White Bison

The Wellbriety Movement Blog


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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.


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. 


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.


Conference final Agenda 02072014

We are so excited to share our agenda for the 2014 Wellbriety Gathering!  The speakers are leaders in their field and they will be addressing topics that impact all of us. 

When we say “all of us,” this is intentional.  Most people think of the Wellbriety Movement as focusing on recoveryfrom various addictions.  In keeping that frame of reference, it it too easy to overlook the impact of addictive behaviors (whether drugs, alcohol, or compulsive behaviors like gambling and sex) on the other members of the family.  After years of living in an environment with someone who has addiction issues, spouses, parents, and children of these individuals develop behavior patterns that help them cope with the challenges (and the chaos). And one of the biggest issues they face is that they come to believe that the craziness of the home environment is normal.  Children, especially, grow up not knowing any differently!

At a conference a few years ago, a young boy came up to the “open mic” session.  He was about 10 years old and he said:  “When I grow up, I’m gonna join a gang, then I’ll go to jail, and then I’ll join  AA.”   Is that what we want our children thinking?

This conference is about increasing our awareness, making sure that we understand the impact of intergenerational trauma, boarding school experiences, and alcohol and substance about on healthy family relationships.  We also need to know what resources are available to in terms of trainings, books, and organizations that can help us unravel our lives from the dysfunctional survival behaviors so many of us learned.  

We have set up the Gathering to explore how we survive in tramatic and dysfunctional environments, how what can help us thrive , and even heal from those experiences.

Here is a quick overview of the Keynote Presenters for the conference.

Friday morning our focus is on surviving. The keynote speakers are:

  • Anna Whiting Sorrell who was one of the founders of the National Association for  Natve American Children of Alcoholics (NANACOA) has been invited.   She will address the history and contributions of that organizations.
  • Don Coyhis, President of White Bison, will present key segments of the Journey to Forgiveness video on how our parents and grandparents were impacted by the boarding school experience.
  • Dr. Patricia O’Gormanauthor, psychologist, and co-founder of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NAC0A) will explore the characteristics of co-dependency and other coping behaviors that often perpetuate dysfunctional lifestyles long after children of alcoholics become adults.
  • Dr. Jerry Moe, who works at the Betty Ford Center, will examine the impact of tramatic family life on children.  He has many stories, and also explores some of the healing approaches used with children.

On Saturday, we begin exploring issues of thriving and healing. The keynote presentations include:

  • Sis Wenger, Executive Director of NACoA, will introduce a new family training called Celebrating Families.  NACoA has developed this training specific for families where there is a history of alcohol and substance abuse.  She will also continue the discussion introduced in Fridays presentations.
  • Marlin Farley and Sharyl Whitehawk, master trainers for the Wellbriety Training Institute, will address the benefits of Al Anon and Al Ateen for families with histories of addiction.  These fellowship programs use the 12 Steps to help family members thrive and heal by learning new thought patterns and responses. 
  • Don Coyhis, President of White Bison, will provide and overview of what it takes to create a thriving community and to heal the community from the experiences of intergenerational trauma. He will explain various strategies and trainings that can help communities raise their awareness and begin to take action to create and implement change.
  • Theda Newbreast, co-author of the Gathering of Native Americans (G.O.N.A.) curriclum, and a member of our Council of Elders,  will provide a overview of how far we have come since the 1950s, 1970s, and 1990s.  She will also invite us to continue to make changes, heal ourselves and each other.

Sunday Closing Presentation:

  • Don Coyhis will describe what is happening with the Wellbriety Movement on a national level, and also explore some of the happenings in Washington DC that impact what we do in our tribes and urban communities. 

In the next blogs, we will focus on the breakout sessions at the Gathering and the Powwow.   We hope that you will find this to be an exciting Gathering and that you will encourage your organizations to send several people.  Raising the our consciousness about the issues that prevent us from living healthy and productive lives is the first step to making meaningful and lasting change.