“Café Gozhóó in Arizona uses the kitchen to teach therapeutic skills to those recovering from substance abuse.” C. Nowell, The Guardian, July 13, 2022
Excerpt: The Indigenous cafe using native cuisine to help its chefs fight addiction. By Cecilia Nowell with photographs by Ash Ponders, The Guardian, July 13, 2022
“Driving along State Route 73 in eastern Arizona, it’s wide open skies and a red rock landscape, dotted with ponderosa pines, juniper bushes, yucca and prickly poppies. Just outside the White Mountain Apache town of Whiteriver, the blue roof of a gas station appears.
Only, it’s not a gas station anymore. The sign that once listed gas prices now welcomes visitors to Café Gozhóó, a new restaurant celebrating Western Apache cuisine. Inside, executive chef Nephi Craig – who
is White Mountain Apache and Diné, the Navajo word for the Navajo people – slices corn off freshly roasted cobs to make Apache cornbread, a three sisters salad and soup stock…But Café Gozhóó, which opened last October, isn’t just a restaurant. It’s also a vocational training program at the Rainbow Treatment Center, an addiction treatment program operated by the White Mountain Apache tribe since 1976.
Craig, who is 10 years sober, is the center’s nutritional recovery program coordinator, and uses the kitchen to teach therapeutic skills – connecting with ancestral foods, stress management, and teamwork – to people recovering from substance abuse… Café Gozhóó is also filling a critical gap in access to care.
Many mainstream recovery programs are located far from Native American communities, and they often lack counselors trained in culturally competent care.
In his own journey to sobriety, Craig said, ‘I would encounter white counselors that would tell me, ‘You’re predisposed to become an alcoholic as a Native.’ But as he got deeper into his own study of recovery he realized, ‘It’s therapy’s dismissal of our legacy of historical trauma.’
‘We’re not too far away from that time in history where so many of our food traditions, parenting traditions, ceremonies, agricultural traditions had to be abandoned and almost lost because of so much conflict in the American south-west,’ Craig said.
Café Gozhóó’s mission isn’t only about supporting recovery from substance abuse, but recovery from historical trauma.”