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Native Wellness Institute: Leading the Next Generations Introduction to Healthy Relationships
Important Dates Page 3 Resources Page 4
Volume 20, Number 2~ January 2010
Native Wellness Institute: Healthy Relationships Curriculum
The Native Wellness Institute (NWI) was funded by the Administration for Native Americans (ANA) to develop a healthy relationships curriculum based on Native American cultures and teachings. The Leading the Next Generations Healthy Relationships Curriculum has been rigorously reviewed and field tested by Native trainers, elders, service providers and communities. This project blends teachings of our ancestors with the realities of today’s world, balancing mind, body, spirit, culture, and emotions, by creating and maintaining healthy relationships with our partners, our families, our communities and the world around us.
Introduction to Healthy Relationships: Leading the Next Generations
Reprinted with permission by NWI
“Our people lived a simple existence . The families lived together. The elders were respected and cared for. The aunties, uncles and grandparents all helped to watch over the young ones. Life’s teachings were passed from one generation to the next. The young ones were raised to be productive members of the village, ready to lead the next generations…” From the play, Humpie Season by Pam James
Among the many Native peoples, our traditional teachings were a source of strength and survival. These teachings helped us to understand who we are, how we fit into the The vision is of tribal communities supporting positive, healthy relationships and having access to information, mod- world and how we relate to the many things in the world around us. These teachings came in many forms. Some els, mentors, training, and resources for the development of were teachings from an ancient time when the world was a such activities and programs. To that end, Red Voices will very different place– before it changed into the world we feature sections from the Leading the Next Generations Healthy Relationships Curriculum as part of an on-going se- know today. Some were teachings of the natural world– ries throughout the next year. Future issues will cover: lessons from the animals, fish, birds, plants, and many other “people” who were the original teachers. And some Historical Trauma, Drama & Wellness were the lessons of the life experience of the previous Grow beyond the multigenerational impacts of historic trauma in our lives. generations - what they lived through, what they learned and how they pass this knowledge forward to help us surHunters & Gatherers - Gender Differences vive and thrive today. Recognize the strengths in our gender differences
Healthy Conflict Resolution Practice healthier conflict resolution Healthy Communication Improve our current communication skills Coming Together Bringing two people closer together as a couple. Discover Healthy Intimacy Living in Balance Creating the relationship you want
Examining Native cultures and the many traditional teachings about establishing and maintaining healthy, committed, long-term relationships– what may be called “marriage” today - we find there are many teachings still available to us and many remain just as valuable and beneficial to our couples, our families and communities of today as they were in keeping the lives, families and communities of our ancestors whole and healthy.
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How a Relationship Should Be For many reasons, many of our families and communities did not teach us about building healthy relationships - we experienced domestic violence, boarding schools broke apart our families, alcoholism or addictions took one or both parents away, many struggle to survive grinding poverty. Rather then learn about healthy relationships, we learned about unhealthy ones. A healthy relationship accepts each of us to be who we are without blame, shame, or guilt. “I’m comfortable with who I am when I’m with you.” In a healthy relationship our partner may not expect us to change, but we may choose to change because it’s better for ourselves and our relationship. There is love, honor, equality and respect that is mutually shared.
Aunties and Uncles were often the disciplinarians, but they were also role models. The young children modeled themselves after the older youth. The older youth modeled after the adults, often accompanying and assisting them through a number of daily or seasonal tasks while learning the role and responsibilities of an adult. Teaching and role modeling of healthy relationships would be passed through these activities.
Parents were nurturers and primary caregivers, but were also the primary role models for their children. Many demonstrated that a woman was considered sacred for her ability to bring new life into this world. They taught and modeled that to bring harm There were many ceremonies, teachings and practices that to a women or a child was one of the greatest intaught and reinforced the importance of healthy relation- sults to the gift of life. In part this was a recognition that we are not simply making decisions to serve ships; they also taught what happens when relationships were unhealthy. If we raise healthier individuals - physi- our needs, but to serve the needs of the generations to come - for some, seven generations to come. cally, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and otherwise they are better able to maintain healthier couple relations. A couple with a healthier relationship is better able to raise children in a healthy family. Healthier families would contribute to a healthier community, with people seeking to live in better balance with each other and with the world around them. Cultural Practice Reinforces Traditional Teachings A community’s traditional teachings about healthy relationships are shared in many ways. The cultural practices of a community provided consistent reinforcement of Different lessons were learned at different stages of these teachings. Many Native peoples may find the examlife. As young people approached puberty, many ples listed below familiar, recognizing similar experiences cultures conducted ceremonies and provided inamong their own cultural practices. struction on the changing expectations for the young person. This likely included detailed information reserved for the responsibilities of manhood Grandparents were the teachers, sharing the wisdom and womanhood. gained through years of life experience. This passing of wisdom is an elemental part of becoming an Elder. They could share teachings about healthy relationships from There are many different practices around finding a their life experiences, from ancient stories or lessons from mate and raising a family - political or family allithe animals - for example the loon selecting a mate for ances, arranged marriages, dowries, and much life. An Elder taught and role-modeled the importance of more. Still, we can consider some practices and exchoosing your words carefully so as not to bring harm to pectations that seem widely recognized and acanother and to be careful where you place your feet so the cepted. generations to come will know to walk in a good way. Continued next column They shared teachings of honor, respect, and striving for the good of the community.
