Category Archives: Healing

For Natives: When The Food Source Ends..The Opioid Addiction Begins

“For thousands of years, the Klamath River has been a source of nourishment for the Northern California tribes that live on its banks. Its fish fed dozens of Indian villages along its winding path, and its waters cleansed their spirits, as promised in their creation stories. But now a crisis of opioid addiction is gripping this remote region. At the same time, the Klamath’s once-abundant salmon runs have declined to historic lows…many members of the Yurok, Karuk and Hoopa tribes see a connection between the river’s struggle and their own.” J. Del Rea, The New York Times

From left- Yurok Chief Justice Abby Abinanti; Codie Donahue, and Yurok tribal attorney Amy Cordalis. Credit A. Hootnick for the New York Times

Excerpt: Sick River: Can These California Tribes Beat Heroin and History? By Jose A. Del Rea

“It’s no coincidence to me that this opioid problem and the river crisis are happening at the same time; when that resource is gone, it leads to a sense of despair,” said Amy Cordalis, the Yurok tribe’s general counsel. Nationally, Native Americans are the hardest-hit demographic in an overdose death epidemic that has affected every corner of the country. Between 1999 and 2015, there was a 519 percent increase in the number of overdose deaths among rural Native Americans, according to a 2017 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, compared to an increase of 325 percent in rural areas overall. Abuse of painkillers and heroin have played significantly into those trends.

Dead Chinook salmon on the banks of the Klamath River during a 2002 fish kill. An estimated 34,000 salmon perished.CreditYurok Tribe Fisheries Department

In Yurok country, tribal leaders have pursued an aggressive agenda of cultural revival since the early 1990s in an effort to keep traditions alive. The process has not always been smooth. A decade ago, there was friction when tribal leaders were deciding how to manage $92 million in back payments from the federal government for logging on Yurok land. Ultimately, 90 percent of the money was disbursed to members in a lump sum. Some questioned the wisdom of that decision by the tribal leadership, suggesting the money would be quickly spent, rather than saved.

Since then, the river’s intensifying troubles have caused spiritual pain, in addition to exacerbating economic anguish.

Upper Klamath River Flow Management Harms the Lower Klamath River

‘In part, there’s a tremendous feeling of guilt, I think. The economics of it matter, yes, but it’s so much more than that for us,’ said Yurok Chief Justice Abby Abinanti. ‘Our worldview is that we’re here in partnership with these other beings, the river and the fish. We have obligations to them.’ ‘Now it feels like the river is as sick as it has ever been. I think last year was the first time in history that the Yurok people did not fish on the Klamath,’ Ms. Cordalis said. ‘When you start separating those ties, it really affects people.’

The mural that greets visitors outside of the Yurok tribal building

The effects of heroin — and meth before it — have seeped into every aspect of life. Outside the Yurok tribe’s bureau, a mural created by the Yurok children shows the river flowing through lush forests and curving past villagers performing traditional prayer-dances. In one panel, a Native American woman wanders the forest collecting wood and acorns, while kayakers splash in the river’s waters.

But unwinding across the painting are darker scenes too: broken bottles, needles, depictions of suicides, and dead fish…Four out-of-date dams upstream, built in the early- to mid-20th century, have sparked residual ecological strain downstream. Now the solution that tribal members hoped for — their removal — awaits approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Before the dams went up, the river was the third-largest producer of salmon in the United States. Last year, the Yurok tribe had to cancel commercial and subsistence fishing altogether because of the lack of fish. During some parts of the year, the waters become so toxic that people are advised not to swim or make contact with the river…As they wait anxiously for the dam removal to be approved, tribal leaders are also looking for inclusive ways to bring drug treatment to the region, where abuse is often stigmatized.

One solution proposed by Ms. Abinanti and others are Yurok ‘wellness villages,’ planned living sites along the river where the tribe can help reintegrate people who have struggled with addiction.

