White Bison

The Wellbriety Movement Blog

CHRISTMAS TREE OF HOPE PROJECT 2015

It  is the dream of the Wellbriety Movement to see Christmas Trees of Hope all across Indian Country in both rural areas and urban communities.  White Bison and Coyhis Publishing are kicking off this years effort by giving away packages of White Bison ornaments to families, communities, or any group that wishes to participate.

Here’s how it works:

Put up a tree at some location in your community that is a center for healing. This could be at a treatment center, youth center or any appropriate spot in your community. Tell everyone working on their own recovery and wellness to write their name on one side of the ornament and length of sobriety on the other side of the ornament and place it on your community’s Tree of Hope. We are hoping to include the children and youth in this program as a way of showing our youth that being sober is cool.  We believe that displaying Trees of Hope in each of our communities is a way to start measuring sobriety-consciousness and could be a great project for a youth group to conduct each year.

We would love to see how your community’s Tree of Hope looks and if you would like to share, please send us a photo with all the details of “who” and “where” and “how many” ornaments your tree represents to:info@whitebison.org.

Further information and free ornaments can be found at:  http://www.coyhispublishing.com/store.php/products/wellbriety-tree-of-hope

 

A GIVE AWAY FOR NATIVE WOMEN IN PRISON!

 

Women in Wellbriety_heart aloneThe Story of the Wellbriety Heart 

The Wisdom Keepers told us that A long time ago, the Creator came to Turtle Island and gathered the people together and said, I will divide you into 4 directions….Red to the East, Yellow to the South, Black to the West and White to the North. I am going to  give to each of the directions some original Teachings.  I will write these original Teachings in your heart. To the Red direction I will give you the teachings of the earth, the land, and the plants. To the Yellow direction I will write in your heart the original teachings of the air, the wind, the breath. To the Black direction I will give you the teachings of the water. To the White direction I will give you the teachings of the fire. Earth, wind, water and fire are the 4 elements of power. Then you are to travel through the cycles of time, gathering the wisdom of each of the teachings. When the healing time comes, the four directions must come together, sit in the circle and share their knowledge because in order to heal, the knowledge is needed from all four directions. 

In 1991 there was a meeting of Elders who told us we had entered the Healing Time. They called it the Coming Together Time.  It was now the time for the fulfillment of  prophecy.  As the Red, Yellow, Black, White started sitting in the circle, they discovered  the Creator did not make four races, but only one race: the human race.  When we are in the womb, the Creator gives to each of us our Earth Suit. Some suits are Red, some are Yellow, some are Black, and some are White.

The Wellbriety Movement has created the “Wellbriety Heart.”   This heart has the power of the four directions. Whoever wears it tells the world they love the children from the four directions as their own. It tells the world this wearer does not believe in four races; rather, that we are all relatives of the human race. The honor of one is the honor of all, the hurt of one is the hurt of all. The Wellbriety Heart is the key to the Recovery Movement. The person with the “Wellbriety Heart” cannot hide.   When you have it, you become very noticeable and visible.  You are like a fire at night time. People with Wellbriety Hearts exist among the Red, Yellow, Black and White. When you have the “Heart Light,” the Creator shines the light through you.

The Native American Women in Prison Give Away

We have developed a line of clothing that features the Wellbriety Heart.  Wellbriety Heart shirts, hoodies, and hats can be purchased from Coyhis Publishing.  The profit from the sales of these shirts will be give to White Bison to fund the training and healing of our Native Women in Prison. The  women will receive training and training materials at no cost. We hope that this program will help them start their healing in prison so that when they come home to their children and families they will never have to return to prison again. We will train 100 women in Shakopee Women’s Prison in Minnesota and 100 women in two prisons in Canada. Four trainings will be offered –Mending Broken Hearts, to heal the intergenerational trauma, Medicine Wheel and 12 Steps for Women, to heal from alcohol and other drugs, Mothers of Traditions, to help with parenting, and Warrior Down, the implementation of support groups.

