I have a serious question for all you beautiful Indigenous people out there in Native Country. It’s about our overall wellness such as: fitness, real food diet, sobriety, culture, spirituality and lateral oppression aka ‘Crabs in a Bucket’.
Have you suffered some sort of negative comments or treatment by your family, peers, or co-workers because of your choice to start working out, eating cleaner, partaking in culture, learning about spirituality and/or choosing to live a sober life? Did this discourage you or not and how did you deal with it?
It is obvious the root of this issue is cause from historical trauma – but if you have a solution...please share. Try to be lucrative with your response; it might help someone who’s experienced this. The intention is not to create an unhealthy cyber space to rant and be angry; it is to share solutions. I personally have not experienced this and I have my own opinions but I’d rather ask the online native community to help with solutions on behalf of others.
Since the movement to revitalize fitness and ancestral diet in our communities has emerged – we’re not only seeing this problem with those seeking spirituality and sobriety in their lives – we’re seeing this issue arise with those who are simply looking to eat right and get in shape for a healthier life.
Feel free to share this to create healthy and positive dialogue!
About the Author
Anthony "Thosh" Collins (Onk-Akemiel-Authum/Wazazi)
Thosh is a photographer and wellness trainer from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in Arizona. He works extensively as a freelance photographer in the Native community and throughout the United States and Canada.Thosh started doing photography at the age of 15 at The New School for the Arts High School of Scottsdale, Arizona, and later attended the San Francisco Art Institute on a full-ride scholarship. Thosh uses photography as a tool to document contemporary Native peoples and their many talents and the realities of Native people as they strive to help preserve their identities in today’s world.
After a dance performance some time ago, somewhere, a young man placed a gift in my hand. He said he was moved to give this to me, he didn’t know why, but he believed I would someday know why. I opened my hand and saw three large beautiful seeds, so shiny they seemed painted in rich hues of black and light purple. I marveled at these beauties, they seemed mysterious containers of hidden stories. They made their way to various fates: in the desert soil, on my altar, and the last a journey into the dark hidden recesses of my travel bags, in continual motion with no final destination…
As the founding Artistic Director /Choreographer of DANCING EARTH, I sense that this vision for Indigenous contemporary dance came into existence from seeds planted far before my birth. It was in the Fall harvest season of 2004 when this dream became embodied by vital young dancers in patterns and movements that revitalize ancient cultural philosophies, with breath that became the name of the ground we dance on in reflection of its life force and constant motion. My dreams and the dreams of their ancestors were embodied by these intertribal artists, in images of clouds, of naming rituals in desert caves, of balancing forces of fire and water, whirlwinds, storms, wild plants, aspen groves, of clay and mud and hiphop and warriors and violins. In 2010, our first full length eco-cultural work was made: “Of Bodies Of Elements.” Prophetically, I said that each dance within this production had so many layers that each could be expanded into a full-length work. Embedded into Act 1, after dances of constellations and water, came a suite of dances about of planters, three sisters, sunflower, and CAGED – a challenging piece that used GMOs as a metaphor for colonization, female oppression and loss of freedoms. Mykel Diaz cooked a delicious stew at the beginning of the rehearsal process, with corn beans and squash and shared stories about desert waffle gardening and the botanical growth patterns of the intertwined plants that became the dance movements of the ensuing trio. The sunflower dance was inspired by accounts of an ancient sunflower dance for women, as shared by Anemone, Nishke and Winona Mars of the Narragansett First Nation of Rhode Island. Further research into the properties of this flower, revealed astounding purposefulness as food, dye, woven into clothing and shelter, and a symbol for anti-nuclear movement because of its shamanistic ability to remove nuclear waste from water or soil.
After bringing this work of Elements to communities in 8 states and 27 locations across the continent, Dancing Earth took on its next cycle of creation to honor the sacredness of the water of our planet and our bodies. This deeply emotional and decolonizing process and production took our work across the world to Aotearoa, with performance rituals in Canada, New York, California and New Mexico, as well as ‘waters of wellness’ workshops with communities in each location. And, at many of these, we were led to gardens, cultivated with wisdom and sense of legacy by Native culture carriers including Ras K’Dee , Kim Marcus, and William Kingfisher.
Dancing is healing. More dancing thoughts in the next issue.
