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Healthy Nations Initiative

About Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska

About the Program

"Healthy Nations Circles of Support"
Circles of Support’s mission is dedicated to the promotion of healthy living and reducing the impact of substance abuse through traditional Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian tribal values. It is the Central Council’s hope that their unique culture and values will be the stronghold towards health and wellness. In addition to the funds contributed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the tribal community and collaborating agencies are invested for over $200,000 in direct local support and in-kind contributions of funds, staff time, facility space, food and materials, thereby ensuring the program is financially viable and owned by the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian nations.

The Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Tribal membership totals 20,748. At this time 16,000 members reside in the Circles of Support target area. The target area, spread over 43,000 square miles is inhabited by 20 communities. The tribal membership comprises 24 percent of the total regional population and more than 50 percent of substance abuse treatment center clients. The strong family- based social structure require participation of all age groups in order to succeed.
The primary focus of Phase 2 Circles of Support is to build community-based initiatives for the prevention, intervention and treatment of substance abuse through practice and promotion of cultural traditions and values. The Phase 2 Circles of Support project uses a key strategy -- mobilizing the local and regional communities to promote the coordination of all identifiable resources to support individual, family and community wellness.

The project serves all 18 Central Council communities with two levels of service. Four Level 1 communities receive intensive program support services, including the hiring of a local Community Advisor. Fourteen Level 2 communities receive products, resources and technical assistance from Circles of Support. The project depends upon a Regional Circle and Local Circles to advise and conduct project activities.

The Regional Circle serves as the hub of regional program activity. The Circle sets program direction, monitors and evaluates program activities, develops a regional advocacy plan, and collaborates with other organizations to meet program goals. The membership involves representatives from Native institutions, agencies, and villages, including a Native elder and youth representative.

Local Circles are the hub of local community activity. Local Circles, supported by Community Advisors, are action forums, bringing together elders, artists, service providers, youth and recovering community members. The Local Circles develop and implement education, prevention, and recovery activities. Local Circles work to increase community participation in community based, healthy activities which reinforce positive family and community values.

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Host Community/Organization

The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska serves 20 communities spread over 43,000 square miles of Alaska’s spectacularly beautiful Panhandle. Known to Alaskans as Southeast, the region lies along a 550-mile strip of coastline and inland waterways, bordered by Canada on the north, south and east, with the Gulf of Alaska on the west.

The Central Council was named 50 years ago, but would now more accurately be called the Central Council of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Tribes, since it serves Metlakatla, a Tsimshian community, as well as Tsimshian Indians in other villages. Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian are three different cultures; distant ancestors have lived in a marine environment for 3,000-5,000 years. Each group had a different language and many within-group dialects. Tlingit people traditionally lived furthest north, Haida people inhabited the Prince of Wales Island area and Tsimshian people lived furthest south.

Our cultures were economically strong, and established commercial trade along the southeast Alaska coastline and far inland. It has been said that probably no other hunting-gathering culture in the history of man had organized an economic, family, political and social system equal to that of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people. Kinship systems based on clan memberships, oratory skill, statesmanship and the healing arts were essential to these cultures.

Most value systems persist today, and form the structure for Healthy Nations Circles of Support.

The Healthy Nations Circles of Support program is located within the Office of the President. The decision to place the project at the highest level was made by the Substance Abuse Committee and the President for two primary reasons:

  • (i) It will lend the authority and weight of the President’s office to the program in the eyes of the tribe as a whole; and
  • (ii) Success of a comprehensive substance abuse initiative requires the participation of all Central Council departments, which the Coordinator can access because of the location in the President’s office.

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Strategy 1: Public Awareness Campaign

Our focus was to get the name and concepts behind Healthy Nations out to as many people as we could in as many different activities, collaborations, workshops and media as possible. We wanted to educate our Native population on substance abuse issues and give them opportunities to experience a healthier way of enjoying life. Of course, all the existing programs could not escape the conclusion: in spite of isolated attempts to address substance abuse it continued to be a major source of health, social and economic problems. It was believed that a united, community-based approach against substance abuse would move us toward change. Circles of Support could assist and marshal our forces and give our young people the training and strength they need to survive.

Healthy Nations selected the winning slogan entry “TOGETHER WE CAN” from a tribal member from Saxman, Alaska, February 1994. The slogan contest was offered to all 18-community school districts with positive response and entries. From this a logo design that depicts, “Together we can do what we cannot do alone”. The winning design was selected July 31, 1994. Since then, six different t-shirts were purchased, one baseball cap, a button, pin, pen, pencil, ribbon and two backpacks creating community awareness. These helped promote various activities or projects within the 18 communities.

