Community Wellness Gathering Returns to Red Lake after two-year hiatus due to pandemic
"We Do Recover" is Theme
January 13, 2023
The Fifteenth (non-consecutive) Red Lake Community Wellness Gathering was held Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, January 9-11, 2023, at Red Lake Nation College in Red Lake. (Gatherings for 2021 and 2022 were not held due to COVID)
This is the third year the Wellness Gathering has been held earlier in the year during the January semester break at Red Lake Nation College, thinking it a better venue for teachings on chemical health. In previous years, then known as the Drug & Gang Summit, the event was held at Seven Clans Red Lake Casino and Event Center.
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.
Workshops and presentations were held from 9:00 AM Indian Time to around 4:00 PM each day, and Wednesday 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.
Each of more than 300 plus estimated attendees received upon completion of registration, a small bag with agenda, a biography of keynote speakers, and several small gifts.
A special gift given to all who participated was a cultural treasure, Nando-gikenimindwaa Nindinawemaaganidog: Getting to know all of creation. This 100-page book serves as a tool to help one become familiar with these forms of life: Water, Air, Fire, Rocks, Plants, Trees and the Animals, with Ojibwe/English names. Check it out and learn more at; https://extension.umn.edu/work-tribal-nations/nando-gikenimindwaa-nindinawemaaganidog-getting-know-all-creation
Day 1, Monday, January 9, 2023
At 9:00 a.m., after an Opening Ceremony/Song with Cultural Coordinators Jason Hart & Kelly Iceman, those assembled were welcomed by Red Lake Tribal Secretary Sam Strong. Opening Remarks were given by Red Lake Chemical Health Executive Director Tom Barrett.
"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."
At 9:30 First on the morning's agenda was a panel entitled "Recovery Revolution," which was facilitated by Jason Hart. The panel consisted of David Bowen, Terin Cobenais, Salina Jones and Andrew Kingbird.
A Keynote speech began at 10:40 featuring Albino Garcia Jr., who spoke on "Characteristics of Culture and Addiction."
Garcia is the founder and Executive Director of La Plazita Institute in Albuquerque, NM. Garcia has been serving the community for over 30 years in the field of violence prevention, intervention, and diversion programs.
"La Plazita's mission is the use of a comprehensive, holistic, and cultural approach to engage with youth, elders and communities to draw from their own roots and histories to express core traditional values of respect, honor, love and family," Garcia explained.
Garcia's work is founded in the cultural philosophy of La Cultura Cura, culture heals. This model and approach stem from his cultural roots, Apache and Chichimeca.
Lunch followed from 11:40 to 1 pm.
Day 1 Afternoon Breakout Workshops
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.
• Harm Reduction is Traditional with Mo Mike
• How to Install Ear beads to help Reduce Withdrawal Symptoms with Sarah Wilson
• Laughter is medicine with Don Burnstick
• Quinto Sol, an ancient framework with Albino Garcia Jr.
• Narcan Training - Andrea Herold
After a 15-minute break at 2:15, a second set of workshops for the day repeated the first. At 3:15 pm closing remarks and a closing song ended the first day.
Day 2, Tuesday, January 10, 2023
Tuesday 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, Tashina Branchaud, LSW, LADC, CADC II- Project Director Chemical Health welcomed the attendees.
A Keynote speech began at 9:30 on the morning of Day Two featuring Theda New Breast, who gave a presentation on "Living in Balance: One Day at A Time."
Theda New Breast (Makoyohsokovi) was born and raised on the Blackfoot Reservation in Montana. She earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley in Health Promotion and Prevention. She is a founding board member and master Trainer/facilitator for the Native Wellness Institute. She is a board member of the Sovereign Bodies Institute which builds on Indigenous traditions of data gathering and knowledge transfer to create, disseminate, and put into healing on gender, sexual violence against Indigenous Peoples and MMIWG. (Missing Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls)
New Breast is a leading authority on Indigenous Cultural Resilience on Proactive Healing from Historical Trauma. In 2013, New Breast was honored with a Humanitarian Award by the Red Nations Film Festival for a lifetime of healing work with tribes and won a Red Nations statuette for her documentary short, "Why the Women in my Family don't Drink Whiskey." (Free on YouTube, see it here, 7 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwYHdLbRbNE
Following a short break, the last session of the morning was a presentation entitled My Indigenous Plate by Christina White of the Red Lake Minanjigewin Program. This was followed coincidently by lunch.
Day 2 Afternoon Breakout Workshops included:
The afternoon breakout sessions began at 1 p.m. Again, there would be two rounds of five sessions each.
• Healing and Native Self Actualization with Theda New Breast
• Acupuncture pressure & essential oils, Reduce Anxiety/Insomnia with Sarah Wilson
• Recovering from grief and Loss with Frank Goodwin
• Manoomin Hazelnuts Bars and Bison & Hominy Soup with Christina White
• Narcan Training with Andrea Herold
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.
From 4-30-6:30 a Recovery Meeting was facilitated by Carl White & Frank Goodwin.
Day 3, Wednesday, January 11, 2023
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.
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.
Following Barrett, the last item on the agenda appropriately, was an hour presentation on Traditional Teachings by Dennis Jones.
It was a stimulating two and a half days with most participants staying to the very end. Nearing noon, there were drawings for prizes, followed by a feast 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.
The 2023 Red Lake Community Wellness Gathering was 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.