To heal addiction, we must first heal the spirit
Ya’at’eeh shi’k’e doo shi’ Dine’e. May peace and harmony be with you always! Wussup?
I recently received an e-mail informing me of KTNN presenting a series of talks about meth, and I couldn’t help but to reflect upon the social problems on our rez. While meth is a current addiction of our youth that’s flowing to our adults, I’d like to address the number one killer of humans and families on our rez and that is alcohol!
The irony is that no one is concerned with the abuse of these substances until after the fact. We never address the causes or cure of current addicts. Sure, in order to address the issue we put on a series of educational and informative material s but we never talk about it at home, the work place or social meetings until after it becomes an epidemic and then we focus only on information in hopes of prevention, so we focus all our efforts upon the youth.
Back to alcohol, which was the first addictive drug introduced to our peoples in order to break the spirit of our warriors and inflict all sorts of abuse upon our families. From our sheepherder to the president of our nation, alcohol affects every social class group within our society and it negatively affects every family on our rez!
It never ceases to amaze me that no matter what rez back road I take or major highway, I see empty bottles and cans littered along the side of the road. Sometimes with bottle in hand, I see broken people lying along the road passed out! Not a pretty sight in a nation consumed with the idea of walking in beauty! What’s more alarming and saddening is the number of drunks in the nearby border towns and the number of our people in border town jails because of alcohol abuse.
What are we to do? What caused this? How can we stop it? These are the questions we need to address and not merely dismiss the problem by saying, it’s his/her fault! Is it? Really? What is our nation doing to address the causes of hopelessness that leads to our self-destruction and abuse? To merely proclaim in our laws that alcohol is illegal is not addressing the reality that alcohol is a major problem on our rez, caused by losing hope because of lack of jobs to provide for our families and giving us self-worth!
What are the elements that cause us to lose hope? Is it the lack of jobs to pay for rent, food and clothing? What has been taken away from us to keep us from being self-sufficient? Is because of forced relocations, boarding school experiences, public housing initiatives that have divided our families and taken us away from our elders and sheep camps? Have livestock reductions, lack of water rights to irrigate our crops such as corn, melons, bean and potatoes, and our inability to build our own homes without a replacement to sustain our livelihood, perhaps, caused this hopelessness.
Without adequate jobs, we cannot afford these high priced homes or rent on the rez! We can’t even afford the electricity bills or water bills. How are we going to take care of our basic needs?
What about the psychological scars that lead to hopelessness, such as the scars from abandonment due to forced relocation and illegal adoptions and abortions; the psychological scars from the Bureau of Indian Affairs killing our sheep, horses, cattle; the psychological scars from the forced boarding school system; the psychological scars from forced mission schools that tried to break down our faith and belief system; the psychological scars from mixed marriages and duel identity; the psychological scars from physical, mental and sexual abuse as a result of alcohol abuse and other substances. Could this be a cause of alcohol abuse? Is this why the U.S. government, through the BIA, has been so destructive to our culture and successful in its genocide mission by applying these tactics?
Moreover, if we cannot answer these essential questions to survival, then I ask what is our purpose to survive? If we can’t answer that question, then where is hope? If I can’t face the reality of a hopeless environment, then I may as well drown in alcohol to escape the feeling of hopelessness and failure or better yet—I’ll leave my homeland!
My grandfather who was a medicine man said to heal a patient one must be healed both spiritually, as well as physically. While white man’s medicine only heals the physical being, we Navajos believe we need to heal spiritually. We have lost this philosophy of healing the spirit, because that is what we need to do to our addicts—heal the spirit! We need more traditional counselors and psychiatrists that understand Navajo philosophy in order to start curing our alcoholics.
How many spiritual doctors do we have on the rez? There in lies the problem! I heard that we have a group of medicine men that called themselves the Medicine Men’s Association located in Window Rock? R-e-a-l-l-y? What do they do? What are they doing in Window Rock? Is this another political action committee or do they serve the Dine? Has any constructive advice come from these holy men to cure our addicts?
It is good that we are talking about the newest addiction on the rez—meth. Nevertheless, I ask what we are doing to address the causes and cure and not just talk about it? Moreover, is our government supporting our cure with real money and jobs? Alternatively, is it just paying outrageous amounts of money on consultants?
With the millions being wasted by our government and with the millions of dollars being wasted in excess salaries to a top-heavy government, we should have several rehab centers in every agency!
Do not just think about it. Act, before it is too late and hopelessness causes our people to become extinct!
Ha’goo’nee! May you all walk in beauty, if not, may you start walking in beauty!
(Peter June Corbell resides in Kaibeto.)