About the Author
Wellness and Balance; what does it mean to you? It can mean different things for different people. For my family and I it’s eating right, working out every day, daily prayers and ceremony, and striving to learn more every day. Like this year, both my wife and I obtained our Bachelor of Science degrees at 45 years old. Who would have thought? But we just made up our minds and did it.
As a Native coach and trainer for over 25 years, I think there is a movement going on in Indian Country. Our people want to be healthy, strong, and heal from our historically traumatic past. It’s finding the courage to step out, step up and say, “I am ready!” without fear of ridicule or being made fun of because you want to change. I know when I decided to get healthy at the age of 23, there were a lot of people who said, “you think you’re better than us, who do you think you are, you are nobody, it’s not going to make you any different, you will be back.” Well, I never went back. I feel too good to do that. In reality, I didn’t and still don’t believe I am better than them. I wanted what my ancestors wanted- to be a strong Native Warrior, ready to defend our people and serve our people in any way I could.
In today’s time, there are more drugs being sold and used, sex is seen on television and there is a general lack of respect. Alcohol is sold at every event and corner, and it’s all readily available for everyone. Social Media also places its negative footprint in our lives every single day. How do we combat that and become healthy in an otherwise, hostile environment.
You hang out with those that have the same goals and dreams as you do. You see, a dream is already real, but it’s up to you to go out and get it. It’s already a reality, but how bad do you want it? What sacrifices are you willing to make to change behaviors and thoughts and reach for the stars? The first is to hang out with people who have a like mind. They want to change, they want to be healthy, they want to be in balance.
Our family has several mottos that we follow. The best is, “Have you made your Ancestors proud today?” Every single day, when I leave the house, I pray that I can do that. I pray that if I make a mistake that it doesn’t hurt anyone and that I can learn and grow from it. I pray, that someday, when I reach the spirit world, that my ancestors can look at me and say, “Great job warrior, great job, you made us proud by serving and helping the people and we are proud of you.” Before I go to bed at night, I give thanks for the opportunity and I always ask myself, did I make my ancestors proud?
As you head into 2015, sit down and write down some goals for the year. No, I’m not talking about a New Year’s resolution. Write down some goals that you want to strive for. Healing only occurs when we open ourselves to it and we are honest with ourselves. What are you going to do differently in 2015, to make your ancestors proud? You can’t keep doing the same things you have always done and expect different results!! Take those first steps today to change your life and to make your ancestors proud of everything that you do. YOU CAN DO IT!!
About the author
“When I finally learned about forgiveness and letting go of shame and guilt, I started liking myself. It took years to embrace the concept of loving myself and I’m still working on that. What I learned in the process is that when I like and even love myself, I want to take better care of myself. Self care is now a part of my normal daily routine.” NWI Training Participant
For people working in Indian Country where the needs of the people are so demanding, it is critical to understand what self-care is and to incorporate daily self- care techniques into your work and personal life. Self-care is taking care of our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. It’s doing things that make us feel good, make us feel special, relieves stress, rejuvenates us, energizes us and better prepares us for serving others. It’s not selfish to want to take care of ourselves.
“We can only give what we have.” If we are stressed out, burned out, angry, frustrated and even depressed, that is what we are giving back to the people we are serving or even to our own families.
Self-care techniques at the office can include regular breaks where we go outside, deep breathing exercises, stretching, going for a walk, eating with friends and creating wellness in the workplace.
Self-care at home might include reading, doing hobbies or crafts that we enjoy, taking time to sit alone, taking a hot bath, visiting with friends and family, exercise, meditation or participating in culture.
An established self-care routine takes practice. Keep working on it until it becomes a norm in your life. You are worth it!
-Native Wellness Institute
When tragic events provoke community members to express their anger on Facebook or other forms of social media towards fellow community members, they empower the same negative spirit that has hurt or taken away their loved ones. These online cyber-feuds, all too often rooted in unresolved family-to-family drama, are powerful enough to carry over into the actual physical lives of the people and affect them in a harmful way. Young people watching the online drama unfold may come to believe this is the way to resolve disputes.
Our original indigenous cultural and spiritual systems of ethics teach us that very old, external spiritual forces take advantage of unwell and vulnerable people and cause these unfortunate atrocities. They make people weak and addicted to booze, drugs, violence, unhealthy sexual habits, gambling, lateral oppression and tribalism. These same negative forces are also responsible for the roots of historical trauma and its destructive impacts.