Ms. Cordalis, the general counsel to the Yurok tribe, has been using the law to protect the Yurok way of life for its roughly 6,000 members. In March, the Yurok joined other communities nationally and filed a lawsuit against several opioid companies with the Northern California Federal District Court. The suit claims that opioid addiction has increased crime, led to economic losses and increased hospital and administrative costs…For many, the idea of culturally relevant addiction treatment brings hope. Codie Donahue, 38, lost his children and wound up homeless after he and his girlfriend became addicted to methamphetamine and heroin. Mr. Donahue, who has Yurok and Karuk lineage, recently checked into a drug rehab program in Eureka, a few hours from his hometown, Orleans, Calif.

He recalled the holy ceremony he once performed as a high priest for the Karuk Indians. In the ritual, he and others would pray in hopes that the river would wash away the sins of his tribe.”

Category: Healing, Health

Warriors and Wolves

“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a tough problem and it’s not just a problem for veterans. We just think of veterans when we think of PTSD…their families get the PTSD problem stacked on top of the other issues. Lockwood Animal Rescue Center near Frazier Park, California refers to their PTSD work as Warriors and Wolves.” S. Russell, ICTMNlockwood-animal-rescue-center

Excerpt: Warriors and Wolves; Disappearing Nooksacks By Steve Russell,ICTMN



“I’ve always thought it makes sense to worry about the effect of combat on veterans because even if the government lied about the reasons for fighting, the GIs often think they are fighting for us and they always think they are fighting for the GIs to their right and their left caught up in the same battle. LARC rescues wolves and wolf-dog hybrids who face an automatic death sentence in ordinary animal shelters because they are thought to be too dangerous for pets.

untitledAt LARC, they are allowed to live like wolves, but they do appear to bond with a human caretaker. In the Warriors and Wolves program, the wolves make the decisions. LARC just provides the opportunity by bringing in combat veterans as caretakers. According to LARC, the wolves have been excellent judges of character and the veterans find that bonding with a wolf levels out fight and flight impulses better than conventional therapy.”


Category: Animals, Healing

2015: Healing Native Vets With Ceremonies

“You’re probably not aware, but about 1 percent of veterans are of American Indian or Native Alaskan descent. While this group is just a tiny percentage of our Armed Forces, Native American veterans are two to three times as likely to experience PTSD as white veterans, says Dr. Spero Manson, Ph.D., who leads the Centers for American Indian and Native Alaskan Health at the University of Colorado’s School of Public Health.” NewSwell

Discussion Questions for this post

Ceremonies can help American Indian and Alaska Native veterans heal the psychological wounds of war. (Photo- Courtesy of Spero Manson

Ceremonies can help American Indian and Alaska Native veterans heal the psychological wounds of war. (Photo- Courtesy of Spero Manson

Excerpt: Native American Ceremonies Help Soldiers Overcome PTSD by Jenny Shank, NationSwell

“Why does this group suffer mental anguish more than others? Manson, who is a member of the Pembina-Chippewa tribe, thinks it’s because Native Americans are more likely to spend more time in combat than soldiers of other ethnicities.

Many Native American veterans say traditional healing therapies are more effective for them than conventional therapies offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Many Native American veterans say traditional healing therapies are more effective for them than conventional therapies offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Although the issues faced by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are unique, Manson believes this problem isn’t new, extending back for as long as there have been warriors. The returning warriors of that time came back to their local villages and communities exhibiting many of the same symptoms that veterans today, who have seen combat, do, he says. They’re irritable, quick to fight, they distance themselves from others. They’re very difficult to reintegrate into their communities.

Natives prefer tribal medicine over American medicine.

Natives prefer tribal medicine over American medicine.

Manson believes the ancient ceremonies tribes developed to address these problems can be helpful to today’s soldiers. He cites the Lakota Wiping of Tears, “where tears are symbolically brushed from the cheeks,” as being helpful. Manson’s own son returned troubled after serving in the Marine Corps and finally got back on his feet through a mixture of tribal and traditional medical interventions.”