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When a couple is married or committed in a ceremony there is an expectation that this couple is going to stay together and raise a family. There were often ceremonies and public exercise related to this commitment and Elders would teach the couple of their roles and responsibilities within the relationship. The man and woman often had clearly defined expectations within the culture and traditions of the community, both having valued responsibilities for their contribution to the relationship, to the family and community. In the absence of these traditional teachings, many Indian couples have few role models for healthy relating and the strategies used to strengthen families and promote positive relationships in the majority culture may not provide the same benefit for Native Families.
In many of our Native communities we see a re-emergence of these beliefs, values and practices, and an ever-growing commitment to re-awaken these teachings and bring them back as valuable elements of who we are as a cultural community. We do not look to statistics to demonstrate the effectiveness of these practices - our very existence as intact and vibrant Native communities today demonstrates the importance of these traditional teachings and values will bring is full circle once again. Native Wellness Wellness is a concept of living in balance and harmony within yourself, in your relationships with others, and in your place in the world. It is rooted in the traditional values on many Native people and can provide us a path for how we choose to live our lives. Walking a path of wellness has subtle variations from one cultural region to another but most generally agree that wellness in mind, body, spirit and heart are essential elements. Many would also add the importance of embracing the teachings of our ancestors Living those values that allowed our ancestors to survive and thrive for untold generations.
There is a long, well-documented history of cultural conflicts, oppression and other disruptions to the traditional cultures, lifestyles and relationships on many of our Native peoples. The cultural protective factors, or resiliency factors, have been greatly diminished leaving many Native communities and Native families lacking culturally relevant resources to create a balance of culture Walking a path of wellness simply means and tradition with the modern relation- everyday we recognize that we get to ship lifestyles of today. make choices about the kind of life we want to live each day. We get to select our attitudes, our perceptions and our A Continuing Value goals. We realize we are responsible for In each Native community the people our actions and our choices. We can shared the same teachings and values, move away from blame, shame, and guilt passed down through untold generations. These teachings, beliefs and val- and we can learn and grow no matter ues helped to keep our Native communi- what stage of life we may be in. We get to decide how we will behave in every ties stable, healthy and resilient. instance. We recognize our choices will determine our future and strive to make decisions to improve our lives and our Continued next column relationships with others.
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The goal of the Native American Women’s Public Awareness Campaign is to increase the Capacity of Native women in California to address alcohol and other drug (AOD) problems and to improve family communication skills. The California Rural Indian Health Board, Inc., receives funding provided by the California State Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs. Red Voices is published through the Native American Women’s Public Awareness Campaign on Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment and Prevention, contract # 0700136-A-2. This Publication, for American Indian women and their families, is available electronically and in hard copy format to all California residents. Permission is not required to reprint articles except those under copyright protection and/or reprinted with permission form other publications. Please cite source and send a copy to CRIHB. Editor: Deborah Kawkeka Newsletter Design: Jennifer Parsons
The views expressed in this publication are not necessarily the views or opinions of the California Rural Indian Health Board its staff or the State of California or the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs.
California Rural Indian Health Board, Inc.
4400 Auburn Blvd. , 2nd Floor Sacramento, CA 95841 Phone: 916-929-9761 Ext. 1508 Fax: 916-929-7246 E-mail: email@example.com
Wellness of the mind includes an appreciation for learning. It recognizes we have to release stress: that we set personal goals and evaluate where we are in life. It involves deliberate decisionmaking and a conscious effort to seek wisdom. These and other efforts of caring for our mental health are to be balanced with the other elements of our lives. Wellness of body means taking good physical care of self - including regular healthy exercise, proper nutrition, adequate rest and relaxation, good sleep habits, attention to hygiene, and getting proper medical and dental care. Life can often get hard and busy and it is all too easy for us not to take care of physical health, inviting unhealthiness.
Wellness of the spirit is actively attending to your spiritual health. Whether you choose to practice privately, participate in ceremonies, meditate, sweat, or simply reflect on your place in the world, there is widespread agreement among many tribal and non-tribal cultures that caring for our spirits is essential to health and wellness. Wellness of heart is finding a valance in our emotions. Life brings us both joy and pain, but sometimes the traumas of life are where we put more of our focus. Emotional wellness includes healing through emotional pain and choosing to focus upon positive emotions such as happiness, peace, love, joy, or contentment.
You may recognize this as the four directions of the “Medicine Wheel” or “Circle of Life”, a symbol used by many tribes to teach about the importance of balance in life. Some tribes do not use this symbolism but they may have traditional teachings about the importance of keeping alive the teachings and the memories of our ancestors.
Native Wellness Institute 297 SE Palmblad Drive Gresham, OR 97080 www.nativewellness.com Administration for Native Americans www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ana/
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