One of my mentors says, “Hurt people hurt people. Healed people heal people”. Another one of my mentors says, “Our indigenous cultures are strength and solution based.” In the old days, during times of tragedy, our people would come together to support a family that was grieving, reminding the family that there is a traditional process designed for them to heal. They would cook, clean, show emotional support through ceremony, and sing beautiful songs with dances to help raise the spirits of the family and friends.
Our traditional music, creation stories, and ethics teach the people how to be in harmony with other people and to live in a good way with the animals, plants, rocks, ponds, mountains, rivers, lakes, oceans, and other people that exist on our Mother Earth. This is a proactive way to maintain wellness. Modern science is only just now proving these practices to be true.
Many of our people still follow these ancient ways. Personally, I know they work because my family and I have experienced the positive results. All of these good things are expressed in their most simple form, making it easy for any human being to understand. All of these things can teach the people how to be happy, no matter what time period we live in.
Maybe now it is time for the people to come together on a grassroots level to critically assess whether the political structures that our ancestors were forced to adopt work for us. Have they caused socioeconomic division among us? Are we really just continuing the work of the external oppressive political force that has violently and covertly tried to marginalize our people to gain control of the land and its resources? Do they prioritize the wellness and empowerment of our people? Do they enforce the traditional cultural and spiritual system of ethics to teach the people how to have a healthy relationship with one another and our ecosystem?
I can envision a time in the near future when people will have forgiveness for one another and reunite to re-empower our people, creating a beautiful, safe and harmonized world for our future generations! Like the Great Law of the Haudenosaunee says: “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation... even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.”
Anthony "Thosh" Collins (Onk-Akemiel-Authum/Wazazi/Haudenosaunee) is a photographer, wellness trainer, and board member of the Native Wellness Institute. He is from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in Arizona. Thosh works extensively as a freelance photographer in Native communities throughout the United States and Canada, using his photography to document contemporary Native life. In addition, he embodies a healthy lifestyle by staying fit and eating the traditional foods of our ancestors.
Social gambling is very much like social drinking. Most people can do it occasionally without any problem. But compulsive gambling is a progressive illness, much like alcohol or drug addiction. It may start as social gambling but at some point, it progresses to compulsive gambling, resulting in poor health, ruined relationships, financial trouble, and other problems.
Gambling and casinos are everywhere now in tribal communities, leading to an increase in problem gambling among Native people. Gambling addiction extends beyond the gambler. Family members and friends can be severely impacted by the problem gambler's behaviors and activities.
Often, only loved ones of the problem gambler will ever know about the problem because it affects the most personal aspects of their lives: relationships, home life, professional life, and finances. Because the effects of problem gambling are not as outwardly visible as drug or alcohol use, problem gamblers may be able to hide their behaviors for a long time.
Here are some things to look for to determine if someone in your life is a compulsive gambler:
Do any of these behaviors sound familiar? Perhaps you have experienced some of these in your own life with someone who gambles.
The compulsive gambler, like most addicts, has a very difficult time admitting there is a problem. Gamblers claim they can stop at any time. There may be periods that they do stop; however, for the compulsive gambler, this is nearly always temporary. Compulsive gamblers frequently do not want to discuss counseling, therapy, or self-help programs. To do so means admitting there is a problem and that change needs to occur.
Sometimes, family members and loved ones contribute to this behavior. Because they feel powerless to confront the gambler, they remain silent. The fear of the unknown can be paralyzing for many people, and they stay in painful familiar situations rather than make changes.
Family members and friends are severely impacted by the compulsive gambler's behaviors and activities. They feel worn out and feel they have tried everything. They feel their situation is hopeless and that nothing will work.
In fact, it is true that others cannot change the problem gambler. Change must come from a desire within the problem gambler if it is to last.
However, there is a world of hope for you and other loved ones. No matter how difficult things may seem, change is possible. Those closest to the problem gambler must first rescue themselves. They can then be there to lend a hand to the problem gambler when and if the time and opportunity arrives.
SOME SUGGESTIONS (SELECTED AND ADAPTED FROM GAM-ANON)
For help, call 1-800-522-4700 for a 24-hour free confidential hotline and/or visit the National Council on Problem Gambling www.ncpgambling.org to find resources in your city or state.
Some of the information above was adapted from the Florida Council on Problem Gambling: http://gamblinghelp.org
Consider attending the Native Wellness Institute’s Problem Gambling Awareness and Prevention Training on May 20-22 in Tulalip, Washington. The training is the first of its kind. Click on the image link below to find out more and register.
