Conversation Corner with Native American Author Anton Treuer

By Carrie Garcia
AIHFS Human Resource Specialist

Fairness is not given. It is made. These are true words well-spoken by author, speaker, trainer and Bemidji State University Ojibwe professor Anton Treuer. Treuer, Leech Lake Ojibwe, has authored over 20 books in his lifetime anywhere from the Anishinaabe language revitalization to Native American history. This blog is from a virtual interview we had with Anton to learn more about him.

Anton Treuer, Leech Lake Ojibwe

AIHFS: What motivated you to want to write your books?

AT: I am up to 20 books. They are all different. I have a book called, The Language Warrior’s Manifesto How to Keep Our Languages Alive No Matter the Odds talks about the language revitalization and I have another one called, The Cultural Toolbox Traditional Ojibwe Living in the Modern World which is all about the native culture. Each book has its own origin story and were received differently by different people in different places. You have to imagine across Anishinaabe country that you have some places that everyone is a fluent speaker. We have some communities where our fluent speakers are gone. We have different experiences by generation, age, cultural experience language and strength in different communities but at the same time I think there are some really common threads that unite us as Anishinaabe people and not just because of similar experiences but similar cultural patterns and community strengths too.

AIHFS: With the various generations of readers, have you noticed more of a positive or more of a negative feedback from your books?

AT: Overwhelming positive feedback. This is a difficult time right now with politics and other topics. It made it hard for some people to put themselves out there speaking their truth. I try not to be too worried about politics. I try to say things how I see them and I think just being honest and authentic usually works. It doesn’t mean everyone is going to see the world like I do. I am just one person trying to navigate this crazy world at this crazy time we are living in. Just be kind and inclusive and open with others and communicate that with the things that we do. For the most part it has been well received. I don’t shy away from the tougher topics but I am not mean spirited and that seems to help.

AIHFS: What was one thing you hoped to accomplish with your writings?

AT: As native people we experience these contradictory pains of hypervisibility such as racial profiling and invisibility and marginalization. One of the things that I am trying to do with my work all together is elevate the visibility of native people and to tell our stories our way among the quest for healing for our people from all of the historical and contemporary traumas. I don’t think there is one simple silver bullet solution for all of those things, but the more that native people are empowered and supported in all of those efforts the more healing we all derive from that. I always try to hold up my fellow natives, authors, teachers, community members and tribal leaders. Everyone might see the battlefield differently, but we are all warriors in the same side of trying to make life better for the Anishinaabe people. I try to look at it that way and where I have been lucky blessed and put my time to share so that we can advance our language, culture, sovereignty, our community health.

AIHFS: What are some ways that us as Native Americans feel that we belong and not feel lost?

AT: 70 percent of the self-identified Native American’s live off the reservation. Even for those who are on the reservation for their whole lives, still feel disconnected. That’s because even if you have fluent speakers in your family, we are separated by so many things by generations. We put our elders in nursing homes, we send our first graders with other first graders. The things that would naturally happen for the intergenerational transmission of our language and culture are all being disrupted. One of the things I try to communicate with others is connection and culture are not something that live outside of us. I think a lot of people adopt that view and they are always looking out and looking for something. Those things live inside of us and we can be Anishinaabe wherever we live including in the center of a big city. We have to instead of looking for the external thing, wake up the internal thing and we can be okay in our own skin wherever we are at. That awakening is healing and empowering. One of the things I found is that we have some tools at our disposal that our ancestors did not have that can make that a little easier. The thing I appreciate about writing books is that anyone can pick up a book or turn on Audible. It’s not the same as being with someone in a Wigwam in a ceremony, but it’s something that can help bridge that connection and get information and connect us to one another.

AIHFS: Out of all the books you have written, which one is your favorite book and why?

AT: It depends on the purpose. My most recent book, The Cultural Toolbox, was my most personal writing today. It was a very healing process for me writing the book. The book shares a little deeper on how we try to do our culture in this time. For those who are on their cultural journey will find a lot of residence and help with that. The Language Warrior’s Manifesto has been getting great reception in the language communities. It’s not just the Ojibwe things. We have been working with the Menominee, Blackfeet, Dakota and other different groups that are trying to work with the language revitalization. There are different ones for different purposes. Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask has been the bestselling one. We released a young readers edition in April 2021 and that one took right off. It speaks to the young readers. I have enjoyed the opportunity to keep broadening the reception of that particular work. I can’t just pick one. They all serve different purposes.  I feel blessed to speak on a variety of topics.

AIHFS: Which of your books would you like to see made into a movie and why?

AT: We are in the process of trying to develop a movie right now. It is The Assassination of Hole In The Day. It’s one of the history books I wrote and it was about an Ojibwe leader in the middle of the 1800’s who was killed. His story is a murder mystery and is a window into how the nature of the Ojibwe leadership changed. It has everything that a good story should have. We are slowly climbing Mt. Everest towards our goal on a movie.

AIHFS: Did you have any struggles or roadblocks writing your publications?

AT: Every author has this. Before I was getting started I had a lot of rejection letters. It just set me back to be more determined, to sharpen my saw and to work stronger than before and give it another shot. I have more people coming after me now than I can possibly satisfy with the work. It takes a while to get noticed and build up your own ability. Sometimes there are people with wonder talents, ideas and writings who don’t get noticed and don’t get pick up. You have to be persistent. It was really tough at first for academic writing as people discounted things like oral history and use of indigenous languages. I had plenty of roadblocks and setbacks.

AIHFS:  If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?

AT: As human beings we have moments of self-doubt. I would have said, believe in yourself. You are worthy of all the things of the love and respect of your family, your people, and your community. You can do it. Don’t listen to anyone that’s telling you no or your less than.

AIHFS: American Indian Health and Family Services deals with health care in the community and even for their employees. Do you have an exercise or physical activity that you regularly do? Why did you choose it and how long have you been actively doing it?

AT: I believe in all forms of health. Mental, spiritual, emotional and physical. I like to run a lot. I usually run four times a week. I do some weight lifting and try to balance it out. I am trying to do a little bit more weight lifting and maintaining the cardio. It shifted and changed over time. Its fun to mix things up and keep it interesting. I live in a rural area and being outside feeds me in other ways. That’s why I like running.

AIHFS: For those who are wanting to pursue things such as following their talents, what words of wisdom would you give them?

AT: We as being Anishinaabe we can do anything that we want to do. We are perfectly capable. Don’t let anyone hold you down and keep you down. Remember to be kind and put your best self out in the world and don’t be too hard on yourself. Be supportive of other people, their success is our success and we should want everyone to have their best shot at a healthy and happy life. We are not in competition with everyone else in the world.

You can order Anton’s books on his website at, Amazon, and also on e-books on Audible.



By Nechelle Laferriere

So often history is omitted or whitewashed and it leaves its descendants in the dark of their lineage. That is until one gets lost enough to then start asking for directions. Black History is just that, a road map to new discoveries of one’s identity, uncharted territories, and unrecognized tribes. Though the story of the black man likes to begin with the white man, it often skips over the black man and the Native or tries to pit the two against each other.

