Reclaiming the power to heal the world

Monday, September 10, 2018

National Association for Native American Children of Alcoholics: Embracing Indigenous trauma and resilience

This October 15, 16, and 17, NANACOA will gather at the Treasure Island Resort in Welch, Minnesota, to continue the healing journey, and seek a new path to better understand and embrace our indigenous trauma and resilience. By owning our indigenous trauma and resilience we open our hearts to the healing and recovery needed to reclaim our place and our power to heal the world.

It has been 30 years since the National Association for Native American Children of Alcoholics (NANACOA) formed in 1988 and became a catalyst for healing and recovery across Indian Country. NANACOA provided a safe place to speak the unspeakable; a ‘cognitive life raft’ to name our trauma, and embrace our remarkable resilience and survival; a network of caring souls who shared pain, ceremony, laughter and tears; and a cadre of determined wellness warriors who scattered out across Indian Country to create change in the lives of their families and communities.

Much has changed over these last 30 years. The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) has confirmed long term impacts of child trauma. Maria Brave Heart’s groundbreaking work on the impacts of Historical Trauma in Indian Country and its intergenerational impacts continues to inform us. We now have schools and organizations implementing ‘trauma-informed’ care, so that our children are no longer asked “what’s wrong with you?” but “what happened to you?” But much remains the same.

Historical Trauma is being retriggered today. Exploitive, extractive industries bring human exploitation as it tramples across our communities. More indigenous women and girls go missing or murdered. Young children are still exposed to alcohol, drugs, violence, sexual abuse, suicide, racism, and institutional injustices in the community. We are also seeing new types of drugs such as meth and opioids, and the violent and sometimes deadly effects of that exposure.

The upcoming NANACOA conference represents a renewal of our commitment to the restorative power that lives within our personal resilience and is present across our many indigenous and ancient cultures.

The healing of a family or community begins with the healing of one person. The NANACOA conference in October will gather community leaders, wellness advocates, traditional culture bearers, and trauma/resilience trainers and healers together to share best practices and together forge a vision for ways to support each other in this healing journey.

Our agenda will feature, Jane Middelton-Moz, Turtle Mountain descendant, who was an Honorary Witness for Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and currently serves on faculty for the University of Toronto School of Social Work MSW in Indigenous Trauma and Resilience. Canada’s Commissioner on the TRC, Marie Wilson, will share her story.

We will also hear from Angel Two Bulls, Oglala Lakota, about the Native Youth Leadership Alliance Leadership Society, and from Michael Goze, Ho-Chunk, from the American Indian Development Corporation in Minneapolis, as well as First Nations trainers, Suzy Goodleaf and Rebecca Martell, both of whom bring decades of experience in healing and recovery from historical trauma across Canada.

We will also recognize the work of Don Coyhis, White Bison, who has kept the NANACOA spirit alive.

The conference will include five major workshop tracks:

  • Intergenerational Indigenous Trauma and Resilience
  • Intergenerational Impacts of Alcoholism, Addictions and Abuse
  • Understanding and Healing from Intergenerational Sexual Abuse and Violence
  • Reclaiming Healing and Self-Care
  • Celebrating and Empowering Native Youth

Years ago, NANACOA elder, Harold Belmont, who has since passed to the other side, asked, “Who heals the healers? Who cares for the caretakers?”

Our efforts to reinvigorate the NANACOA mission is being done in the spirit of his burning questions to us. By immersing ourselves in our own healing, we become a powerful force for healing and resilience for our families and communities. But we are also looking at the new challenges our communities face today. We are asking all those individuals and caring organizations dedicated to wellness in our communities to join us, to share experiences, celebrate resilience, and together envision a future that honors our ancestors and all our relations.

Please join us this October in Minnesota. To register for this gathering go to NANACOA.COM.

Jo Ann Kauffman, Nez Perce, is president and founder of Kauffman & Associates, Inc.