14th Annual Community Wellness Gathering Held - P2
"A Return to Tradition" is Theme
January 14, 2020
The Fourteenth Annual Red Lake Community Wellness Gathering was held Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, January 8-10, 2020 at Red Lake Nation College in Red Lake.
Community Members, Tribal Programs, School Personnel, Mental Health 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.
This is the second year the Wellness Gathering has been held earlier in the year during the January semester break at Red Lake Nation College. Previous years, then known as the Drug & Gang Summit, the event was held at Seven Clans.
Workshops and presentations were held from 9:00 AM to around 4:00 PM each day, and Friday until noon. Each morning featured key-note speakers or general assembly presentations in the College Commons. Workshops in the afternoon were held in second floor classrooms.
While attendees registered beginning at 8 am in the College Lounge, folks chatted with each other and visited a scattering of informational booths of related services in the entry area and perimeter of the study balcony.
Each of more than 300 plus attendees received upon completion of registration a folder with agenda and later a souvenir t-shirt. The front of the tee read "Recovery Works" with Chemical Health's arty version of the Ojibwe Medicine Wheel. Printed on the back of the shirt, the Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers were listed in Ojibwemowin.
Day 1, Wednesday, January 8, 2020
Chance Rush (Three Affiliated Tribes – Hidatsa) and Jeri Bruno (Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs) would tag-team as the Community Wellness Gathering facilitators. Both are professionals who travel the country with messages of healing.
At 9:00 a.m., after an Opening Ceremony/Song with Cultural Coordinators Jason Hart & Kelly Iceman, those assembled welcomed the Red Lake Tribal Council and Hereditary Chiefs. Opening Remarks were given by the executive directors of the two main sponsors: Tom Barrett of Red Lake Chemical Health, and Jerry Loud of Oshkiimaajitahdah programs. (New Beginnings) Loud's speech was titled appropriately, "A New Beginning."
"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 positive things going on in our community."
"The focus is on recovery and breaking the stigma, said Barrett. "There is more of a concentration on wellness, the recovery aspect of addiction. We need to work together to obtain wellness. We need to heal. We need education."
"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 Loud in his opening remarks. Oshkiimaajitahdah is a tribal human service that offers a range of job training, GED, childcare, food assistance, and a relatively new wellness aspect.
First on the morning's agenda, a panel entitled "Recovery Revolution," was facilitated by Jason Hart. Three panels shared their stories. "Red Road" with Jesse Smith started the session, followed by "Sober Squad" with Mick Fasthorse, Curtis Jackson, Sara King & Rayshayna Roberts. "Women in Recovery" with Ana Swenson, & Crystal McCormick finished out this session.
A Keynote speech began at 10:40 featuring Don Burnstick. (Cree, Alexander First Nation near Edmonton, Alberta) Burnstick has been involved with the healing/personal wellness movement for over 30 years and has utilized humor to provide a holistic approach to healing. His message speaks to a proud heritage, the importance of healing through humor and a continuing desire to leave a better world for future generations.
In addition to his healing work, Burnstick has established himself as one of Canada's most sought after comedians.
Lunch was from 11:40 to 1:00 with Entertainment by Rob Fairbanks (Leech Lake Ojibwe) known by some as the "Rez Reporter," his weather reports have gone viral.
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 five sessions each.
• Acupuncture and Massage
• Annibiishaaboo Teachings with Veronica Bratvold
• Warrior Wellness with Chance Rush, good things
• Healthy Lifestyles with Lenetta Jourdain, & Laurel Lussier
• Empowering Anishinaabe through Storytelling with Deanna Standing Cloud
The second set of workshops for the day repeated the first.
At 3:15 pm, all met for a General Assembly to enjoy a Video Showcase and the film "Mindimooyenh". The short video is the vision of Chemical Health Worker Karen Barrett. She cast four young women to play the roles of the Mindemooyenyag. (Elder women. Literally: "one who holds things together) The Mindimooyenh see troubles and look for ways to help the people. Barrett first introduced her young actresses and then showed the film.
This was followed with closing remarks and a closing song. Thomas Barrett's (aka Thomas X) shared a quote from Spiritual Leader Larry Stillday, now passed. It was an epiphany for him he said. One of those "aha" moments, Barrett said he was looking for healing. Few words were spoken but had a big impact. Stillday told him simply, "The Medicine is inside of you."
Day 2, Thursday, January 9, 2020
Thursday was "ROCK YOUR RIBBONS DAY" with many in attendance wearing ribbon shirts and skirts. A very colorful day.
After an Opening Ceremony and Song by Cultural Coordinators Jason Hart & Kelly Iceman, facilitators Rush and Bruno introduced Red Lake Nation Tribal College President Dan King whose talk was entitled "Fly with Eagles."
Day Two's morning Keynote Speaker was James Vukelich who gave a presentation on the "Teachings of the Seven Grandfather."
James Kaagegaabaw Vukelich has been recognized as a leading voice in Native Language revitalization efforts and spiritual teachings for more than ten years. He shared his insights on the interconnectedness of language and culture. His views were developed in the field, while speaking with and recording elders and native speakers of Ojibwemowin, in Canada, Michigan and Minnesota, as part of the Ojibwe Language Dictionary Project.
Following a short break, the last session of the morning was a presentation by Facilitator Rush entitled, "Modern Native Responsibilities."
Lunch was from 11:40 to 1:00 with entertainment by Red Lake's own, home-grown comedian, Jon Roberts.
Day 2 Afternoon breakout sessions included:
• Aabinoojiiyensag & Dikinaagin Teachings with Nicole Buckanaga
• Recovering from Grief & Loss with Frank Goodwin
• Recovery Revolution with Mick Fasthorse, Curtis Jackson, & Jesse Smith. A later session would feature Ana Swenson, Rayshayna Roberts, & Crystal McCormick
• Reclaiming Culture with Adrian Liberty (Naabekwa)
• Being a Good Relative with Jeri Brunoe
The second set of workshops for the day mirrored the first, which was followed by a short break. Then all came together at 3:30 pm in full assembly for closing remarks and closing song.
"As community leaders, we can encourage balance in others by being an example ourselves," said Gathering Facilitator Brunoe. "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," Brunoe 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.
Day 3, Friday, January 10, 2020
The day began much the same as the two previous. At 9:00 there was an Opening Ceremony & Song with Cultural Coordinators Jason Hart & Kelly Iceman. Again, facilitators were Chance Rush & Jeri Bruno.
There were remarks by Chemical Health Executive Director Tom Barrett. "We all have our gifts, we must use them and share them for the betterment of the community," he said.
Last item on the agenda, as at all Wellness Gatherings, a Healing Ceremony was held.
At 9:30 Dennis Jones with Little Boy Water Drum Teachings was scheduled but had to cancel due to illness. Instead, Rob Warden and Jeri Brunoe aptly filled in. Both spoke and sang songs of healing for all those assembled sitting in a circle. Some participated directly in the Healing.
It was a stimulating two and a half days with most participants staying to the very end. Nearing noon, there were drawings for prizes, then a feast of Red Lake Walleye, mashed potatoes, wild rice, corn, and roll closing out the three-day summit.
"This is who I am! We went for a while in life where we forgot about our culture and language part, so now were bringing it back to them. And you can see the spark in them when they start learning. You can see the spark in them when they understand who they are. That they are not this person looking like an Indian, looking like a Native. They have more of it, there's more to it than that." ~Spiritual/Cultural Coordinator Kelly Iceman.
Made Possible in Part by a Grant with SAMSHA & MN-DHS
"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.'"
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.