The Black Native part of history is not taught though it would give a lot of insight to the coined phrase “you got Indian in your family” lol. This phrase though misguided and somewhat problematic is one most black people grew up hearing. It’s referred in the black community to a person that has a longer looser texture of hair or ambiguous features of beauty; therefore, suggesting a native relative from way back must be the cause. But no one ever investigates, no one traces the family tree back to see if in fact someone was native. No one wants to go back too far because no one wants to hear another slave story.

Unfortunately, we as African-Americans try to distant ourselves from our ancestors that were stolen from their land because of the pain and trauma it holds. But one cannot deny or dispute our past no matter how removed we would want to be from it. The same goes for the Black Native story, it is one that is untold because of its troubling history. Still it is a story that must be told because it involves a people that must be heard.

I will briefly share of the twos history and crossing of paths. There were 5 tribes called the 5 Civilized Tribes the Muscogee (Creek) Tribe, the Choctaw Tribe, the Cherokee Tribe, the Chickasaw Tribe, and the Seminole Tribe.  These tribes were the first nations that were forced to adapt their way of life to that of the colonists. This resulted in these 5 tribes having to own slaves to limit alliances being formed to help runaway slaves. Through the history of Native’s owning slaves to then offering tribal affiliation to the free slave to then intermarriage gave birth to the Black Native.  

The Black Native identity is real and their stories matter to Native history and to Black history. Black Natives have contributed to both black and Native cultures and advancements. Recognizing the Black Native before us gives understanding and value to the Black Native with us.


Black Natives before us had to endure a very different racial climate as well as racial acceptance from the Native community, black community, and white community. Being black or Native then did not come with the same celebration or pride as it does today. To be a minority especially black and or Native then was to be more hated, to be put in more danger, to be given more hardship, and to shed more blood. White America during this time was the standard and all others had to meet that standard as best as they could to survive. Whether that meant natives being sent to boarding schools or forced into adoption with white families. Blacks being forced to alter their natural hair texture or hide their blackness all to be more palatable for the standard of whiteness was inevitable.

Through that standard the Black Native became like that of unicorn never really being able to belong to their black identity or to their Native identity; because both identities were stolen, both identities were whitened. This lack of identity made it so that colorism- a prejudice or discrimination amongst different skin tones in a racial group presented itself heavy in the black community as well as black pride. While colorism was prevalent within the Native community, Natives took on a different approach as to preserve their lineage and rights. They started to require what’s called a blood quantum- a percentage of Native blood that allows you to be considered Native. With both groups taking precautions to reclaim their identities, they created more exclusion to the outsider, more exclusion to the Black Native. Which meant you were too black to be Native or too Native to be black. Which ultimately meant that the Black Native had to learn how to be both identities in a way that was their own identity. And they did!

George Bonga – Wikipedia

For instance, George Bonga (1802-1880) African American and Ojibwe. George was known to be a Black Indian fur trader as well as a wilderness guide. He was also fluent in multiple languages English, Ojibwe, and French that brought forth his service as a government translator. Lewis

Mary Edmonia Lewis (1844- 1907) African American and Mississauga Ojibwe. Mary was the first African American and Native American Sculptor to be recognized nationally and internationally for her works of art. She was known to sculpt African and Native features and themes into the neoclassic style of art.

Billy Bowlegs III (1862-1965) African-American and Seminole. He was famous for being chief during the Seminole Wars. Billy was also a part of the Snake Clan and was proud of his heritage and culture. He continued to teach and performed traditional dances until his passing.

Olivia Ward Bush-Banks

Olivia Ward Bush-Banks (1869-1944) African-American and Montaukett. She was known for her poetry and writings. Olivia wrote for Colored American magazine and published multiple poetry books. Her writings displayed that of the Native experience and the African-American experience.

These well-known Black Natives made sacrifices for the Black Natives of today and tomorrow.


“I don’t want to be just one, I’m not just one, I like who I am”- Shelly

Those words were from my coworker Shelly a black Native that I had the pleasure of interviewing here at the agency.

Shelly, who is African-American and Dine’ was born in 1966 in Ontario, Canada to her mother Beverly (Black) and her father William (Navajo.) She then moved to Detroit when she was three years old and this was the beginning of her racial identity of being black and Native unfolding. Despite being raised a great deal by her grand and great grandparents learning to be proud of her identities and cultures; Shelly still endured hardship for the color of her skin, the texture of her hair, the way she spoke and the beliefs she cultivated.  

I said tell me what it was like being black and Native in Detroit? She sighed with a chuckle and said “well it was traumatic. Having to grow up in the 70’s and 80’s was a different time.” She spoke on not being able to fit in during her time attending Catholic school, being teased often in girl scouts and what it was like being discriminated against in the black community.

Still her family instilled in her the beauty and strength of what it was to be black and Native no matter the adversity. While experiencing push back from the black community, Shelly found comfort in her Nativeness. She learned the teachings and listened to the elder’s stories and learned how Natives should be portrayed in the media. Though seen as different or the awkward Black Native Shelly found a way to meld her beliefs and understanding whether be it cultural or spiritual to make it fitting to herself. However, finding belonging was still a barrier in her youth and still is at times today she says.

Having gone through many trials and tribulations with her estranged father, to changing professions, to losing loved ones to suicide. Shelly stands proud to this day to be black and to be Native. Shelly did not have an easy life growing up as a black Native but she made the most of her experiences and hopes that the next generation of Black Natives will do the same.


To the Black Natives of tomorrow know that how you look, what you celebrate, and how you identify matters because the black Natives yesterday and today made sure that it would. As you venture the land of your Native heritage do so with confidence holding up your black fist. Never stop following the road map, never stop discovering more of your history, never stop fighting for injustice. Hold firm to Martin Luther King Jr’s dream while honoring the Grandfather teachings.

“Young people raise up, don’t be afraid, fear will kill you.”


In writing this blog my objective was to solely focus on the historical context surrounding the Black Native identity. Now, I realize it was to open up a history that most black people and Natives may not be aware of. To be Black, to be Native, is to be seen and heard.

Though the Black Native story is part slave story, it is much more than that, it is an intermarriage story, a friendship story, a welcoming of tribe’s story, an awkward Black Native story, a Native history story and it is a BLACK HISTORY STORY! Happy Black History Month!


Olivia Ward Bush-Banks – Wikipedia 9 January 2022, by Wikimedia Foundation

Billy Bowlegs III – Wikipedia 21 October 2021, by Wikimedia Foundation

Edmonia Lewis – Wikipedia 7 February 2022, by Wikimedia Foundation

George Bonga – Wikipedia 14 January 2022, by Wikimedia Foundation

Five Civilized Tribes of Native America 5 Native American tribe ( 8 February 2022, by The American History

Winter is Time for Storytelling

by John Marcus, Communications Specialist
Pueblo | Mohawk | Anishinaabe

Winter is time for storytelling. This is a tradition of many Tribal Nations across Turtle Island. It is a time when Mother Earth is said to be resting. Large segments of plants and animals are going to rest throughout winter and when spring returns, they wake back up and start producing and pursuing life to the fullest, following the paths Creator set down for them so long ago.