We will also select three communities in Minnesota to implement the new Celebrating Families program so when the women are released from prison, a support group will be waiting for them.

Women in Wellbriety_1Each prison will form a circle of 100 women in prison called Women in Wellbriety.  Their commitment, when they return home, is to stop the flow of Native women to prison.

Please help us  provide our sisters, aunties, daughters, moms and grandmas with the support they need for their recovery journey. And help us provide the community support systems to stop the flow of Native women to prisons.

Please visit the Coyhis store at www.coyhispublishing.com/store to see the new products offered in support of these worthwhile programs.

If you want to join the list of supporters,  email us at womeninwellbriety@whitebison.org

2015-THE YEAR OF REINVENTING THE WELLBRIETY MOVEMENT

50267_118976058163857_7282910_nAs some of you know I had a stroke on May 11,2014, Mothers Day.  Given the reality of the event,  we made some choices and decisions regarding White Bison and the Wellbriety Movement. We hired Carlos Rivera as the Executive Director, promoted Kateri Coyhis as the Director of the Wellbriety Training Institute and I moved to Chairman of the Board to provide support to the new White Bison team.

Thanks to the prayers of so many, my recovery was  touched by a miracle.   I had excellent therapists and  moved from a wheelchair, to a walker, threw away the cane in August and was back to 90% recovery by September and have continued to recover since then.

In November, Jeanne and I moved back to Colorado Springs from the D.C. area. During these months I had time to think about the Wellbriety Movement and to pray to the Creator to see what he wanted me to do next. I will continue to develop new trainings, products, continue to write  books, articles, design conferences and keynotes about the latest culture tools and approaches. My main interest will focus on sustainability and advocacy to advance the awareness of historical trauma and the potential to heal from it individually and collectively through the Wellbriety movement in our communities. Nature has sustainable systems, and so will the Movement. This will allow the teachings to be handed down from generation to generation. It will also ensure we continue to rely on the culture to maintain our sobriety, recovery and wellness. As part of this focus,  Jeanne and I will create a National Wellbriety Foundation to fund programs and healing for those who suffer from social injustices. Last year we established an office in the D.C. area called the Wellbriety Advocacy Office.  Advocacy means we will educate and fight for the next issues we need to overcome that may be blocking our healing.

We will advocate for an apology from the White House for the U.S. Government’s roll in the boarding schools.. In addition, we will advocate for a sober leadership movement. We need to insist that our leadership be sober in order to lead our communities to wellness and health. We need sober leadership!  We will introduce a 5 year program for community change that will require sober leadership to lead us through this healing  process. We will advocate for our Native People in prisons, starting with the Native Women. We need our women home leading our families.

Our  intent is to create a Native voice and have a national conference to enable this voice to be heard.

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REFLECTING ON THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE ELDERS TO THE WELLBRIETY MOVEMENT

 Wellbriety Movement

 

White Bison’s Wellbriety Programs and the Wellbriety Movement itself are based in the Teachings of the Elders, and guided by our Circle of Elders.  Over the years people have asked us what that means and how that works.  We would like to introduce our Circle of Elders and reflect upon some of their teachings.

grannyNewJenniferFirst, it is helpful to explore the nature of an Elder.   Elders are not just “old people.”  In fact, most of the Elders who carry that designation do not think of themselves as “old people.”  Even into their 90s, they pay attention to the world around them, engage in community and ceremonial activities, and work to improve the lives of their people. They are sought out to share their wisdom, experience, and their hope.  They are grounded in their traditions, culture, their spirituality and hold a broad vision of the interconnectedness of all things. Many have taken the time to learn the traditional language, which allows them to experience life through the ways of seeing shared by their ancestors.

