Artist's Way

Wellness from a Native American Perspective

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My name is Wenona Gardner. My Native American name is Wapaan Alaangweew which means Morning Star the symbol of hope. I am Native American enrolled in the Stockbridge-Munsee band of Mohicans. We are a tribe of Woodland Indians with our tribal office and reservation located in Shawano County, Wisconsin. Upon receiving my name I increased my activity in participating in various ceremonies and during this time I was taught about wellness through the Native American Medicine Wheel the balance of the mind, body, heart, and spirit.

I also have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Bipolar Disorder. As a person rooted in Native American ways and trying to walk the Red Road and also walking in the world of Western medicine seeking to address the mental illnesses I have, I often feel overwhelmed walking in these two worlds. On top of struggling through symptoms I feel trying to deal with two cultures many times there is miscommunication between the two from my experience. In my Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) I hope will communicate my personal viewpoint on wellness to bridge the gap.

My understanding of the Medicine Wheel is intuitive as I experienced in ceremony smelling the sweet grass burn and calling the four directions for prayer. We are taught to think in circles. That life is circular and flows in cycles likes the seasons. The Medicine Wheel teaches these things and much more. Teachings that have been passed down through the ages orally.

Many Native American people are trying to address such things as the high depression, substance abuse, and suicide rates (according to Federal Office of Minority Health & Health Disparities. โ€œMinority Health Determines the Health of the Nationโ€ http://www.cdc.gov/omhd ) in the native community by going back to the native community by going back to the Native American Medicine Wheel and other traditional ways of healing.

Many Native American spiritual leaders and healers believe that the way to heal many members in the community from mental illness is strengthening all four dimensions of one’s being mind, body, heart, and spirit signified by the colors of yellow, red, black, and white respectfully. Each of these represent the balance of the four nations. These are the colors that I was taught about the Medicine Wheel, though I am aware other tribal nations do sometimes use other colors.

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Why the four directions of the Medicine Wheel?

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Even though one may have a mental illness they can strengthen their quality of life by not just focusing on their mind, but also other aspects of their being such as the heart, physical, and spiritual strive to achieve the circle. In doing so we are trying to be the best we can be at the highest level of health we can achieve. For example, when one is hospitalized to deal with mental illness issues it would help if that Native American person has access to their Spiritual Leaders. Also, in the Native American ways the use of tobacco is sacred and it’s smoke is considered prayers that go up to the Creator. I heard word that locally they deny patients from having access to tobacco. What if your Native American and believe the use of tobacco carries prayers to the Great Creator, you would be denied access to worship in this way if you are in a hospital that prohibits tobacco use. I am not sure the Western doctors and staff see this from a culture perspective that many Native American Traditional Spiritual leaders do.

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I do believe there is such a thing as cultural wellness. I remember hearing the phrase reading about Medicine Wheel and wellness. What I got from the article basically was that respecting someone’s culture in dealing with wellness and in this case mental healing is very real. I strongly believe that a health care systems that respects and seeks out to honor my culture background regardless of prejudicial judgments of my fair skin would be greatly appreciated.

There are ways to learn about the Medicine Wheel and wellness through talking with Native American people. Many Native American healers work within local Indian Health boards and Tribal Health Centers. Speaking to Native Americans is most preferred over books cause our culture is an oral based culture. I recommend using books as secondary source.

There doesn’t have to be a situation as the Native American character played by Will Sampson in the movie โ€œOne Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nestโ€ whose only perceived way he could deal with the Western medicine mental health system is to bust through a window and flee like mad from a system that was supposed to be healing. I am hoping the teachings of the Medicine Wheel can be understood as it relates to wellness and be bridged as a gap to help me better to those who want to help work with my mental illness.