Throughout the program life the following organizational newsletters were utilized to publicize the Healthy Nations Program and activities on a quarterly basis. These were, but not limited to: CCTHITA “HEALTHY CHOICES, HEALTHY LIFESTYLES”, CCTHITA Tribal News, SEALASKA Corporation, GOLDBELT Incorporated, Huna Totem Corporation, Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) and Tlingit & Haida Regional Housing Authority Newsletter.

Native Leaders Meeting sponsored by Healthy Nations brought together 26 Native leaders throughout Southeast to attend this all-day meeting to focus and address substance abuse issues. Presentations from staff identified the problem through statistics, programs or projects. In conclusion, the majority of the leaders recognized Healthy Nations for their tremendous efforts in bringing key organizations and agencies together and the fact that we did establish trust within our communities to begin the necessary steps in working with our people. These Community Workshops were a collaborative effort between these community-service providers and was sponsored by Healthy Nations. The agenda included: “Partnering/Prevention,” FAS/FAE, Domestic Violence, Welfare Reform, Natives for Sobriety, Tobacco, Suicide Prevention, HIV & Risk Reduction Strategies, Substance Abuse, Teen Parenting, Community Strengths, and Action Planning. The Elder’s REACH Conference was a collaborative effort with Tribal Family & Youth Services, and Healthy Nations did a bulk mail-out to all Elders, gathered door prizes, and secured entertainment (The Drum Dancers) for the event. Substance abuse information handouts and program report was made available with Healthy Nations display.

OTHER MEDIA SOURCES: Juneau Empire, GCI Alaska Cable Network – TV, Capital City Weekly Newspaper, KINY “Capital Chat Show”, KJNO/KJUD Radio, Southeast Alaska “Native Talk Radio”, KTOO Radio, Regional annual meetings of Alaska Native Brotherhood & Sisterhood Convention, Central Council Annual Convention, Community School TV Channel, and local community newspapers. Word of mouth was also very successful within Native Country!

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Strategy 2: Community-Wide Prevention

We wanted to collaborate with the various organizations within the communities on substance abuse and related topics and choosing healthier lifestyles. All Healthy Nations activities focused primarily on youth and family.

Healthy Nations adopted “HELPING KIDS SUCCEED – ALASKAN STYLE”, a book written by and for Alaskans based on the Search Institute Development/Assets Framework. The book was purchased by the Association of Alaska School Boards and Healthy Nations assisted in providing training and distribution to the following communities: Juneau, Kake, Hoonah, Wrangell, Petersburg, Haines, Craig and Klawock.

In collaboration with the Natives for Sobriety, we introduced a new and creative three-week youth project titled “THE NATIVE VALUES PROJECT”, bringing 55 youth together ranging from 10 - 17 years of age. 24% of the youth were “at-risk” and referred through juvenile court. These individuals learned how to support each other and we received comments on how they took care of each other, how the older youth helped prepare the younger children at practices and/or get ready for performances – it was like they were a family. The curriculum consisted of classes where they were formally introduced to the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB) and the Alaska Native Sisterhood (ANS). Other classes or projects they learned was water safety skills, fishing from the beach shores, the exposure to the art of Native storytelling, they learned the difference between “potlatch” and “potluck”, they received valuable information on the subsistence issues in Alaska, they learned how to make regalia. Included in the curriculum was collaborating with public service providers for presentations to the youth on substance abuse and tobacco: TATU’s presentation was titled, “SMOKE FISH, NOT TOBACCO” and they listened to individuals who shared their struggle in overcoming alcohol. They learned who they were, where their family crest name and history came from and they were introduced to Tlingit singing and dancing. Their enthusiasm and eagerness to learn more about culture and tradition played a major part to the success of this project. Juneau Empire and Capital City Weekly newspapers featured a number of stories on the Native Values Project and the Drum Dancers!
Individual members of the group are continually asked to speak at community gatherings and the Tongass Community Counseling Center recognizes the group, as two of the youth served as a representative for their program. Most notable is the fact that all “at-risk” youth of the Native Values Project are in the Drum Dancers. The group sponsored monthly Family Nights with 90% parent/family participation, held “Talking Circles” as needed and assisted in community activities and projects. Within the first two-years the Drum Dancers have won awards: 1) Outstanding Youth Group, 2) Community Award (the group assists and promotes drug and alcohol free meetings, projects, events and activities), and 3) Spirit of Youth (State of Alaska award. Two members of the group were flown to Anchorage to accept this award on television). During the summer 2000 Jeannie Green of “HEARTBEAT ALASKA” featured a short documentary on The Drum Dancers. The group has appeared on television three times: Alaska’s Superstation, KJUD – Spirit of Youth (twice), and KATH TV featuring Mendenhall Glacier performance. Healthy Nations continually supported the Drum Dancers by providing meeting space, assisting with the promotion of the group and monetary donations. They will begin fundraising efforts to attend extended invitations from Hawaii, New Mexico and Arizona tribal events.

