is Native American Wellbriety Month across Turtle Island. It's also National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery
Month, or Recovery Month, 2001 in non Native Communities across America.
As part of CSAT's (Center For Substance Abuse Treatment) Recovery Month, 2001, there will be celebrations, presentations
and gatherings in nineteen cities around the U. S. These activities around the country all send the message, "People
do recover from chemical addictions and go on to live happy, productive lives!" There are Native American
event coordinators in each of these 19 cities to gather the Native community and represent Indian people in this
large, multicultural celebration.
White Bison's Strengthening Our Families Conference is a special part of Native American Wellbriety Month and CSAT's
Recovery Month, 2001. The Conference will take place in Rapid City, South Dakota from September 20-23, 2001. Strengthening
Our Families is all about taking the individual recovery and sobriety journey and offering its good healing to
families. The Conference is for Native Americans and all those working towards the healing of Native families.
Due to the generous support of CSAP (The Center of Substance Abuse Prevention) the Conference is FREE!
Call White Bison, Inc, toll free at 1-877-871-1495 or visit the website at www.whitebison.org to learn more about the Conference and Wellbriety Month.
Don Coyhis (Mohican Nation) of White Bison offers the following words of support for our Red Road journey towards
sobriety, recovery and Wellbriety:
A Message From Don Coyhis
Founder and President of White Bison
Celebrate Recovery and Wellbriety This September!
September, 2001 is going to be a big month of celebration for people in recovery, both nationally and in Indian
communities. What's this all about?
Positive change has taken place in our Indian communities. I think there needs to be celebration, there needs to
be focus, there needs to be a coming together time to celebrate that. When the elders talked to us about the Trail
of Tears before last year's Hoop Journey, they told us it's time to wipe the tears. So we did the Wiping of the
Tears ceremony when the Hoop was in Cherokee, North Carolina. What's coming in September will be one step after
What about the children?
Our children see what we as adults are focusing on. If we are focusing on getting over our addictions, if we are
focusing on the recovery that is happening and on removing the stigmas connected with addiction, that is what our
children will see. So we are taking a month to be very positive about that because what we focus on is what our
children focus on.
It's time we let our children see and be proud of people who are in recovery. The recovery community needs to become
visible, not invisible. Now, that doesn't mean breaking the anonymity of any recovery programs. The anonymity of
a recovery program needs to be honored. We can say we are in recovery and proud to be in recovery. We should do
it visibly in the community so our children start to see the recovery movement and wellness movement take place.
One of the ways to do that is through a yearly celebration.
This is the first time that something like this will take place in Indian communities all across the country. How
do you see this developing year after year?
Maybe this year you will have 40 people who will come out in your community, and the next year maybe 60 people,
and the year after that, maybe 100 people. It's in the Fall season that you see the fruits of the other three seasons.
If a tree is growing, every year it will have more fruit. It's the same way with our movement. We are taking one
passing of the moon as we approach the Autumn of the year for us to celebrate. We want this to grow until we have
all nations celebrating September as recovery month and Wellbriety month.
What's the connection between the big celebration, Recovery Month 2001, that is taking place nation wide in September,
the nineteen city celebration, and Native American Wellbriety Month? How does that all work together?
The nineteen cities is part of a national movement to bring about recovery awareness. Those cities are picked in
areas of population where there are diverse communities. Its purpose is to get the diverse communities to come
out for recovery. To bring awareness of recovery at the levels of legislation and among the public, that recovery
is something good to invest in. The public, the legislatures, or Tribal leaders have stigmatized the subject of
recovery. There is often shame connected with recovery. And stigma sometimes governs where we invest funds.
Some of the presentations in the nineteen cities will be to legislators so they can personally hear people in recovery.
Public awareness will be improved just to see recovery runs with hundreds of people showing up. The purpose of
the national celebration is to let people know that there are thousands upon thousands of people in recovery. That
they are very productive citizens again. That recovery is a good investment.
In Indian country we're calling this the Wellbriety Movement. Wellbriety covers all aspects of wellness.
If there was one type of activity or event that you would like to see happen in Indian communities during Wellbriety
month, what would that be? What would your favorite be?
It would be a one-day walk with a celebration at the end where you would hear people in recovery speak. Imagine
Wellbriety walks taking place during the month of September at different Tribal and neighborhood locations on different
days. They would conclude with a potluck, a powwow or a feed, as well as recovery speakers.
What about the children?
I see children walking right along proudly with their moms and dads. I see the children whose mom's and dads aren't
there still walking, so they can set the path so that their loved ones can walk the next year.
How do you see getting tribal government involved?
They could pick one day in September every year for their community to get involved and celebrate as a Nation.
So, for example, they could declare the Navajo Nation Wellbriety Run. It could also be a parade with Veterans,
the schools, mental health services, the IHS facilities, treatment centers, and all facets of wellness present.
Each community needs to decide how they want to celebrate. If we all do that once a year during the Fall season,
then the consciousness and perception will shift, not just within our tribes, but the perception from outside of
our tribes and communities. Every one will see there is a movement taking place.
Does this mean that people might not only invite Tribal media to be present but also non Tribal media from the
Yes. Invite the surrounding cities or communities and have them participate or share in the celebration. It's about
the coming together of the four directions, even in Indian country. It's important to invite the local tribal newspaper
and to get articles written about what the celebration is about. Children in school could write about what recovery
or Wellbriety means. They can make posters and put them up in the community. There could be an honoring ceremony
for people who have been involved in recovery for a long time.
Where does the White Bison Strengthening the Families Conference fit in all of this?
We follow the Circle of Change. The first year we celebrated individual change, the second year we celebrate family
change, the third year will be about the community, and the fourth year about the Nation. This year we will celebrate
family change so that people can come together and share information on the work they have been doing with families,
what has worked, what the promising practices are.
What does Promising Practices mean?
Promising Practices are programs that people have put on and have been able to measure to validate their effectiveness.
There is usually a pre test and a post test. A program will be backed up with past literature showing an ongoing
improvement by testing. It's a recovery practice with promise. It's not a theory, but is something somebody has
tried over a period of years. A promising practice has a track record.
Who would benefit from attending the conference?
There is no charge for the conference but the total number of people is limited to 750, so its really important
that people sign up now. We want to get the grass roots people there. Grassroots people, single moms, single dads,
recovering people who are trying to get their families back together, people who are working with mental health
and families--anyone who is interested in recovery and family should come. That includes counselors, therapists,
teachers, traditional people and Firestarters.
Would you say some more about the Firestarters?
The first part of the White Bison Firestarters program is the Medicine Wheel and the 12 Steps learning experience
to help the individual change. Then we bring the family teachings to the Firestarters so they can help implement
the traditional knowledge around family healing. The Firestarters are a very key component to implement the circle
of change. Next year we will do training on how the Firestarters can get involved in community change. That will
be the third conference.
There will be a whole track for Firestarters at the conference. We want as many Firestarters as possible to come.
If you've had the Firestarters 1 or 2 training, or if you've worked the Medicine wheel and the 12 Steps videos,
come and participate in the Firestarter's track.
Can you give us a sneak preview about something at the conference that you are excited about.
There is going to be some of the newest information on fatherhood, domestic violence prevention, some "how-to's"
of family healing, a presentation on our programs Daughters of Tradition and Sons of Tradition, and tools that
participants can actually go home with. It will be the latest Native change technology for families. There will
also be presentations on HIV/AIDS and FAS, and a presentation by Rev. Daniel Newman supporting two-spirited people.
It's going to be awesome. Look over the Conference brochure. Sign up as soon as you can, and come.