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Artist's Way

I saw Great Disrespect to our Native People

I saw great disrespect to our native people in terms of how the Wisconsin government treated the Ojibway representatives at the Wisconsin State hearing of mining at Madison, WI Jan 23, 2013. I sat in the hearing and watched a delegation of three representatives of an Ojibway nation after they drove 6 hours to get there and watched 7 hours waited to testify to be told that they were only allowed 2 minutes for the entire group. Not 2 minutes each person within the group but 40 sec per person in the 3 person delegation. THIS is what they call an equal partnership nation to nation meeting? My heart broke watching such a travesty! There needs to be a talking circle where all parties the Wisconsin legislators and the native tribes are all on equal footing to promote real cooperation, partnership, and nation to nation negotiations. The Native American people are the Caretakers of the land according to the Creator. We must honor the treaties which are international law and supreme law of the land.

Artist's Way

A Clash of World Views

I see a great disconnect between the tribal nations and the Wisconsin in terms of the worldivew of Mother Earth herself. I have participated in the Native American science fair for 8 years through the American Science Indian Science and Engineering Society and University of Wisconsin of Milwaukee. I won 8 gold medals at the state level. I was studying to be an Environmental Engineer. I had an internship at the Center for Great Lakes studies. I went with great interest because I was passionate about the study of water. I remember receiving a tour and an explanation of what they do. They said they study the lake by studying the fish. He then took a very large test tube and loaded it up with fish and then gleefully grinding the fish and while maniacally laughing. Total disregard for life, no sacredness for the spirit of the fish. It’s then I saw the truth that the Western world of science sees Mother Earth as inanimate and dead and that is why there is such total disregard for life. That was the day I stopped pursuing Western science. For I was raised in the native traditions that Mother Earth is alive and can feel. That is why the Wisconsin Legislators won’t understand the Native American point of view because the Wisconsin Legislators come from a world view where they think Mother Earth is dead and they can do whatever they want.

Artist's Way

Mining Hearing at the Madison Capitol on Wed. Jan. 23, 2013

Here’s a scary story…if native people don’t rise up and stop that mining bill if it passes it gives mining companies the right to mine anywhere in Wisconsin including ALL the reservations not just Ojibway reservations. I am enrolled in the Stockbridge-Munsee band of Mohicans tribe and I was a witness and I signed up to testify at the state hearing in Madison Capitol Jan. 23, 2013

On Wednesday Jan 23, 2013 I went to testify at the one and only hearing on the mining bill at the capitol in Madison, WI. I was overjoyed to meet a Mohican-8 member for the first time.ย This was the first time I was ever inside the state capitol as well as part of a state hearing. It was a momentous occasion marked by the fact I learned what my Indian name in Munsee is Wapaan Alaangwee. Anushiik Roxanne and Jeremy Mohawk of the Language and Culture board. I am officially on record that I am against the mine bill. I printed out the Four Crow prophecy of the Pennsylvannia Lenape and I was going to testify the Four Crow prophecy of the Lenape, that we are the rightful caretakers of Mother Earth, and we need the treaties to be honored for the caretakers in Bad River because the treaties are the supreme law of the land. I have never testified in a hearing on this kind of matter before.

I witnessed the testimonies including the testimonies of the Ojibway people. What broke my heart was that delegation of Ojibwe tribal nations showed up and the group was told the group had only 2 minutes to testify for the whole group which I found shocking! Where was the nation to nation partnership laid out in the treaties? This bill violates international law! One legislator stated he sent one tribal nation a single letter. Another legislator stated he paid one visit to one tribe. However, an Ojibwe member testified that the Wisconsin state government treated the Ojibwe as second class citizens. I totally could see that at this hearing. There should have been a formal meeting with the tribal nations in a nation to nation conference or summit to properly discuss this mining bill which the Ojibwe I heard were against it stating tribal sovereignty and protection of the environment. I heard and saw a real disconnect between the tribal nations and Wisconsin government. I strongly believe that a talking circle is needed so that everybody is on equal playing field to promote real cooperation and partnership among the nations. I believe anything involving tribal lands should involve the direct input of the tribal nations every step of the way.