Youth Meetings:  Healthy Nations attempted a number of times to bring youth together for the purpose of them taking the initiative for projects and activities designed and geared for them. This was done at different locations (CCTHITA, Juneau T&H Community Council, in-schools). The youth voiced their concerns and opinions aloud. Two projects emerged from the meeting: Youth Stop Smoking Program and a door installed to the free clinic at the center.

Stand for Children Day:  Healthy Nations sponsored this national event by inviting the communities to take a stand for children at the State Capitol Steps with recognized Native speakers, Lt. Governor Fran Ulmer, representatives from the Governor’s Cabinet for Children and two Native youth were featured as special speakers. The Healthy Nations Program received an award from Stand for Children Foundation.

Santa’s Merry Christmas Workshop:  This annual event was sponsored by Healthy Nations and community organizations (ANB/ANS, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Johnson O’Malley, Tribal Youth & Family Services, Goldbelt Incorporated, SEARHC Health Promotions, T/H Regional Housing Authority, DZ Culture Club, other Central Council departments). Substance abuse referral information was made available and as an incentive to pick these informational handouts up, an extra door prize ticket was given to the individuals. It is also an opportunity for service organizations to advertise or promote causes.

During 1999 and 2000 all Healthy Nation functions provided information on alcohol and drug abuse. Information was obtained from but not limited to: SEARHC Health Promotions, National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency, Juneau Police Department DARE Program, SHANTI of Southeast to distribute to the conference/meeting participants.

  • Youth Forum on Violence: Community-wide special meeting called by the Mayor of Juneau.
  • Grief Counseling & Bereavement: This was a collaborative effort with a Medical Social Worker from Juneau Hospice Health Care. This special gathering addressed grief counseling and bereavement due to the tragic loss of two young children (a Headstart child was killed when crossing the street and another child in middle school hung herself in her home). This was an open CCTHITA meeting encouraged by President Thomas.
  • Youth Commission Meeting: Gathering of service providers who work with youth. 24 –29 individuals took part in these evening meetings (7-9 PM) that were offered by the City and Borough of Juneau.
  • Youth Empowerment Summit (Y.E.S): This was a collaborative effort with the City of Saxman. Healthy Nations promoted Y.E.S. and sent out all materials to the 18 communities within Southeast Alaska. Youth from Juneau, Hoonah, Angoon and Kake attended.
  • Smokescream: Antismoking activity collaborated with TATU.

Healthy Nations former staff member Willard Jackson is portrayed in “CARVED FROM THE HEART” Video (30-minute documentary inspired by Native Tsimshian Carver Stan Marsden), a portrait of grief, healing and community. Healthy Nations produced a 5-minute journal video featuring T/H tribal members produced by Torr Bonney. This video was shown at RWJF Grantee Meeting, Healthy Nations meetings and activities.

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Strategy 3: Early Identification,  Intervention and Referral

CODE RED: Middle School workshop focusing on substance abuse issues sponsored by Healthy Nations.

Native Youth Rally Planning Meeting: 28 public service providers attended this important meeting in support of our youth and for the purpose of planning this activity.

“Building Healthy Lifestyles & Making Healthy Choices”: Southeast Youth Retreat featuring inspirational speakers who did outstanding presentations. Healthy Nations, T&H Regional Housing Authority and the Johnson O’Malley Program sponsored this retreat. Two youth learned to make healthy choices: one completed substance abuse treatment and was hired as a student leader with the Southeast Alaska Guidance Association (SAGA). The other youth is actively involved with Native organizations such as the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB). He is now a young adult and recognized as a future leader for his community.

Juneau Tlingit & Haida Youth Leadership Workshop: Easter breakfast, Team Building and Leadership Games, sponsored by Healthy Nations and the Johnson O’Malley Program.

