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Wind River Tribal Youth Program: Connecting Youth with Tribal Tradition

Hear the perspectives of adults and youth as they reflect on historical trauma, the importance of talking and connecting across generations, and the critical role of cultural practices in healing.

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ANTHONY ADDISON, NORTHERN ARAPAHO TRIBE: The ways of the Arapaho is to respect one another, help one another, and work together, and all that.

CRAWFORD WHITE, NORTHERN ARAPAHO TRIBE: Our children are going this other way and they're losing who they are: Arapaho people. The way we were supposed to live.

JACQUELINE WHITE, NORTHERN ARAPAHO TRIBE: The young people now weren't taught culture and traditions, and their parents weren't taught those things. The biggest impact that I see with the drugs and alcohol in the community is that generation gap.

ANTHONY ADDISON: We're all faced with a lot of big problems, and a lot of it's all geared around drugs and alcohol. It's really affecting families. It's affecting the way, how the...the way our children are growing up.

CRAWFORD WHITE: There's bickering, there's fighting, a lot of… a lot of violence. We need to find a way how to…how to get our people turned around back to who we were, who we are.

TELANO GROESBECK, NORTHERN ARAPAHO TRIBE: I was an 11-year user. And there was a point in my life that nothing else mattered, you know. To where my tradition was put on the backburner, my loved ones were put on the backburner because of my drug use. I had people that were looking at me and saying, you know, "Hey, Telano, you're not doing too good. You know, I heard this, I heard that.” But I was pushing them aside. I was indicted along with 43 other individuals here on our Wind River Indian Reservation. We were indicted for distribution of methamphetamine. My son Marcus was 15 months old when I went away. If you know how you visit in county jail, you visit through a window. I just wanted so much to put my hand through that glass to pinch his little toes and to play with his feet, you know, and to hold him, to tell him I was sorry. He put his hand up to the window and I put mine up. And his little hand could fit in my whole palm, you know. And I told myself then, you know, "Is this the kind of life you want?," you know. I don't want it to be one day where I put my hand up there and my son's hand is the same size as mine, you know. Right now it could fit in my palm, and I have a chance—a chance to do better for myself, you know, to make a better life for me and him, for both of my boys.

EDWARD R. MCAUSLAN, FREMONT COUNTY CORONER: Telano is a very articulate, intelligent young man. We've had several large meth busts, and on this particular one, I approached the federal judge and I said, "We want to try to talk to kids about prevention." Kids think, "That'll happen to somebody, but it's not going to happen to me," and we lose a lot of kids that way.

TELANO GROESBECK: He told the judge, "I would like to have two individuals—a male and a female— come out of custody so they can talk to the community about the choices they made. Something to give to the community to more understanding what's going on.”

EDWARD MCAUSLAN: The judge postponed their sentencing and actually released them from jail, and they came back and they stayed with their families here. And then I took them to the schools around the county, as many schools as I could get them in. And then when they finished, they knew that they were going to go to prison.

TELANO GROESBECK: By the time I got done with my testimony and my talk, the whole school come down off the bleachers to hug me and to tell me that they appreciated what I was doing. It meant so much to them.

ANTHONY ADDISON: A lot of the families, you know, don't like to talk about their personal stuff out in the open because a lot of families here, you know, are proud, you know. Somewhere along the line, you have to come out and really talk about these issues, these problems, and all that, in order to find solutions to those problems.

TELANO GROESBECK: During my time in prison I had a lot of time to think about that. And now I'm the youth adult advocate over here for the Wind River Tribal Youth.

JACQUELINE WHITE: Right now, in this day and age, people are willing to come forward and talk about it to help those healings within themselves. You know, talk about what they've been through and the intergenerational trauma. Those things are just surfacing, and it's kind of really becoming clear the impact that it's had on so many generations.

TELANO GROESBECK: This lodge here is a purity lodge. It's a place where myself and others find it comfortable to come in and to pray, you know, for whatever might be on our mind or, you know, might want to express themselves while they're in here, something that they're going through.

CRAWFORD WHITE: The purpose of a sweat—it's a cleansing. It's a rebirth, spiritually, mentally. You go in there, you go to get cleansed with your mind, your body. All that no good's gone. When you leave that door, you're rejuvenated, yeah.

CONSTANCE, EASTERN SHOSHONE TRIBE: My first time, I was scared. I didn't know what to think because it was just all dark. But after it was all over and everything, it felt good. That's what I liked about it. It made you feel good.

GEORGE LEONARD, YOUTH PROGRAM COUNSELOR, EASTERN SHOSHONE TRIBE: We pray to Creator. A lot of cases, we're dealing with the dark stuff, you know. They might be depressed and all that. And so I'll get them in there and I'll talk to them, you know.

TELANO GROESBECK: One of our techniques for our children, our youth, is we bring them into that sweat lodge. You know, if a parent brings their youth in and says, "You know, my youth's been really doing, you know, some really bad things. I don't know what it is. He or she is not talking to me..." "Okay, well, give them to us." We put them through that sweat lodge. Maybe not the first time. Come at least second, third time, they're opening up. Okay, there's the problem there, you know. And then you just ease into it. Her story goes pretty deep to where she's been let down in her life. So it was hard for her to trust anybody, you know, especially somebody that she didn't know. I asked her to come into sweat, and at that time she told me, she said, "Sweat's boring." You know? I said, "Well, just come in with us." Two sweats went by. She was over here sharing stories and making everybody laugh in there. And I was like, this is the same girl that we couldn't even…you couldn't even get a word out of her. It was good to have her come out of her shell like that. And she's one of many that we've had like that.

LIZ SALWAY LITTLE CREEK, EASTERN SHOSHONE TRIBE: It's all a mutual healing here. OK, ladies, introduction.

GIRL: My name's Teanna. I'm 14.

LIZ SALWAY LITTLE CREEK: In some of our talking circles, we have a lot of kids that have already experimented with drugs, alcohol, and I let them know that the circle is for them. They're not supposed to talk about anything once they leave the circle, any of the issues that they've heard. They don't comment while another girl's talking. The only one that should be talking is the one that's holding the feather. They realize that they're not the only one going through certain issues.

TELANO GROESBECK: The thing that I found out working with the youth is you have to listen, that the answer you're looking for is right there within the youth. You give them time to let them build their thoughts and their courage, and, you know, by the time they got everything and they're like, "OK, well, it's time for me to say what I have to say."

ANTHONY ADDISON: It's a combination of everything too. Everybody has to work together.

LIZ SALWAY LITTLE CREEK: This is about the kids, the community, you know? The people, the tribe.

Date Created: June 16, 2020