There were over 150 people signed up to speak and I was there for 8 hours since 10 am and most from Waukesha or Milwaukee were not called because they decided to have all those from up north speak first since they traveled for 6 hours to be at this one and only hearing. It was appalling and an oversight that they did not have a hearing for the people in the north and that the hearing they did have in Madison was so last minute many testified they barely had the chance to act because of such little notice. There were repeated testimonies calling for a meeting up north to properly address this issue.

Another thing that was disheartening was where were the rest of the Wisconsin tribal councils? Where was the Stockbridge-Munsee band of Mohicans tribal council at this hearing? It was stated at the hearing that this bill will affect the entire state so why didn’t Stockbrige-Munsee band of Mohicans tribal council stand in solidarity with the Ojibwe at the hearing? Where was my people? This isn’t just an Ojibwe problem. This is everybody’s problem. With this bill that they could mine in any part of the state of Wisconsin including our Mohican reservation. However, I clearly see this is only the beginning of the healing journey. When you think of the Idle No More movement I hope you don’t see this is just some problem for the Canadians, but we are going through our own tribal sovereignty issues here such as the mining bill. It hits home here. I hope Mohican-8 can be a part of the discussion on the topic as we help each other to learn and act. Cause as the Four Crow Prophecy says we are the Caretakers and together we can learn what that means.

Aho!
Wenona Morning Star Gardner

Artist's Way

Idle No More Peace March in Milwaukee, WI January 18, 2013

Today I went to a Peace March in Milwaukee, WI for a deeply spiritual and powerful movement for protecting tribal sovereignty and the environment. Here are the pictures of my day.

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Chief Robert Red Hawk Ruth of Pennsylvania Lenape Nation carrying the Four Crow Prophecy Drum with Wenona “Buffy” Gardner, Wabun anung (Morning Star) of the Stockbridge Munsee band of Mohicans tribe of Wisconsin. At Grand Ave Mall in Milwaukee Wisconsin for the Idle No More Peace Rally.

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The beginning of the Idle No More Peace March starting at Grand Ave Mall in Milwaukee, WI

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Wenona “Buffy” Gardner, Wabun anung (Morning Star) of the Stockbridge Munsee band of Mohicans tribe of Wisconsin. with Alfreda Young former WE Indians Counselor of the Potawatomi tribe. At Grand Ave Mall in Milwaukee for the Idle No More Peace Rally

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The beginning of the Idle No More Peace March starting at Grand Ave Mall.

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The beginning of the Idle No More Peace March starting at Grand Ave Mall in Milwaukee, WI. IdleNoMore Organizer Dona Yahola of the Bad River Ojibwe.

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Idle No More Peace March at Veterans Park Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Artist's Way

I had to grow into this vocation as a Certified Peer Specialist.

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I had to grow into this vocation as a Certified Peer Specialist. I remember back in July 2006 I had post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder I was so isolated, so fearful, so doubtful of my abilities even though I had a college degree. I felt that all the mental breakdowns had altered my brain and I struggled more. So, when my caseworker brought me the paper about the new peer specialist course that was 75 hours I immediately turned her down. I didn’t believe at that time after all my mental breakdowns that I could take a course like that. Later, my other caseworker came up to me and said they were doing Wellness Recovery Action Plans on the first day and that I would really benefit by just going for the first day. So, I said okay I could handle one day. I showed up and the instructor Carmen Bonanno was so enthusiastic and friendly and asked me if I was going to sign up for the entire course. I shared with her that I was going to only be there for the Wellness Recovery Action Plan for that day. She then encouraged for me to take the whole course and she said she would personally help me every step of the way. That certainly made my day! I decided to take the peers specialist course.ย 

I went through the entire 75 hour course and I scored the highest score on my Peer Specialist exam. At the end of the course a representative from the Mental Health Association showed up looking for peer specialist candidates to work doing Peer Specialist work on the phones for people who called in. I applied for the job and I got it. And that is how I got my first job after being unemployed for 8 long years. If Carmen hadn’t believed in me or held my hand I don’t know where I would be today 7 years later.