During this quiet time, when the snow muffles the sounds, it also creates a good environment for learning and introspection. The stories Native people share usually are more than just entertainment, it was a way to pass along customs and reinforce behaviors. In the story, you can see yourself or others around you and from that guide you on your path.

Also, it is a good way to learn concentration and respect. Additionally, you will want to have a calm, relaxed setting that is associated with being in a safe environment in order to be open to the story being shared. Listening skills are often not praised, but the results from someone having used their listening skills previously, will often have the results praised. Rather than the foundation of a learning experience, think of listening as your walls, keeping in the knowledge that could pass through your dwelling without them.

Listening to a story versus watching a movie on an electronic device, also engages the imagination differently. With listening, the imagination is more involved. When you hear a pleasant sounding description your mind can run with it as far as it can: this is exercise for your imagination!  To illustrate the importance of imagination, I borrow from the mainstream society perspective for this next quote:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
– Albert Einstein

It could even be storytelling through an electronic device that includes video and music has changed the way we listen to people, essentially decreasing our listening skills. Since, as previously mentioned, we know the imagination is not as engaged via electronic devices, does the mind later on experience resistance in calling on all of its capabilities when needed, especially in areas of problem solving? Also, we know that the electronic devices are not human, we don’t have to treat this source, and the information coming from it, as deserving respect. Then when we do talk with other humans and they are echoing the same info from electronic devices, is it easier to “see” them as an extension of these electronic devices that are not human, therefore making it easier to treat them as “not human” or “lacking spirit?” Moving about society these days it is definitely a meaner, colder experience and this seems to parallel the rise in bandwidth to accommodate the proliferation of these one-way storytelling experiences.

Another major part of storytelling is that for that moment, for that time the story is being told, it is alive. Something is being shared between people that didn’t exist just prior to the beginning of that story. The story can change slightly with each telling and each storyteller. The change can be the actual choice of words or the change could be very subtle, as in, tone or body language. This could be part of the reason behind why it is considered an indigenous custom to gift the storyteller tobacco when asking them to come and share stories. Something is being brought to life so we must ultimately thank the Creator for this action.

This point might be a good time to also recognize that this medium of the written word, or blog specifically in this case, is definitely NOT the same as storytelling. This is a story about storytelling, but not an act of storytelling.

In 2020 we had a traditional storytelling series through Facebook that was virtual, due to the ongoing pandemic. One of the stories was by Don Lyons, Jr. He is an enrolled citizen of Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe located in Northern Minnesota and Haudenosaunee located in Six Nations, Ontario and also on our Board of Directors. The story he shared is about Windigo, sometimes referred to as a man-eater or a spirit that consumes everything. The character relates the idea of greed, excessive want, lacking humanity, and no connection to a sense of community, responsibilities, or fellowship. In order to restrain Windigo, a coalition was created. The coalition members brought all their energies, skills, and dedication together, and all played an equal part. Don explained that the spirit of Windigo remains with us all the time and the need to consistently do outreach, have empathy, and compassion for others are critical towards keeping Windigo at bay. Below is the full the video if you want to watch it.

Then there are the stories that are held within the stars. Here’s a great video by Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian about explorations in cultural astronomy featuring Michael Wassegijig Price. Yes, even there it is mentioned that stories are told during the winter. The night sky contains a physical manifestation of when it is storytelling time.

If you watch this video around the 19 minute mark it says that the constellation Orion is known as Nanaboozhoo and amongst the Anishinaabe, they don’t tell Nanaboozhoo stories till you can see Nanaboozhoo (Orion) in the sky, which is winter. Nanaboozhoo (Orion) goes away or drops below the horizon in March or as spring is approaching.

As we bring this story back to this planet, we must also note the “return” of the first wave of electronic storytelling devices, the radio, in the modern form of the Podcast. Yet, the distinct difference is when the first wave came through in the 1930’s, it was a family activity. Here’s a good example I found on YouTube of a mystery radio show available at the time called The Shadow Knows. (FYI, the sound is a little low on the video and it doesn’t start till about 10 seconds in)

 The family would gather together in the room with the radio and listen together, sharing an experience in real-time together, listening to the “programs.” Whereas, the podcasts are mostly listened to by one person. Once again, a less human experience because there are no other live beings experiencing that moment, it is a one-way exchange.

Then there is the hybrid, TED. They are a marriage of storytelling and electronic devices. Their tagline is Ideas Worth Spreading. How they spread that idea is a presenter with an in-person audience has a maximum of 18 minutes to “present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways they can.” It actually started as an in-person conference back in 1984. It is currently in-person, livestreamed, and then uploaded for later viewing. It is interesting to note that via Wikipedia, TED was founded in February, 1984. That would be when Nanaboozhoo (Orion) is in the night sky, signaling to us down here on Mother Earth, it is storytelling time.

Taking a quick look at TED’s top 25 list of most popular videos of all time, number one is called, Do Schools Kill Creativity, with around 72 million views. The 25th most watched video is called, The Thrilling Potential of SixthSense Technology and has around 19 million views. At number seven of this list is Bill Gates in a video from 2015 called, The Next Outbreak? We’re Not Ready. He actually came close to traditional storyteller usage with his message about the Western African Ebola outbreak of 2014 and that if we don’t change behaviors we will experience another virus outbreak, but with a heavier toll. He told this story in March 2015 so once again Nanaboozhoo was in the night sky granting his approval that it is indeed time to share a story.

In my own experience, I have had the opportunity to listen to Anishinaabe stories several times, including here at American Indian Health & Family Services. The person that came here is Larry “Pun” Plamondon. He had a reputation throughout this region for being a traditional storyteller. That evening was a good gathering! I had brought that night up the other day as I was talking with the Community Wellness Director, Casey Brant, and we said it would be great if we could plan for that to happen again. Sadly though, due to COVID and its numerous variants, it may be a while before we can start to make those plans.

Here is a video from PBS featuring Larry Plamondon recorded in 2018.

Thinking forward hundreds of years, I wonder if someday this pandemic itself will have become part of a storyteller’s collection. When it is shared what will be the main lesson we will want all to take away from it? One thing is certain through, Nanaboozhoo will definitely be in the night sky signaling to us, it is time to listen to the storytellers!

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Mental Health

By Heba Elsayed and Jordan Blechert

In December 2019, the world was shook by the detection of the COVID-19 infection which took place in Wuhan, China. Quickly, the coronavirus spread internationally and we found ourselves in a full-blown global pandemic. Scientists, researchers, and medical professionals alike rushed to their labs and hospitals in hopes of finding a medical solution—working endlessly to understand the clinical features, transmission patterns, and management of the disease (Javed, 2020). This was a valid response to a pandemic, albeit an incomplete one.

In reality, a pandemic is not just a medical phenomenon. As the pandemic continues, there has been little concern over the effects of mental health on individuals, despite the fact that those effects have been vividly apparent. “The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as the state of wellbeing in which an individual realizes their capabilities to combat with normal life stressors and work competencies in contributing to the belonged community, which is underpinned by six psychological elements comprising (i) self-acceptance, (ii) meaning in life, (iii) autonomy, (iv) healthy relationships with others, (v) environmental mastery, and (vi) personal growth (Mukhtar 2020).”