This is my story about my connections to the Native Wellness Institute and the profound impact these connections have had on my life and wellbeing. I'm passing through to give you all my love & gratitude!!!
Being in the presence of you beautiful people is something we in Echuca will never forget. A time in history when Native people from around the world were starting to give up hope, a time where love peace and happiness was becoming hard to find, a group of Indians guided by spirit came down under (Australia) in hopes to shine their light on our darkest days.
The Indians' light was so bright tribal people everywhere could see their way out of their own darkness.
It is everything that NWI stands for, the programs, the training, the Warriors who work for the organisation, the knowledge, the wisdom, the teachings, the sharing and most important the LOVE you all have for yourselves, each other and the rest of humanity that has helped me find my way back to my dreaming.
I've waited a long time to make sense out of my life, out of life in general. It's clear to me now: love, prayer, gratitude, generosity, kindness, compassion, ceremony, unity, mother earth, Spirit, we are all one! It is these philosophies that have given me the ingredients to live my life to its fullest and ignited the fire in my belly to do good, not only for myself but for others also. No matter whom they are and where they come from.
I was born in the city of Melbourne, I've always known and felt Aboriginal but I had never spoke my original language, I had never danced in my original regalia in our original ceremonies, I had also never participated in any of our original cultural practices. I was pretty much a black girl living and seeing the world through the eyes of the white man. I was not happy. I was deeply saddened to discover the truth as to why me and my mob were in these circumstances. Part of my healing has been acknowledging the past, accepting what has happened and making it my business to reclaim what is rightfully ours: song, dance, ceremony, language, love, respect, pride and dignity. Some days are better than others, but I know I am not alone which brings me strength and comfort to continue in the fight for wellness.
From the bottom of my heart soul and spirit, I say thank you. I now know how to live in the 'Spirit of the Warrior’.
The Koori Indian from Down Under xo
About the Author
Nolita Edwards has worked for the Victorian Aboriginal community in Australia for over 15 years. She is a psychotherapist and specializes in a type of therapy called Process Orientated Psychology, aka 'Process Work'. Nolita is very passionate about the healing of Native people everywhere and truly believes the answers we seek are in the teachings of our old people.
By Theda New Breast, M.P.H.
The term Compassion Fatigue was first used in 1992 to describe what was happening to so many nurses who deal with illness, death and trauma in their work. In Indian Country, if we are helping our people heal and move toward wellness, we have to understand our own Compassion Fatigue, and develop our own self-care plan. “You can’t give away what you don’t have.” We hear this all the time. Or “You can only take people as far as you have gone.”
Our ceremonial lives teach us the cycles of renewal, and cleaning off our spirit so we can live well. I remember what Edward Little Dog, a Blackfeet elder would tell me when I would come to his sweat. After returning home from ten days in Washington D.C., exhausted, frustrated, and just plain pitiful, he’d say, “That stuff sticks to you like fly paper. Negativity, gossip, racism, concrete walkways. You have to clean it off, start new.”
We do things, out of habit, to renew and make ourselves feel better. Think about the past 5 years, 10 years, 6 months, and see if these symptoms are something that you experienced. Then we ask you start anew with a refreshing NEW self-care plan.
Signs and Symptoms of Compassion Fatigue/Secondary Traumatization
Forgiving the Unforgivable: When Trauma Still Has Its Hooks In Us
Remember the Characteristics of PTSD
Sincere Questions to ask our Self and what you can do:
Theda New Breast, MPH, is a member of the Blackfeet Tribe, a founding board member of the Native Wellness Institute, and lives in Babb, Montana.
The teachings of our ancestors and elders are within our reach and our understanding. They tell us that we are all related and connected to everything else: everything on earth, the sky, the stars and the whole universe. Being related and connected warrants respect. We hold everything and everyone with high regard.
The earth, referred to in cultural teachings as our Mother, provides for us just like our own biological mothers: food, clothing, protection, safety, and security. Sometimes, we overlook our connection to her and we forget to treat Mother Earth as our ancestors instructed.
The time to practice the teachings of our ancestors and elders is now. We can start by being more aware and respectful of our environment. Keep it simple by taking shorter showers and by turning off the water in between scrubs when we brush our teeth. We can grow our own food and use plant-based food scraps for composting. We can reduce weekly household waste by recycling or reusing. We can lend our voices to speak on behalf of Mother Earth by writing letters or by joining an environmental demonstration march or workshop.