“Ceremonies conducted before combat, can help lower the likelihood of PTSD. Ceremonies that take place after combat can reduce the duration and severity of PTSD for native troops returning home. Many people are finding healing” Dr.  Spero Manson-Pembina-Chippewa tribe.

Native medicine. Photo- Native News Today.

Native medicine. Photo- Native News Today.

Discussion Questions for this post
  1. In what state does Dr. Manson work?
  2. Of what tribe is Dr. Manson a member?
  3. What does PTSD stand for?
  4. What are some of the symptoms of PTSD?
  5. What percentage of veterans are of American Indian or Native Alaska descent?
Category: Healing

Navajo Medicine Man Uses Painted Sand to Heal

O’siyo. Today on many tribal lands there are medical clinics that serve the people. However, there are many Natives  who still revere the medicine men and women. Among the Navajo people, the Healer still holds an important role in Dine culture and religion. He is greatly respected and honored among the members. Some medicine men such as Wallace Ben use sand as a spiritual medium in healing ceremonies.

Discussion Questions for this post

Navajo sand painter Wallace Ben discusses his work in front of a framed reproduction of one of his sand paintings. Photo by Lee Allen:AZ Freelance.

Navajo sand painter Wallace Ben discusses his work in front of a framed reproduction of one of his sand paintings. Photo by Lee Allen:AZ Freelance.

Excerpt: He Heals With Sand By Lee Allen, ICTMN

 “Medicine man and traditional sand painter Wallace Ben is a practitioner of the Navajo Ho’zho’  ideology, the concept of balance and beauty.  Difficult to directly translate into English, it’s a consideration of the nature of the universe, the world, man, the nature of time and space, creation, growth, motion, order, control, and the life cycle.  In a word, that’s what the 65-year-old has been bringing to his hand sand drawings for over 50 years.

Wallace Ben's sand painting will be composed with the colored grains in the tubs beside him. Photo by Lee Allen:AZ Freelance.

Wallace Ben’s sand painting will be composed with the colored grains in the tubs beside him. Photo by Lee Allen:AZ Freelance.

Figures in sand paintings are symbolic representations of a story in Navajo mythology and Ben has spent a lifetime trying to accurately portray the original messages because use of incorrect colors or pictorial inaccuracies could blaspheme and anger the spirits involved. Sand paintings are just one rite in the healing ceremony where Earth People and Holy People come into harmony.  According to Navajo belief, a sand painting heals because the ritual image attracts and exalts the Holy People, serving as a pathway for the mutual exchange of illness and the healing power of the Holy ones.” The following are excerpts from an interview with Mr. Ben.

Beautiful Original Wallace Ben Navajo Sand Painting.

Beautiful Original Wallace Ben Navajo Sand Painting.

ICT: How did you get started in this art form?

WB: I am the son and grandson of medicine men and as a toddler I used to accompany them to collect stones to be ground up for the five traditional colors: terra cotta (red sandstone); white (gypsum); black (coal); gold (ocher) and turquoise. Some colors cannot be mixed or altered in any way and the medicine man is the one who knows what color goes where and what symbols have specific meanings.

ICT: What is the symbolism behind a sand painting?

WB: It’s far more than mere artwork. Its spiritual symbolism and the different cups of colored sand are used for healing purposes.  

ICT: How do the sand painting and the healing process work together?

WB: When a sand painting is completed, herbs are applied to the patient and blessings given as the patient sits on the painting and the chants enhance the absorption of its healing power.” Read more.

“In a journey, you pray to Holy Spirit to lead you in the right direction and I’ve been blessed with the talent to do this work.  The Holy Spirit gives me a steady hand.” ~Wallace Ben~

Discussion Questions for this post

1.  How long has Wallace Ben worked with sand paintings?

2. What are some of the elements of the Navajo Ho’zho’?

3. How did Wallace get started in sand paintings?

4.  Are sand painting only art work? 

5.  How does Wallace achieve such detailed work in his paintings?


Category: Healing