A KFF Health Tracking Poll from July 2020 found that many adults are reporting specific negative impacts on their mental health and well-being, such as difficulty sleeping (36%) or eating (32%), increases in alcohol consumption or substance use (12%), and worsening chronic conditions (12%), due to worry and stress over the coronavirus (Griffiths, 2020). 

Many factors contribute to this decline seen in the overall mental health status of the population, particularly the adult population including the older adult population, disabled and mentally ill population, as well as health care workers. Reasons for this shift include the disruption, anxiety, stigma, xenophobia, isolation, loss of social support, loss of freedom, and the closure of educational institutes, workplaces, and entertainment venues that accompanied the pandemic.

Public awareness campaigns focusing on the maintenance of mental health in the prevailing situation are more important than ever as good mental health plays a key role in battling the pandemic and accompanying effects.  (Javed, 2020).  At American Indian Health and Family Services, our priority includes providing resources that uplift individuals in times of crisis. Our organization, in collaboration with the national strategy for suicide prevention, the Zero Suicide Project, offers free Hope and Wellness Screenings aimed at identifying adults at risk for mental health conditions and crises while providing referrals. AIHFS also offers individual mental health and substance use counseling. Sign up for a Hope and Wellness Screening or for a Zero Suicide training to help yourself and others today to get through this pandemic crisis and beyond!


Javed, B., Sarwer, A., Soto, E. B., & Mashwani, Z. U. (2020). The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic’s impact on mental health. The International journal of health planning and management, 35(5), 993–996.

Khan, K.S., Mamun, M.A., Griffiths, M.D. et al. The Mental Health Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic across Different Cohorts. Int J Ment Health Addiction (2020).

Native Wagon Trains

By John Marcus (Pueblo, Mohawk, Chippewa)
Communications Specialist

Recently across social media I noticed an uproar over a beer can with Indigenous art on it. Additionally, part of the proceeds from it will go to help the cause, Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women. As a Native person this concept does have the distinction to push some buttons. In this post I will attempt to understand this complex reaction to what feels to be contradicting issues. In the end, I hope this leads to a better understanding of the current relationship between Indigenous Natives and alcohol.

First off there is the stereotype of the drunken Indian. Just google drunken Indian and you will see an assortment of negative imagery. You’ll also see that for the other races, too. The difference is with Natives you will see a lot of imagery hundreds of years old, some even before photographic technology existed.  This could indicate a systemic bias of how long Natives have been associated with alcohol abuse. You will also see more recent versions of this stereotype in the form of memes.  In this sense, alcohol can been associated as a tool that helped defeat the Native traditional way of life.

Is there evidence of a predisposition for alcoholism because of differences in the way Native Americans metabolize alcohol? Do we now have the science to substantiate this long-held myth? In a reflection of this modern age I tried to google some science to determine what is understood. Quickly google listed this scientific paper that within it acknowledges that myth nicely as quoted here:

Over the years, several popular theories and myths have arisen concerning alcohol use and its consequences in Native American communities. One of these is the “firewater” myth—a common stereotype suggesting that “Indians can’t hold their liquor” because their bodies metabolize alcohol differently. Despite the perpetuation of this myth, few studies have tested this hypothesis experimentally.

Though as it turns out, it was not really about my question. It was a study to see if presence of a variant of an enzyme would show a reduction in alcoholism. They did find one out of 2 enzyme variants that could be helpful in reducing alcoholism and yet it doesn’t explain the high prevalence of alcoholism within those studied. This was a study of Southwest California Indians by Cindy L. Ehlers, Ph.D., of the Department of Molecular and Integrative Neuroscience and the Department of Molecular and Experimental Medicine, Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California.

Here is a link to this article from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. I didn’t see a publishing date, but it references other research from 2007 so it is after that year.

Getting back to the original question, which is, “do Native Americans metabolize alcohol differently?” This study by Dr. Ehlers cites a study that says no. This study happened in 1976 by L.J. Bennion. It was a study of 30 Native Americans and 30 “whites.” So not really a big study, but here is a link to it:

Another top link in the google results came from Stanford University. It started out with respect to the general population and then had a section about genetics and it contains this statement:

Additionally, despite the fact that more Native American people die of alcohol-related causes than do any other ethnic group in the United States, research shows that there is no difference in the rates of alcohol metabolism and enzyme patterns between Native Americans and Whites (18). This suggests that rates of alcoholism and alcohol-related problems are influenced by other environmental and/or genetic factors.

Now which research study do you suppose this footnote 18 is referencing? Yep, that same study done in 1976 by L.J. Bennion! I wonder if those 30 Native Americans knew how big and long of an impact they were going to have! Then the quoted last sentence implies mostly environment is the factor. Here is the link to this Stanford article:

After a decent search to determine the science behind this “firewater” myth, it would appear it rests on a very small sampling and it is 45 years old. The field of genetics has grown so much since then it may be time to update this research.

Switching our focus to self-sufficiency, and to more modern history, most Native American-owned casinos sell alcohol. The funds generated are used to help the tribal nation and in some cases, the surrounding communty. Is it that far of a leap, to go from funds raised through retail alcohol sales in a casino to retail sales of crafted alcohol in a stand-alone operation?  

Digging deeper into where this discussion originated I found this recent article that says it was “one of 43 breweries across Canada” participating in “an event called Celebrating Sisters Indigenous Brew Day, an initiative that is donating proceeds of beer sales to Indigenous women’s organizations.” So no direct mention of murdered and missing women and children, but they might be one of the organizations benefitting.

Another part of this story is that they had someone “smudge” the brewery. A photo of what appeared to be this activity was shared on social media and contributed to putting this on native people’s minds. For those unfamiliar with smudging, to define it loosely, it is a traditional use of burning sage to spiritually cleanse space and objects.

Then the final straw was the image made by a native artist had a strong leaning towards a traditional style, evoking of the Thunderbird, and was placed directly on the can.

It was at this moment it became a “Houston, the Eagle has landed,” from the artists perspective AND a “Houston, we have a problem” for Native Americans across the internet.

The Indigenous artist has went on to say she was not trying to evoke the traditional Thunderbird.

Here is the link to the article about who organized the “proceeds to benefit native women’s groups”

The perceived separation of alcohol and native traditional culture became too thin. The thickness of a typical aluminum container, to be exact.

Are other Indigenous people doing this?

The Osoyoos Indian Band claim to have North America’s first Indigenous Winery which they call NK’Mip Cellars. The Osoyoos Indian Band, devoted to hard work, innovation, and responding to the challenges of nature, registered under the Indian Act as a reserve in 1877. The centuries-old home of the Osoyoos Indian Reserve is 32,000 acres of Sonoran Desert landscape in Canada.  The word Nk’Mip translates to “Bottomland” in English, being located at the southern end of the Osoyoos reservation.  Here is their website with a bottle that has native inspired design:

In North Carolina there is the Morgan Crisp. She is the owner of 7 Clans Brewing.  From their company website, “Seven Clans Brewing will be focused on product development and strengthening their brand through state-wide distribution. Seven Clans Brewing has contracted with BearWaters Brewing in Canton, North Carolina, to facilitate the brewing process of their recipes until the Seven Clans Brewery is constructed.”    Here is their website page with beers available: one of their art designs has a native woman on it:

In retrospect, it seems acceptable to use “generic” indigenous art or symbols as part of labeling an alcoholic beverage.