 Elders do not designate themselves as such.  Rather, they are identified by the communities they serve.  They often serve as unofficial leaders; or are called upon to explore the “sticky” challenges that community leaders and families experience on a day to day basis.  Elders provide a balance and harmony where conflict lies; they look for the bigger picture and the common ground.  Often, Elders help us to see things differently through a story; sometimes these stories can seem like riddles.  They make us change our thought patterns and bring us to a new understanding of what is important.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Here is what Elders have brought to the Wellbriety Movement over the years.  “Long time ago” Elders shared prophecies – messages about the future.  Their stories foreshadowed the coming of the web around the world;  the Eagle going to the Moon; identification of the challenges of the Native people  that would lead to healing.  “Long time ago” Elders provided role models on how to solve community problems, how to raise children, how to “be” a Native man or a Native woman.   Not only do we use their teachings, but some non-Native researchers, like Erik Erikson, have written about the role that Elders and Grandmothers played in developing their research models. Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development was grounded in part from his discussions with Yurok and Sioux Grandmothers in the 1940s.   His model is used as the framework for the Daughters of Tradition and Sons of Tradition.  

 

Hoop_Staff1#ACCENatural Law and prophecieswere shared with us by Elders from many different nations.  Of special importance were those Elders who helped to launch the Wellbriety Movement.  An Elder from a NorthEastern nation helped us to coin the term Wellbriety.  Then, to further develop the movement,   Elders from the 4 Directions (yellow direction , Tibet; red direction, Native; black direction, African; and white direction, Sammi) met in Janesville MN in 1994 to bless the Sacred Hoop. Each constributed one of the 4 Powers of the Sacred Hoop:  power to forgive the unforgivable; unity—we have to come together to do this work together;  power of healing — we have to heal ourselves;  power of Hope that lead us to dream.  White Bison is the Keeper of the Sacred Hoop of 100 eagle feathers.  The feathers represent 100 communities.  We have traveled over 150,000 miles taking the Sacred Hoop to inspire healing  and Wellbriety in Native communities throughout the United States and Canada, including Alaska.

 Elders in the recovery movement have played a significant part in shaping the Wellbriety Movement. The documentary , How AA came to Indian Country provides an overview of the early work by Native Elders to address alcohol problems in Native communities.  The book Alcohol Problems in Native America: The Truth about the Liebegins with stories of how healing was addressed by Handsome Lake , a member of the Seneca Nation, in the 1700s.   In the Red Road to Wellbriety, the stories reflect the recovery journeys of many of the Elders who have played a role in the Wellbriety Movement.  Meditations with the Native American Elders is a collection of sayings from Elders of many different nations across the Americas.  These are also available as daily meditations by subscription through the White Bison website.  The teachings of the Elders provided the impetus for the Medicine Wheel and 12 Steps.  In this recovery program, the 12 Steps are placed in a circle, and the traditional teachings are used to help men, women and family members work through their recovery issues.  The Four Laws of Change and the Teachings of the Medicine Wheel are integral to this cultural approach to recovery.

 

Over the years, there have been a number of gatherings where people met with Elders to resolve specific issues:  sometimes they gathered to share what works in community development;  sometimes, to identify what is needed in education or child development.  Some gatherings were called to address specific issues, such as the 1996 Gathering of Native American Men in Florissant, Colorado.  Over 2000 people camped out for 3 days to hear the Elders speak.   Out of that gathering came Seven Philosophies which provide the core teachings for Fathers of TraditionSons of TraditionMothers of Tradition and Daughters of Tradition. One of the Elders at this particular gathering extended the idea of “Elder.”  In response to the question of “what is an elder,” this Elder replied: “an Elder is someone that you look up to for the right way to do things.”  Thus, everyone is someone’s Elder;  the 12 year old looks to the 15 year old; the 7 year old looks to the 12 year old, and the 3 year old looks to the 6 year old. Each of us has something to teach and we must keep that in mind: that what we teach can be helpful, or hurtful.   

Sometimes, White Bison has gone out to find Elders who will share their ideas about specific problems. The cross country Journeys of the Sacred Hoop that took place over the years, brought new teachings to light and brought new messages from Elders about the impact of Intergenerational and Historical Trauma on the Native people.  These are included in the Wellbriety Journey of Forgiveness and also provided the inspiration for the Mending Broken Heartstraining.

