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Healing Together Conference: A Hope for Wellness

Valerie Hollobaugh-Staff Writer

“When like-minded and like-hearted people come together, anything is possible” says Jillene Joseph from Native Wellness Institute. On February 15-17th, Native American Fathers and Families

Association partnered with Native Wellness Institute, Native Dads Network, and White Bison for the second annual Healing Together Conference in Mesa, Arizona.

Native Wellness Institute:

The Native Wellness Institute (NWI) is a national non-profit organization founded in 2000 to provide culturally responsive, trauma and healing-informed training and technical assistance to tribal and first nations, urban Native programs and other systems. NWI exists because of the lasting impacts of historical and intergenerational trauma and just as importantly exists because of the lasting impacts of historical and intergenerational wisdom. NWI helps individuals, families, communities and places of work connect the dots between trauma, behaviors and healing. Several areas of focus include healthy relationships, wellness in the workplace, youth leadership development, GONA, being an ally and other specifically designed training like moving through grief and loss, retreats, strategic planning, addressing people who take their own life and so much more. The mission statement of the Native Wellness Institute is: "to promote the well-being of Native people through programs and training that embrace the teachings and traditions of our ancestors."

Native Dads Network:

The birth of Native Dads Network (NDN) began as part of Mike Duncan’s own journey of recovery and healing as a single father, Round Valley Tribal member and current NDN Executive Director. Prior to developing a vision of NDN in 2010, Mr. Duncan experienced many of the challenges faced by tribal communities when confronted with the lack of resources for men. In 2012, the foundation of NDN ‘s work began to develop a culturally competent men’s program and to also provide a safe space for fathers to start their recovery process. In 2014, NDN expanded its wings, by hosting statewide conferences, providing family services, and conducting culturally competent training to tribal communities in California. 2023, Native Dads Network is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to build and protect the indigenous family structure through culture, social justice, and intergenerational healing.

White Bison/Wellbriety:

A Native-American operated 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to creating and sustaining a grassroots Wellbriety Movement – providing culturally-based healing to the next seven generations of Indigenous People. White Bison offers sobriety, recovery, addictions prevention, and wellness/Wellbriety learning resources to the Native American/Alaska Native community nationwide. Our resources are also available to non-Native people.

Wellbriety:To be sober and well. That’s what White Bison wants for our community, that’s why we’re a proud facilitator of the Wellbriety Movement. We must find sobriety and recover from the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol. The “Well” in Wellbriety is the inspiration to go on beyond sobriety and recovery, committing to a life of wellness and healing every day. Many use White Bison’s healing resource products, attend its learning circles, & volunteer their services to help themselves and others achieve wellness.

It was a beautiful collaboration between four agencies doing similar work. This collaboration is a great example of the power and impact that can happen when we work together collectively for a common cause. With the goal of a collaboration for all healing, our combined professional experiences and skills, our approach, and use of Indigenous culture as prevention, intervention, and treatment fills the void in education and services in wellness. This is a powerful and appropriate response to communities worldwide.

Three hundred and fifty people gathered together for three days that wanted healing for themselves and their loved ones. Jillene Joseph continues: “It was awesome to witness, feel and hear about all of the success. Many people, families, communities and places of work are changing unhealthy patterns and behaviors and creating healthier norms. Gatherings like these are so important because it gives hope that positive change can and is happening.”

One of the highlights of the conference was during Gene Tagaban (pictured below with microphone) presentation on Men’s Healing, over 50 men stood in solidarity and pledged their support to work on their own healing, to step out of their comfort zone and work to respect women and end violence against women.

Keynote presentations were by Al Pooley the founder of NAFFA spoke on the Three Pillars of ourselves (Self-worth, Identity and Purpose), Chelsey Luger and Anthony Thosh from Native Wellness Institute, Mike Duncan from Native Dad’s Institute and Kateri Coyhis from White Bison/Wellbriety.

For those who were in attendance for the first time their healing journey began. For those who returned from last year, healing is continuing. It was a conference of goodness and mercy. We were truly blessed and next year’s conference can’t come soon enough.

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another Great Healing Conference- looking forward to next year already also.

Thank you all for your time and efforts that go into this event.

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