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW)

Another line that is blurred is to what extent alcohol is involved in Indigenous women being murdered or missing? MMIW is a grass roots effort to raise awareness to the disproportionate number of Indigenous women in Canada and the U.S. that are experiencing violence. It has expanded to also be recognized as MMIWG and MMIWGTS, to represent the addition of girls and two-spirits. It is usually recognized on May 5th each year. The cause has become more recognized in the past 5 years, but the impact and statistics draw from the 1980’s through until recent times. One of the more known awareness efforts is the red dress project by Metis, Jaime Black. Here is the symbolism behind it:

Black chose the colour red after conversations with an indigenous friend, who told her red is the only colour the spirits can see. “So (red) is really a calling back of the spirits of these women and allowing them a chance to be among us and have their voices heard through their family members and community”.[5] Black has also suggested red “relates to our lifeblood and that connection between all of us”,[4] and that it symbolises both vitality and violence.[6]

Here is the link to where the above came from and I encourage you to follow it to get a better grasp of this project:   While you are there I also recommend using the link in the opening paragraph that will take you to the article about MMIW. It is very thorough.

Screenshot of Google image search for Red Dress Project

Another indicator of the urgency of this problem is less than a month after our first-ever Native American Secretary of Interior, Deb Haaland, took office she announced the creation of a special unit to investigate missing and murdered Native Americans. For more info about that, here is a link to an interview with her on NPR:

I have to say though in numerous links explaining MMIW not one of them mentioned the role or the extant to which alcohol or drug use may have been involved. Does this mean it is ok to use alcohol sales to help this problem?

Looking Ahead

One of the key components to me is the process that was used to make these decisions. In the Native way you want to involve your Elders and leaders in this. In the case of Tribal casinos, I am assuming they held council meetings which were open to the public enabling input prior to opening their casino. In the articles about stand-alone breweries I searched during the writing of this posting, I didn’t read that in any of them.  The process seemed limited to an Indigenous individual and their close partners as in a typical business venture.

Separation of powers is a phrase that may be useful as we forge ahead. Not as in the 3 branches of government as you may expect, but in keeping the spirits of alcohol several processes away from Traditional spirits of the Native way of life. The more we are able to embrace our Traditional ways into our everyday function of living in this “new world,” the more Wellness our families should experience. Yet, we need continuous funding to help us reach and maintain a level where we can participate in these Native ways.

In closing, can Natives use alcohol appropriately and what does that look like? Keep in mind, this is just my opinion and most of what follows is actually just based on what seems to be already happening. I am just trying to share observations.

  • Have a separate building away from sacred areas for the selling and consuming of alcohol.
  • Have separation of people by roles involved, too. We can’t expect a person to be a bartender one minute, then doing a traditional ceremony the next.
  • Also, keep our sacred stories, symbols and items separate from the location of where this alcohol use is going to occur.
  • Let’s make sure to keep Elders in the loop all the while. If they suggest modifications, try to follow them.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, if you see your friend’s or relative’s alcohol use is creating problems for them and those they love, speak to them in the best you way you know how and encourage them to seek professional help before it is too late.

Why Native Americans May Have COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy

By John Marcus
Descendant from Taos Pueblo, New Mexico; Mohawk of Six Nations, Ontario; and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

In the end, like all of life’s hard decisions, it is up to each individual to make that choice, but it is also up to each individual to do their homework. If you are buying a car and you value reliability, then you try to find data to back up that characteristic. In the case of vaccines, where do you find the independent research, especially when new technology is involved? Or, might Native Americans be inclined to not even attempt research? For me, the advisory panels provided the clinching information, but I did not reach this point right away.

To add some background to this decision I will have to include some history, though the nature of which may not be unique to Native Americans, but is very much relative. As a Native American I did feel what may be called an innate reluctance to try it probably due to the disease small pox, which decimated unknown thousands of Native Americans across North America. At times, small pox was intentionally1 introduced to tribal nations by the Europeans invading and occupying this continent.

Today vs Yesterday

Research into the history of the Indian Health Services indicates the small pox vaccine was one of the earliest examples of healthcare between the U.S. and tribal nations. Though, as it was given to those Native Americans living near the fort, I have to reign in the feeling it may have been used as leverage to “bring in the Indians” from traditional lands that were expansive.2

This reluctance could also be a part of what we Native Americans call “blood memory.”  While working here at American Indian Health & Family Services I have been lucky to attend quite a few trainings and workshops. Trauma is usually brought into the discussion either directly or indirectly and in one of these workshops I learned trauma can be passed down through the genes into the successive generation. In fact, our most popular video on our YouTube channel talks about trauma as it relates to Native culture. It features Dr. Darryl Tonemah.

In the Native world we have lost pieces of our culture due to forced assimilation, e.g., the boarding schools3, but we are also in the process of rebuilding those pieces. Quite often when a Native person hears a piece that had been lost or engages in physical activities, such as a dance, associated with that knowledge, they will say “this feels right” or “I feel like I’ve done this before.” That is blood memory. I have to wonder if that trauma from the small pox era is also causing our blood memory to flinch at these modern day circumstances echoing our not too distant history, genetically speaking.

In order to add more context to this subject, I have to mention that during this time the relationship between the United States government, and the tribal nations, was the responsibility of the Department of War. Let that sink in for a minute. Native American healthcare started as a responsibility of the same Department that had waged war against Native Americans.

Eventually the relationship changed enough that the U.S. government had shifted native healthcare to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Within this department in 1955 it created the Indian Health Service. In 1981 Everett R. Rhoades, M.D. (Kiowa), became the first American Indian Director of the I.H.S.  In its present embodiment, it has come a long ways towards improving delivery of certain treaty obligations made long ago.

Still, there are real world challenges associated with the logistics of delivering the vaccine to Native Americans. I am fortunate to live near and work here at AIHFS. More specifically we are amidst the infrastructure needed for delivery and storing of a Pfizer type vaccine, such as reliable electricity, access to medical supplies, decent roads and company vehicles available. A lot of the Indian Health Services across Turtle Island do not have this. It makes for a challenging process on how to make the vaccine available in a safe, efficient and timely manner. As an example, consider these words by Timothy Nuvangyaoma, chairman of the Hopi Tribe.

“… the logistic and cultural challenges of delivering a Covid-19 vaccine with precise temperature requirements and two-dose administration to members of the Hopi Tribe are vast: Hopi often live in remote locations and only one-third of the population has reliable means of transportation, according to officials with knowledge of vaccine distribution planning. Hopi lands span more than 1.5 million acres and encompass parts of both Coconino and Navajo counties in northeastern Arizona. Power supply is always a concern, brownouts are common, and generators are a luxury. The Hopi Health Care Center has to outsource much of its care.”