 OzzieHoraceHenrietta

The Wellbriety Movement also has a Council of Elders who provide guidance on a routine basis.  Of course in today’s world they are available by phone, text or Skype!  They have specialties, like language, cultural and spiritual traditions, mental health, traditional medicines, education, recovery, treatment, and prevention. Several have doctorates and Masters degrees.  Some have published books.   At the recent 2014 Wellbriety Gathering, we celebrated the contributions of the Council of Elders.  We want to give credit for the  Wellbriety “song” — where it is due. 

 

Bill Iron MOcassinBill Iron Moccasin (Lakota)

One of the very first people who tried to bring AA to Indian country.  The first story in the Red Road to Wellbriety is “Bill’s Story.”   One of the important messages he gave us was this one:  “If you dig deep enough into our history, go back into your culture and where you are from, a lot of the concepts that come up as social solutions and resolutions about what our human behavior should be, our people were practicing in some way or another before the European ever came over here. I tell the youngsters who I work with that they are the descendants of a very, very intelligent race of people.”

 

 

Cathleen Brooks WeissCathleen

We always give credit where credit is due; “this is where it came from”   …..  The Wellbriety Movement was handed to us by someone who had done the work before.  I was honored to take what was there and take it to the next place.  White Bison  would not be doing what we are doing if it wasn’t for NANACOA, the National Association for Native American Children of Alcoholics.  This organization provided a focus for healing and support for thousands of Native people throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Sometimes, the Creator sends an angel to sprinkle many people with “go do something” dust!  One of those people was Cathleen Brooks Weiss.  She is known internationally as a pioneer and expert in linking physical illness and unresolved emotional pain, and her professional life has always focused on finding creative ways to meet the needs of such patients. Her own battles with cancer, addiction, and chronic pain inspired the comprehensive mind-body-spirit approach that is the basis of Next Step® Institute. In addition to Next Step® Institute, Cathleen also co-founded and presided over the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA), the leading advocate for children and adults affected by parental addiction.  In the 1980s, Cathleen provided the inspiration for the formation of the National Association for Native American Children of Alcoholics.  This organization then, inspired the work of White Bison and the Wellbriety Movement.

 

Horace&Andrea AxtellsmallHorace and Andrea Axtell  (Nez Perce)

He has guided us from the beginning.  Always available, never says no. Brought his bell .  At the beginning of one of the Sacred Hoop Journeys, he shared this message with us:  “Today we have a special thing, a special walk–– the Journey Begins. I’m going to ask the Creator to bless these people, to give them strength, and with each step closer to their goal, their bodies will be strengthened. Each step

that they take will strengthen the healing process of our people and heal our hurt. Many of our  ancestors will be thought about. They, too, will be part of this Journey because they are the ones who got hurt in the first place. And as we go from day to day, you will meet one hundred or more sunrises. Each day you’ll get closer to the end of the Journey. After I sing this song and ring the bell three times the Journey will begin.”

 

DrHenriettaDr. Henrietta Mann (N. Cheyenne)

Dr. Henrietta Mann has been an integral part of the development of the Wellbrieety family programs (Families of Tradition, Mothers of Tradition, Fathers of Tradition, Sons of Tradition and Daughters of Tradition).  Her sharing of teachings of the Cycle of Life provided the framework for these trainings.   After years as a professor and an advocate for Native sovereignty and wellness,  Dr. Henrietta came out of retirement to start a the Cheyenne / Arapaho tribal community college.  She does the ceremonies and songs.  She also reminds us what we stand for:  “We do not need to remain locked into those areas where we feel a great deal of anger and hostility to the dominant population because as White Bison says, we have to forgive the unforgivable. There are many that have and there are many who are yet to do that. Only when we forgive the unforgivable can we really say we are healing, that we have addressed that one aspect of our life. Saying we can forgive, now we can heal.”

 

OzzieOzzie Williamson, M.A. (Blackfeet)

Has been with us since the beginning.  Ozzie taught me to look forward. When this first started, I had doubts about what I was going to do….. so I went to see Ozzie, and when I left there I never looked back.

