Drug and Gang Summit
Sponsored by Red Lake Chemical Health and Oshkiimaajitahdah. Made possible in part by a grant from SAMHSA.
“The objective of this Community Wellness Gathering, is to provide a catalyst for change in the community for people seeking solutions and opportunities that improve the quality of life for themselves and others. Using the Medicine Wheel as a guide, this gathering will focus on “what is working” when fostering success in people overcoming poverty, addictions, health issues, traumas, and grief. The question of this gathering is how can we help to guide our people to the networks and resources that will improve their quality of life? This gathering will focus on the successes of our people, identify what resources are available, strengthen existing networks, and build new ones. In the words of the late elder and substance abuse treatment pioneer Cecil White Hat, ‘everything we need to heal is in the culture.’”
Culture is Prevention and Tradition is Treatment.
“According to the 2011 Adult Health Survey, a majority of the tribe’s four districts agreed that culture helps them stay sober. Sixty-nine percent of 2012 Community Readiness Survey respondents, indicated that they agreed/strongly that commitment to cultural heritage can prevent substance abuse problems.” ~Red Lake Chemical Health
The Mission of the Red Lake Chemical Health Programs is to enhance the well being of all Red Lake Tribal Band Members through alcohol and drug abuse prevention, education, intervention, and treatment. All programs are based on Anishinaabe culture and philosophy to strengthen the hearts, minds, bodies, and spirits, of Red Lake Reservation members, families, and communities.
Photos and Story By Michael Meuers