RAPID CITY – As the old saying goes, oftentimes an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Chissie Spencer and Ruth Cedar Face, traditional drug, alcohol, and trauma healers from the Pine Ridge Reservation, have partnered with Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo and Sheriff Kevin Thom to bring healing classes to drug possession defendants instead of prosecution. A defendant’s record may be expunged if the graduation from the classes is achieved along with a year of sobriety.
Spencer’s and Cedar Face’s classes are called the Seven Directions program, and have roots in Lakota culture. They feature traditional ceremonies like the Wiping of Tears, smudging, and Lakota name giving. “Everything we do is clinical, but we use it in our traditional ways,” said Cedar Face, a resident of Porcupine and a licensed addiction counselor.
Seven Directions marks the first time in many years that smudging has been practiced in the jail. Jail Commander Rob Yantis says in the past there has been a lack of volunteer effort to bring those services in, but with Spencer and Cedar Face the future looks bright for such ceremonies.
The classes are a 10-week process and since last spring there have been five classes, three male and two female, completed in the jail with 39 graduates. Currently there is a male and female class being conducted in the jail.
There have also been Seven Directions programs being held in the Fork Real Community Café, and graduates of the jail programing are encouraged to attend them after the jail’s graduation. Prospectively, in the near future, Spencer and Cedar Face will be extending their programing to the Care Campus.
A male graduate of the program said “the class helped me reflect on myself… I really want that change in life and to learn about my culture.” He currently attends programing at the Fork Real Café and is continually interested in learning about his Lakota culture and what it teaches him about living a different life.
Chissie Spencer, director of Project AWARE at Crazy Horse School and Seven Directions, has been subject to immense change through discovering Lakota culture as well. “I grew up in an alcoholic home, an abusive home,” he said “all the people surrounding me had been incarcerated. All of the men would say ‘if you want to be a man then you have to go to prison.’”
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Copyright permission Native Sun News Today
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