One of the stories that Ozzie tells is this:  “When I walked down the trail with my grandmother, she always wore moccasins   with a soft sole. If there happened to be a little stick on the trail, she would stop and kick it off the trail. One day I said, “Grandma, why do you always do that, why do you always stop and kick those things off the trail?” She said, “It just makes it easier for somebody else to come by.” I never realized until she was long gone years later that the things she tried to tell me were very similar to the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. What I heard in AA was similar to some of her teachings.”

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Della web Della Bad Wound (Oglala)  Della had been employed in the human services field for 50 years working with women, children, youth and elderly.  Her employment included the founding of Western South Dakota Senior Services in western South Dakota as the program director for 17 Nutrition sites for the elders.  Denver Indian Health & Family Services, Winyan Wasaka-Women’s Alcohol Prevention Program,  Seventh Generation Project, University of Denver; Elder health Program with Four World’s Development, Inc. in Lethbridge, Canada; and as a Native Sister with the Native American Cancer Research Project.  She has been working with the documentation and preservation of the Lakota Language with the University of Colorado in Boulder for the past 6 years.

 Harriett Skye                                                                                                                                                                                                         Dr. Harriett Skye (Lakota, Standing Rock) is an educator.  She has a strong interest in seeing young Native people learn about their nations and return to them after their education to help. In an interview in 2011 with the Women’s Connections, she provides some insights: My Lakota name is Blue Sky Woman, a family name. Having an Indian name has always helped my brothers and I to know who we are.”  She also commented on one of the challenges that Native people experience that is important for the Wellbriety Movement:  “A lot of people have been traumatized.  We still have that traditional memory of what happened to our people.  We have to heal, get educated and tell our side of the story.   Dr. Skye has been a long time supporter of the Wellbriety Movement and White Bison.

 

On behalf of the White Bison, Inc. and the Wellbriety Movement, we would like to thank all of the Elders (past and present) for being with us on this Journey.  We appreciate your wisdom, kind words, and your willingness to be there to provide guidance and support.  Thanks also for helping us with our conferences, especially the 2014 Wellbriety Gathering in Denver!  We were certainly all Hooped up!! 

Thank you from all of us and Many Blessings to each of 

WE ARE HOOPED UP!! 2014 WELLBRIETY GATHERING IS ALMOST HERE!

SacredHoopMtnsWe are just a couple weeks away from the 2014 Wellbriety Gathering in Denver!!  April 10-13 will be a great opportunity for you to touch base with people from around the country and from Canada!  We have a fantastic line up of speakers and the Wellbriety trainers will be leading participants in developing solutions, exploring resources and creating a vision for healing. 

Activities: When you arrive on Thursday, April 10, be sure to attend the Meet and Greet in the Grand Ballroom #4,  from 7pm-10pm.  In this networking session, you will have the opportunity to chat with the speakers, the Wellbriety Trainers, Elders and other participants.   Early risers are welcome to attend 12 Step meetings at 7am.  Friday night, plan to attend the Healing Circle.  And Saturday night, wear your regalia and dance at the Powwow (7pm-10pm in Grand Ballroom 3&4).  There will also be resources to purchase, Native vendors and educational vendors at the Gathering and at the Powwow.  So be prepared to stock up on supplies, gifts,  and information.  If you were thinking of being a vendor for the Gathering, or just for the Powwow, please contact us at 719-548-1000. Space for vendors is limited. 

Be sure to register soon!   Remember also that Lunch and Dinner are on your own.  There will be a list of local “eateries” in your registration bag.  There is also still time for your organization to be a sponsor for the 2014 Wellbriety Gathering.

POWWOW AT THE CONFERENCE: APRIL 12, 2014


PowWow_flyer.ver4smBe ready to dance at the Powwow!!  Not only are we having a conference to raise awareness about how to heal and empower our families, but we will also be celebrating Wellbriety with a Powwow on April 12.

Also, plan to spend time with speakers, friends, and Elders at the Meet and Greet, 7-10pm on Thursday, April 10.

