Cronkite NewsGathering of Native Americans programs. These culture-based education sessions, created in 1990, seek to foster healing through embracing community and tradition. They target such issues as suicide, addiction and domestic violence. Each session takes participants through four steps toward healing: belonging, mastery, interdependence and generosity. Although the workshop format of each is the same, the tribal traditions employed – and emphasis of each lesson – change depending on who facilitates and attends. For example, youth gatherings may be more focused on suicide and academic pressure, whereas sessions with women may focus more on domestic violence. Sanderson advocates for survivors of domestic violence and hopes to take home lessons to help women in her own community. “We need each other to heal,” she said. “When another woman gets hurt in a community, that hurts another woman and another family.”
Theda NewBreast, a Blackfeet woman who co-created the curriculum, led the recent workshop at a Las Vegas hotel. “Once you see a community start to use those to remedy all of those, you start to see outcomes of children being happy, families being happy, and the tribe being sovereign,” said NewBreast, who travels the United States leading Gathering of Native Americans workshops and training other facilitators. “Domestic violence is a symptom,” she said. “It’s a symptom of a core issue from longtime repeated trauma done to us – like stealing our land, stealing our children, disenfranchising our men and then stereotyping us.” Many recent efforts have focused on the lingering issue of Native American women and girls who’ve gone missing or been murdered, and Arizona and other states are working to collect better data around the problem – one that experts say is largely linked to sex trafficking as well as domestic violence. A newly formed study committee in Arizona is working with colleges to collect the information from various sources and create an exhaustive, accurate database. Aside from finding and learning about the raw data, many Native Americans feel it is necessary to share their own stories and lessons. After all, they note, these statistics represent people and their stories. “We forget that we have our own indigenous knowledge systems, and we’re coming back full circle to that to be able to help our communities,” said Serena Denetsosie, who is training to facilitate a Gathering. “We have to figure out that balance between our Western education and our indigenous knowledge systems.”
Note: This story originally appeared on Cronkite News and is published via a Creative Commons license. Cronkite News is produced by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
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