Now shifting back to where I am writing this from, American Indian Health & Family Services in Detroit Michigan, I am including additional resources that I had found helpful and may help you in making your decision. In fact, I thought they may be helpful enough to others that I had decided to submit them to our quarterly newsletter. “Top Myths and Misconceptions” and “Immunization Advisory Panels” are reprints from our January through March 2021 newsletter.

Top Myths and Misconceptions

Myth:  The COVID-19 vaccine is not safe because it was rapidly developed and tested.

Fact:  In addition to the safety review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Advisory Committee on Immunization (see below) has convened a panel of vaccine safety experts to independently evaluate the safety data from the clinical trial. The safety of COVID-19 vaccine will continue to be closely monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the FDA.

Myth:  There are severe side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Fact: There are short-term mild or moderate vaccine reactions that resolve without complication or injury. The early phase studies of the Pfizer vaccine show that it is safe. About 15% of people developed short lived symptoms at the site of the injection. 50% developed systemic reactions primarily headache, chills, fatigue or muscle pain or fever lasting for a day or two. Keep in mind that these side effects are indicators that your immune system is responding to the vaccine and are common when receiving vaccines.

Myth:  The COVID-19 vaccine was developed to control the general population either through microchip tracking or “nanotransducers” in our brains.

Fact: There is no vaccine microchip, and the vaccine will not track people or gather personal information into a database.

This myth started after comments made by Bill Gates from The Gates Foundation about a digital certificate of vaccine records. The technology he was referencing is not a microchip, has not been implemented in any manner and is not tied to the development, testing or distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.


Immunization Advisory Panels

Another measure of ensuring the safety of these, and actually ALL vaccines, are advisory panels. Both the CDC and the FDA have advisory panels that look at the data as these vaccines are being developed and tested. Both of these advisory panels are open to the public. You can watch the meetings as they discuss safety and effectiveness in detail. These advisory members are from all across the United States usually from Universities or Hospitals representing experts in their fields related to immunology.  Here is the video of the FDA Advisory Panel December 10th meeting to discuss and vote on approving the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use authorization. It is the full meeting and it is almost 9 hours long though, so make sure you plan a lunch break or watch it over several days!

Here is the link to the homepage for the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

As you can see, open and transparent meetings contribute to the accountability of the approval process of both the CDC and FDA. We encourage you to follow these links if you’d like to learn more.

In Closing

As I mentioned in the opening, this is a personal decision and each person should look into how and why you are making it. I watched the FDA Advisory Panels for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. These panelists do not work for these companies and when I watched them asking their questions of these companies, I watched mostly for sincerity. In other words, were these panelists sincerely trying to determine safety and effectiveness or had these companies compromised ALL of them. I found them believable and felt it would be also be incredibly unlikely that these companies would be able to comprise all of them. With each vaccine the Advisory Panel voted to approve them for emergency use. Putting my actions behind my research, I opted to receive the Pfizer vaccine as soon as it became available here and recently received the 2nd dose. So far I am fine and am grateful I was able to receive it. I did have some of the expected side-effects, namely soreness at the site of injection, which went away after a couple of days, and feeling slightly feverish about a day later.

Lastly, I hope this article has given a little more clarity and maybe understanding to the COVID-19 vaccine as it relates to Native Americans, and in the broader sense, to all Americans cautiously approaching these new technologies. If you have made your decision to get vaccinated, call our clinic at 313-846-6030 to make arrangements. Keep in mind the distribution of these vaccines is constantly evolving, which why we ask that you call us to get the most accurate response.


Postvention: The Unknown Step in Suicide Prevention

By Karyna Sitkowski & Seth Allard

In our culture, the topic and even the mere mention of the word “suicide” is shied away from. It’s a taboo subject among many, yet suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US which averages to about 132 deaths per day – and rising. While we pay a great deal of attention to suicide prevention, our community can be at a loss when someone dies by suicide, attempts suicide, or has a crisis involving strong thoughts of suicide. When someone dies by suicide, the grief, pain, and confusion that takes place in the aftermath can cause increased mental health needs for the friends, family members, and even coworkers and fellow students of a person who has died by suicide. In some cases, there is even an increased risk that others in a community or close personal circle will also attempt suicide. This phenomenon is often referred to as a “cluster” of suicides and is a potential reaction after a death has occurred in the community. We don’t just focus our efforts on ending suicides and helping people learn about and cope with suicide in the beginning – we must also use our time, compassion, and resources to help each other after a death by suicide has occurred. This lesser known prevention plan is called “postvention”.

According to the U.S. national guidelines developed by the Survivors of Suicide Loss Task Force, Postvention is “an organized response in the aftermath of a suicide to accomplish any one or more of the following – 1)To facilitate the healing of individuals from the grief and distress of suicide loss. 2) To mitigate other negative effects of exposure to suicide. 3) To prevent suicide among people who are at high risk after exposure to suicide”.  This devastating aftermath of a suicidal death can be decreased with a well-prepared postvention plan, which is overseen by a postvention team. The shock, trauma, and grief of a suicide can ripple across a community, and that ripple can last from anywhere to a few weeks to even years, effecting people on many different levels. This is where a successful postvention team comes into play.

According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, a postvention team is responsible for providing the community with immediate and long-term support, tailoring responses and services to the unique needs of suicide loss survivors, and involving survivors of suicide loss in planning and carrying out activities that support suicide loss survivors. An additional role of a postvention team is to prepare a plan that assists people with dealing with their grief and mental health after a suicide has occurred, and to be accessible to the community as a source of support and information. At American Indian Health and Family Services we have assembled a postvention team which is constantly updating and improving our postvention plan for the community. Our Postvention team is made up of many different professionals with mixed backgrounds. Our Behavioral Health Director, Suicide Prevention Program staff, Community Wellness staff, Agency leadership, and individuals with lived experience with suicide loss are all represented in our Postvention team. At American Indian Health and Family Services we also urge the community to get involved in both preventative activities and supporting the postvention process. The idea of involving oneself in suicide prevention or postvention can be daunting and even scary at times but when we overcome this fear and look at the bigger picture, we realize that simply listening to someone or asking a question can save a life and improve the lives of those who have been touched by suicide.

If you or someone you know has been effected by a loss by suicide, or if you know of a community member who has attempted suicide and is not receiving the support that he/she needs to recover, we encourage you to reach out to American Indian Health and Family Services to ask about how we can support you, your family and friends, or your organization.

Below are some additional suicide prevention and postvention resources that we encourage the community to explore and use as needed. While everyone is struggling during these difficult times, know that American Indian Health and Family Services is here for you.

National Hotlines & Online Chat

The Trevor Project

Crisis intervention and suicide prevention for teen/young adult LGBTQ individuals.

Trevor Project Life/Text Line 24/7
Trevor LifeLine          1-866-488-7386
TrevorText      678678

Suicide Prevention Lifeline




Crisis Text Line

Text “Home” to 741741



Free mental Health services for college students

Text “START” to 741-741 or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)


Lifeline Crisis Chat to chat online with crisis centers around the US


Disaster Distress Helpline

1-800-985-5990, or text TalkWithUs to 66746


American Psychiatric Association Answer Center

1-888-35-PSYCH (77924)

Available 8:30am – 6pm EST. Line refers you to local board-certified psychiatrists


American Psychological Association Public Education Line


Follow automated instructions and press 1. Operator refers you to local board certified psychologists


National Online Resources


The National Council for Behavior Health

Search for organizations that are committed to providing mental health services to anyone in the community who needs it regardless of their ability to pay.