HEALING THE HURTS–EMPOWERING FAMILIES



NativeAmericanClothingStyles500

Who were the people who wore these clothes?  What stories would they have to tell us?  What challenges did they face, and what happened to them, their children and their grandchildren?  So much of our Native history is filled with sadness: The Long Walk, the Trail of Tears, the boarding schools, relocation, epidemics, and wars.  Generation upon  generation experienced grief of loss, loss of culture, of family,  the trauma of war, and the devasting effects of boarding school life.  What do the photographs in the attic boxes tell us about the lives of our ancestors? Do they echo the emptiness of the clothing hanging in the museum?

Healing the Hurts– Empowering Families is about reclaiming our culture and gathering strength from the ancestors within us.  It is about mending hearts broken by families disrupted by alcohol, substance abuse, and domestic violence. It is about reclaiming ourselves, our culture and our families.  It is about finding the core of what it means to be family; and how to replace the dysfunctional survival skills with healthy, cultural approaches to relationships and parenting.

Recovery is about changing consciousness; lifting the fog.  It is about changing the way we think and the way we see ourselves.   In families where addictive behaviors overshadow all else, non-using individuals create survival responses: Don’t Talk, Don’t Trust; Don’t Feel.  Changing these experiences, feelings, and fears takes a special effort.   The anger, guilt, fear and shame permeates what should be a place of safety–the family.

Fog of Co-dependenceweb

We hope that the conference makes it clear that the root cause of this family disruption is the intergenerational trauma and legacy of the boarding schools. And, we hope that the key notes, break out sessions, and resources will rasie consiousness to employ the tools and mind set to take a stand for change in their own families and communities. The goal is to get back to how we should have been raised!

how we should have been raised web

BREAKOUT SESSIONS AT THE GATHERING

Conf2 web

Making connections with old friends and meeting new ones is a significant part of the Wellbriety Gathering.   In addition to the Keynote Presentations there are a number of opportunities to interact, share ideas, and just visit! On Thursday night at 7pm, there will be a meet and greet in the Grand Ballroom 4 so you can catch up with folks you haven’t seen in a while.  Then, 7am on each morning of the Gathering, there will be 12 Step meeting in Grand Ballroom 4. On Friday morning, the Opening Ceremony with the Sacred Hoop will take place at 8:30 in Grand Ballroom 3&4. After that there will be a series of Keynote Presentations.

Exploring ideas together is a great way to process the information gleaned from each of the Keynotes.  On Friday, a Breakout Session follows the afternoon keynote.  Participants will disperse into four groups to explore experiences ofIdentifying and Surviving Trauma from the perspective of men, women, families, and the community.  Themes will be shared on flipcharts and then the facilitator from each group will present summaries of findings to the entire session.  These summaries will be recorded and posted on the website. The purpose of this session is to apply the knowledge from the keynote presentations earlier in the day.  On Friday night, a healing circle will be held to address issues about healing from intergenerational trauma and the effects of the boarding schools.  Breakout sessions will be led by members of the Wellbriety Institute Training staff.

 Conf31web

Saturday, the breakout session will focus on the training resources provided by the Wellbriety Training Institute to help men, women, families, and communities thrive and heal from the effects of family dysfunction, addictions, and trauma.  These sessions will also be guided by the Wellbriety Institute Trainers.   Later, in the afternoon, a panel ofElders will reflect on the topics and issues. 

powwowbaby

Saturday night will be a time of celebration as we all participate in the Wellbriety Powwow, featuring  J.Carlos Rivera and the Iron Mountain Singers Wellbriety Drum from California.

Don2(06)On Sunday morning, the focus is on the future of the Wellbriety Movement and the Advocay  efforts we are making in Washington DC. Following his Keynote, Don Coyhis, President of White Bison, will lead the entire group in developing a vision for a healthy community.  The goal here is to assist participants in applying their innate knowledge of healing to the information gathered over the past few days,  to developing a vision and strategies to help their own communities heal.