Circles of Recovery Plans 3 Year Project

Sep 15th, 1999 | By | Category: 11-1: 10th Anniversary Issue, Tribal College News
By Richard Simonelli

When the White Bison Tribal College Wellbriety Awareness Tour began last March, 200 community members and friends participated in a blessing ceremony at the Longhouse of the Onondaga Nation near Syracuse, N.Y. They sent three Native men on a 11,000 mile trip to involve 31 tribal colleges in the United States and Canada. The men did not travel alone. They carried a hoop of 100 eagle feathers arranged around a willow branch with a large condor feather at the center.

At each tribal college, they participated in a Wellbriety Awareness Day where educators, elders, and youth spoke of their own road to recovery and sobriety. The White Bison Hoop carriers explained what activities would take place during the three year Native American Circles of Recovery Program.

Centered at tribal colleges, the recovery program is facilitated by White Bison, Inc, an American Indian non-profit organization. A federal Center for Substance Abuse Treatment grant supports the program. Its purpose is two fold. First, Circles of Recovery will identify “Fire Starters”–local people from the tribal college communities who are in recovery, family members or friends, or others involved in wellness. The Fire Starters will attend training sessions and then form ongoing circles of healing, anchored by their tribal colleges.

The second main focus of Circles of Recovery is on Wellbriety, a new term which refers to a balanced life of sobriety and wellness. There are many bodies of knowledge needed for healing in the Native community, including chemical dependency, process addictions such as codependency, historical trauma such as boarding schools, and traditional, healthy values and activities. Integrated into curriculum, these fields of knowledge will eventually lead to a unique degree in Native American Community Healing. Circles of Recovery plans to identify a tribal college that wants to offer that degree.

Well over 3500 individuals from all but four of the tribal college campuses participated in a Wellbriety Awareness Day and Hoop Ceremony. Kyla Crow at Red Crow College in Cardston, Alberta, Canada, said, “Wellbriety Awareness Day helped me feel proud of who I am. People in the community told me we should have more things like this to give us a better understanding that there is more to life than alcohol. In the last few years our reserve has been losing our members, especially our youth, to alcohol and drugs.”

White Bison is also soliciting stories of recovery and sobriety by Native people for compilation in a Wellbriety Handbook, similar to the Big Book for Alcoholics Anonymous. The first of three Native Americans in Recovery Conferences is scheduled in Colorado Springs, Colo. Sept. 16-19, 1999. For more information about Circles of Recovery activities, contact White Bison at (719) 548-1000, or visit the website at <www.whitebison.org>

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