Whatever the action, it starts with awareness. To help you get started, the Native Wellness Institute is pleased to offer this beautiful set of posters, free, for you to print and share in your community. Our future generations and Mother Earth are counting on us!
We are two weeks into 2014 and the most common question I’ve been asked is this: “Have you broken your New Year’s resolution yet?” If you look closely at this question, it is telling of our collective perception of the term resolution. The question implies that resolutions are meant to be broken. This idea is so ingrained in our consciousness that breaking our resolutions is not only accepted, but it is expected!
What are the most common resolutions? Many involve a change in habit. People resolve to either stop or quit a certain behavior. According to surveys, the number one resolution is to lose weight. The phrasing of our resolutions is important because words such as stop, quit or lose do not motivate us. After all, who wants to be considered a quitter or a loser?
One resolution I made several years ago was to stop drinking soda. I was an avid soda drinker. Not only did I drink soda with every meal; it was my most common drink throughout the day. When adding up all of the supersized drinks, thirst-busters, and free refills, it wouldn’t be ridiculous to assume that I consumed at least 2 gallons of soda per day! Knowing that this habit was going to wreak havoc on my body in years to come, I decided it was time for a change. So when the next New Year rolled around, I resolved to quit drinking soda. My first attempt lasted 3 months. The next attempt lasted 5 months. The next one, I only made it 3 weeks. It was not going well for me. I also noticed a trend in my soda relapses. Whenever I broke my soda resolution, I would go on a soda binge! Does this sound familiar?
Then along came a book entitled The Hidden Messages of Water by Dr. Masaru Emoto, a Japanese scholar. In his book, Dr. Emoto explores the consciousness of water as a spiritual being. While reading it, I began to think about the traditional beliefs of our Native people about water. So I began asking. I asked anyone who was older than me. I found out that different regions have different beliefs, but that there are commonalities.
Water is our greatest medicine. Within water is the physical and spiritual connection to all living matter and all of creation. Water carries the messages of the Creator. Water is sacred and every meal should be considered ceremonial. Water purifies our mind, body and spirit.
Water is the key to wellness.
In becoming more “water aware,” I noticed changes in my behavior. I spent more time in the water: swimming, sitting in the hot tub or participating in water ceremonies. I was starting to collect water from different lakes and rivers. I also noticed one unintentional and very positive habit. I was drinking more water. I began to drink water with all of my meals. I drank water when I got thirsty. Water became my morning drink. By drinking more water, I significantly reduced my soda intake. I went from drinking 2 gallons a day to about 24 ounces a month! The only time I do drink soda is when I go to the movies and I average about 2 movies a month. Most importantly, there are no more soda drinking binges.
What I have found is that when I focus more on getting rid of something (soda), I fail. When I focus more on wanting something (water), I am successful. When we focus on being more positive and proactive, we are more productive.
Try this! Instead of using the phrase “New Year’s resolution”, try saying “New Me Revolution!” Only people who take action can be revolutionary. Only decisive and intelligent beings can create meaningful change. In order to act differently, we must think differently.
Think for a minute. What are your traditional tribal teachings about food, fitness, finances and fun? If you applied these teachings to your belief system, wouldn’t that be revolutionary for you?
And to those of you who think you have broken your New Year’s resolutions after two weeks, keep this in mind. In the two weeks that you did go to the gym, or the two weeks that you did eat more veggies, or the two weeks that you did not use alcohol, I say congratulations! Two weeks being more healthy and well is a huge step. Continue to evolve. You are on your way to being that New You that you want to be!
About the Author
Robert Johnston (Creek/Choctaw) is a founding board member of the Native Wellness Institute and a motivational speaker, coach, and entertainer. He is the lead youth trainer for the Native Wellness Institute. Robert is a certified hypnotist whose hypnosis shows have delighted Native communities all over the United States and Canada. His mantra is “When you hold back, you stand behind the mountain. When you step up, you stand on top of it!”
About This Blog
The Native Wellness Institute knows that wellness takes hold every day all over Indian Country. We invite you to tell us what is happening in your family, organization, tribe, or community. Send us a short article (1-3 paragraphs) with your activities, experiences or thoughts. Please include photos or videos and a little bit of information about you. We may edit some of the content if needed and then share it with our readers! Please send your blog submission to firstname.lastname@example.org.