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

SAMHSA provides information on mental health services and treatment centers through an online service locator. You can search by location, whether or not they provide services for youth, payment options, language spoken, etc.


National Empowerment Center

This site provides information and advocacy resources specifically about mental health recovery.


American Association of Suicidology

The AAS promotes research, public awareness programs, public education, and training for professionals and volunteers.


American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

AFSP provides information on suicide, support for survivors, prevention, research, and more.


Local Resources:


Six Feet Over

Suicide education and advocacy group in Michigan.

Local State Help Lines


State of Michigan, Suicide Prevention Coalitions and Crisis Lines, County Map with Contacts.,5885,7-339-71548_54879_54882_91271_91689—,00.html


NAMI Michigan

(517) 485-4049




Not Alone – A Story of Depression, Suicide, and Hope

by Seth Allard, Zero Suicide Project Manager

Below is a true-life story from a member of our community who is also a suicide attempt survivor. This story is given to us by a compassionate person who wants our community to know, that while this experience may not relate to everyone, feelings of depression and suicidal thoughts are not uncommon. Depression, suicidal thoughts, and experiences with suicide can touch us all. Depression does not segregate and isn’t biased – It effects everyone. If, during or after reading this story, you feel anxiety or feel that you need support, please seek help from our Behavioral Health Department at (313) 846-6030 or contact your current mental health provider. If you or anyone around you are having suicidal thoughts, call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or text 741-741. Please continue to read below the story for more information on mental health and the power that you and your community have to recognize and help each other seek and receive the support that you need.

We all have difficult times in our lives. At that given moment it is hard to cope with the situation with no bright side of a conclusion. In that moment your heart is racing, having confusing thoughts and even trying to come up with an escape. Escape you may ask. What type? Are you meaning suicide? While suicide and mental illness to some may be taboo, or even something that should be a hushed topic it shouldn’t be at all. While writing this real case scenario that happened as long as 21 years ago, still lingers in thoughts but also serves as a purpose that I am truly a suicide survivor.

Recalling back, being a youthful high school teenage student, I wasn’t so popular with my classmates but had a small circle of friends. I was living in the mental reality that things weren’t so truly normal. You had your typical cliques, bullies and what you would call outcasts. Yes, I was one of those outcasts. It wasn’t truly as I was hoping to land in but it was fine by me.

Growing up at home was a different story. I went to school like nothing bothered me putting on this fake smile. The home front was what I was scared of more than school. Having individuals who never really supported you and also bashing you never helped. There was no encouragement or praise. Praise was a sin. Always bashing you for your faults was truly a common inspirational hymn around home. That was where the depression grew and I sank. I sank into a deep hole burying myself alive and trying to climb out. It was the quicksand to my mental reality. I knew I had to seek help. It’s truly remarkable when your child (myself) comes and asks for help knowing something is wrong to only be brushed away with, “oh you will get over it and it will go away.” With no help in sight, it grew worse and worse until the day that I began harming myself. I hurt myself more and more, which eventually led to me having physical and emotional scarring.

You are probably wondering what the reasoning was behind this? Depression has no reasons, it could be from happy and bad times or even both. Looking back at this and growing into the adult I am now, I am not ashamed to talk about this as it made me stronger and appreciative that I have living to do. Being a survivor gave me the compassion to talk about this and advocate for helping those who seek help and that mental illness shouldn’t be a stereotype, a stigmata, or even taboo. As human beings we all have feelings, we have compassion and we all have ways to help someone even if it’s a quick phone call, a shoulder for someone to cry on, or even little nice gestures like telling someone hello. We truly do not know what anyone is going through.

It is extremely important to listen to and understand the stories of fellow community members who have experiences with depression, anxiety, and suicide. From this powerful and open story, we take away many lessons, thoughts, and areas of further guidance – guidance for ourselves as we navigate our own mental health, as we help those around us. We also receive insight on how we can think about and discuss mental health, depression, and suicide in our families and communities. By sharing our experiences, we learn that we are not alone – or as alone as we may believe – when it comes to challenges to our mental health and wellness. Depression and anxiety are commonly linked and the most common mental health issues faced by Americans.

We must not be judgmental when those near us come to us for support. Instead of being dismissive when someone shows signs of depression or talks about their emotional difficulties, try to listen and be supportive. It is very important to not talk over someone, or begin “solving” their problems, while someone is sharing their story. Recognizing a person’s pain and experiences can be an affirmation of their experiences, and is one of the most important steps in gaining trust and helping somebody who is coming to you for support.

It is easy to dismiss signs or symptoms of depression – he/she is just tired, irritated, having a bad day. It can be easy to walk past someone or not pay attention to each other’s words, mood, and emotions, and as a result, we miss an opportunity to recognize the need for help. Sometimes a person’s crying out comes in the form of a whisper, substance or alcohol use, bent shoulders, self-isolating, or many signs that are not thought of as obvious indicators that help is needed. When we see signs or symptoms of depression, we must ask in a nonjudgmental way if the person can share his/her story. How are you feeling? Can you tell me how things are going? Do you want to share what is making you feel this way? Then we must listen to that story, and be supportive in helping our loved ones and friends receive information, resources, support, and care.

We must be especially mindful that those around us may be thinking of suicide. We cannot allow our fear of asking questions like, “Are you thinking of suicide?” to overshadow the need to ask such important questions. If you need support in approaching a person about thoughts of suicide, seek a qualified mental health provider, counselor, or someone who has received training and is experienced in discussing mental health for advice. Feel free to call the Lifeline (see number above) to ask for support or contact the Behavioral Health Department at AIHFS to receive information and support on how to approach your friend, family member, or coworker in a supportive, but direct way.  

We must believe, and help others to believe, that there is Hope – Hope that even if we are experiencing deep depression, and even if we have thoughts that the only way to escape mental suffering, that there is a possibility of healing and strength. This is not the same as simply stating, “You’ll get over it” or “you’ll be fine.” Hope is the belief that there is something to live for. There can be a better tomorrow. There is a road to recovery.    

Lastly, there are times when we, as friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, feel a sense of guilt or responsibility for the mental health challenges and anything that may have happened as a result of a person’s depression, anxiety, or mental illness. Did I do enough? What else could I have done? Where did I mess up? Is this my fault? These questions and feelings of self-blame are common after losing someone to suicide or after a loved one attempts suicide. It is very important, at that point, to seek support from a counselor or somebody with training and experience in discussing these thoughts and feelings.

To receive training in Mental Health First Aid or Suicide Prevention, please contact the Zero Suicide Project at or call 313-846-6030.

Our Behavioral Health Clinic Is Open For Business!

For those older folks and fans of the Peanuts cartoons, you may remember Lucy’s booth advertising “psychiatric help” for a nickel. This iconic image shows Lucy, staring off into nothingness, with nobody to seek her deep and insightful advice. She has all the wisdom in the world and more than enough volume necessary to share it. Yet, there she sits, in her custom craft booth, lonely (and less a few nickels). This picture reminds me of our own wonderful therapists – Melissa, Mary Alice-Bernier, David, Michael, Mayim, and our stalwart clinical intern Ana. This image does not remind me of them because of how much they have in common, necessarily. None of our therapists would yell at you. They are counselors, not psychiatrists (though we are working on that, as are many Tribal health centers). Our offices are generally a little more highfalutin than a few pieces of wood slapped together on the side of the road.

What our therapists actually do have in common with Lucy, is that they are always here, leaning on an elbow, just waiting for another opportunity to serve you and your therapeutic and counseling needs. Okay, they also train quite extensively to improve their knowledge and skills, and do a million other tasks. But the point is that they are here for you! If any of you think that COVID has slowed down our determined team of Therapists from providing the best quality care to you, I am here to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. In 5 points, I am going to give you the skinny on what we can do for you and how we have made our Behavioral Health services safe and accessible!

1. We provide therapy virtually using secured technology and a HIPAA approved web platform. You can use virtual meetings if you have a camera on your laptop or desktop, or even on your phone. It is simple – you receive a linked invitation to join your therapist’s digital “waiting room” through email or text, they let you in when they see you are in the waiting room, and voila, you are face to face! We only ask that you PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEEEEASE…do not turn on your camera until you are ready.

We use, not Zoom, but you get the point.

2. We provide therapy over the phone as well, for those who are more “old school”. Mad respect to the OG, though.

3. We have purchased and placed clear barriers in our therapy offices, so that you can have in person visits, and we provide facemasks and hand sanitizer for your convenience and safety. Be sure to practice social distancing, use facemasks and hand sanitizer, and listen to all instructions for in person visits. Though some people have told me I take the social distancing and barriers too far when I am in the office…

4. We can mail or email you all intake or registration forms ahead of your visit, and will include pre-stamped envelopes for you convenience. We only ask that you pay attention to your mailbox and your emails so that the physical or electronic forms can be filled out and sent back in a timely manner…poor Dave here has been waiting for quite a while…

5. We provide traditional medicine as well! Please contact David Garcia at or call our clinic for more information. I promise he is livelier than the picture above when providing traditional medicine.

Please continue to pay attention to our announcements, and know that we are always available to answer any questions you may have. Feel free to call our Behavioral Health Clinic at (313) 846-6030 for more information on our services.



Your Behavioral Health Team at American Indian Health and Family Services


P.S. – I guess one other thing the therapists have in common with Lucy – I’d never trust them to hold a football for me in a million years…

Recession Proofing Your Career

John Peterson
I-LEAD Program Assistant

With fears of another recession on the horizon due to the outbreak of Covid-19, I thought it would be important to provide strategies to help people survive the turmoil. Whether you’re looking, just beginning, in the midst of your career, or aren’t sure what college or employment path to take, this article is for you.

Instead of focusing on careers that are recession proof, let’s focus on skills. The reason is because while college can be good for employment prospects, the skills you learn are the reason you get hired. Not every career requires you to go to college. Even if you don’t go to college, developing certain skills will put you at an advantage. What types of skills are recession proof? According to research, skills that fall into the category of cognitive and people/social tend to be the most recession proof. But what are cognitive and people/social skills? To define this, we’ll be using O*NET’s definitions. O*NET is a database containing descriptions for jobs, salary/wage averages, and definitions for skills. According to O*NET, cognitive abilities are, “Abilities that influence the acquisition and application of knowledge in problem solving.” These include skills like, deductive reasoning, mathematical reasoning, oral comprehension, and many others. People/social skills are “Developed capacities used to work with people to achieve goals.” Included are, coordination, instructing, negotiation, persuasion, service orientation, and social perceptiveness.

Why are these skills more recession proof? Cognitive skills generate new ideas. When faced with economic downturns, organizations need new ideas to turn themselves around. Companies or organizations doing the same thing as before will likely fall into bankruptcy. Individuals that contribute new and innovate ideas will be less susceptible to layoffs or termination should those occur. This is not a guarantee but if you get laid off, you’ll have an advantage in the labor market. During a recession you must continue to be a people person. Managing conflict is a highly valuable skill many employers seek in their employees. Additionally, being able to get a group of people to work together can be tough. By learning how to be in a leadership role, you can understand how to manage teams. The cooperation you create between people may save the organization.

What careers require cognitive or people/social skill? Generally, both sets of skills go together but sometimes certain professions focus on one set of skills over another. For example, careers that require cognitive abilities are statisticians, chemical engineers, and Clinical Data managers. Next, how do you develop these skills? College is straightforward because it’s a place you can develop these skills. What about after college, or trade school? Many workplaces offer trainings for you to develop your skills. You can find webinars online, colleges and programs may be willing to pay for the training. Sites like Skillshare or Udemy have online courses you can take.

Another way to self-improvement is to read books that build skills. Are you interested in learning more about leadership? There are plenty of books on leadership out there to choose from! If you find you don’t have time to read, then think about listening to an audiobook. Check your local library to see if you have access to online audio books. Many libraries utilize the Libby App (  Articles can also be a great way to learn about new trends for skill development. They may not be as detailed as a book, but they can provide a general direction for where you can start looking. Some organizations also provide free materials you can use to develop skills. There are numerous sources you can use to develop your skills. Don’t be afraid to look around to see what’s available.

Some professions have associations you can join that provide training seminars. These are great ways to expand your knowledge and to meet people. Association memberships on resumes can show employers that you are serious about your profession. If interested, association memberships is good for finding a mentor. Mentorships are a great way to improve one’s skills. Their experiences can provide valuable guidance towards your own skill development. If a situation at work arises, a mentor will be able to provide advice on how to handle it. Then you can actively apply the advice given and learn from first-hand experience. A mentor may also be able to recommend certain materials for you to read or trainings to attend. They can also help you network and make employment recommendations.

What if you’re unable to do any of the above things mentioned? Volunteering with a nonprofit is a great way to build your skills! From interacting with people to making spreadsheets nonprofits can give you valuable experience. Nonprofits will train you on how to perform the needed tasks or send you to a training. Be sure to talk to the volunteer coordinator at the nonprofit of your choice to see what opportunities are available to you. It may lead to a job offer.

Even if you do all of the above, you may still be laid off. If this happens there are a few steps you can take. First, look at your employee handbook to see what your organizations policy is for layoffs and severance. You may be able to get unemployment, payment for unused vacation/sick days and other benefits. If these things aren’t clear, be sure to sit down with HR and discuss what the procedure is. Talk with your boss about your concerns if a recession does occur. Discuss what your day to day tasks are and why you’re needed. If you are laid off, ask about future collaboration projects or consulting or part time options. Ask permission to use them as a reference while you look for another job.

Overall, there isn’t a full-proof way to make sure you’re not affected by a recession. No matter the number of skills you have, sometimes things will just be out of your hands. But developing your cognitive and social/people skills will improve your bounce back time. Use every resource that is available to you in the process. You’ll be a stronger candidate for positions and employed quicker than most people who haven’t developed their cognitive skills.

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