Anger Management: Ed Linsell, Prevention Specialist, Tongass Community Counseling provided training to the CCTHITA staff and interested family members on Anger Management. Many departments deal with clients that suffer from domestic violence or substance abuse.

“Reality Check Journey”: Youth Workshop sponsored by Healthy Nations. 29 middle and high school youth from Juneau, Kake, Wrangell, and Hoonah attended. Agenda included: Alcoholism & Youth, AIDS/HIV, Violence & Relationships, Circle Peacemaking Project, Youth Court, Helping Kids Succeed – Alaskan Style" and Tobacco Advocacy Training. 

“Get a Pulse on Reality”: Youth Workshop sponsored by Healthy Nations in collaboration with the communities of Klawock and Craig. Agenda included: Elder Message/Blessing, Anger Management, AIDS/HIV, D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), Improv Troops, CCTHITA Video, Alcohol Education, Drug Intervention, Inhalant Abuse, Work Discussion, TATU, Youth Surveys, Sobriety Walk, Teen Dance, Parent Meeting, and Community Potluck.

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Strategy 4: Substance Abuse Treatment  and Relapse Prevention

Juneau Local Circle (Network of community partners): We identify upcoming projects, events, new and existing recovery and after/care programs and/or address community issues offering solutions. Individuals are given the opportunity to introduce themselves and to help promote future meetings, workshops, events and activities.

Mayor’s Task Force on Youth: All programs in Juneau and Southeast Alaska that are affiliated with youth. This was developed and is similar to the Juneau Local Circle where agency representatives report past, present and future youth projects, address issues and offer solutions. Grant applications to funding agencies were presented as a collaborative effort. During FY 2000 a State of Alaska Grant was received for a preventative youth substance abuse program for Southeast Alaska.
Juneau Tobacco Prevention Network: (State of Alaska, Division of Public Health, Section of Community Health & Emergency Medical Services, Teens Against Tobacco Use, SEARHC Health Promotions, and supportive community partners).
Healthy Nations Regional Circle Board: Included 15 members: SEARHC, Seven Circles Coalition/Sitka, Sealaska Corporation, Huna Totem Corporation, CCHITA Delegate, CCTHITA Johnson O’Malley Program, CCTHITA Headstart, CCTHITA Tribal Youth & Family Services, Elder Representative, Youth Representative, T&H Regional Housing Authority, Family Services/Yakutat, Community Advisor/Kake, Community Advisor/Wrangell, and Community Advisor/Hoonah. These members received the following training and/or information: FAS/FAE, Juneau Recovery Hospital, SEARHC Programs, Gastineau Human Services, Community Schools Youth & Family Services, Tongass Community Counseling, Circle Peacemaking Project, HIV/AIDS, Lemon Creek Correctional Institution, A Medical Prospective from a SEARHC Doctor, State of Alaska Judicial Court System, National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence Affiliate Programs and Services, Natives For Sobriety, Culture & Traditional opportunities, Program Sustainability, Youth Issues and Family Well-being.

Healthy Nations published and distributed “CIRCLES OF SUPPORT” 1997 SOUTHEAST RESOURCE DIRECTORY to all 18 communities. This directory provided contacts, phone numbers and addresses for local alcohol and drug programs and agencies available in each of the 18 communities. Healthy Nations published and distributed an updated “HEALTHY NATIONS RESOURCE DIRECTORY”, February 2000 to all 18 communities.

Weekly Youth Group Meetings: Attendance was sporadic ranging from 8 to 14 youth.

Zach Gordon Youth Center “ASSETS” Meeting: This meeting was attended by the Program Manager who decided to present “ASSETS” to the Regional Circle Board. It is a model that describes what we each can do to help kids succeed.

Talking Circle Facilitator Class: This class was sponsored by Healthy Nations. The beginning set the stage and provided understanding of the spirituality of this as Natives for Sobriety facilitated a Talking Circle for the participants. A handout explaining this was distributed and a discussion within the group was done.

“Wellness & Spirituality”: Conference sponsored by Healthy Nations. Topics included: “Talking Circle, Sweat Lodge, Spirituality: Past, Present, Future, How Addictions Affect Us, Dealing With Stress, Spirit Voices, Introduction to Healing Touch, Spiritual House of Sobriety, Family & Personal Experience-Strength & Hope, Alanon & Alateen, Hoonah Spirit Camp, and the Drum Dancers.

We wanted to enrich our people with cultural awareness. Healthy Nations adopted “NATIVE VALUES” written by Dr. Walter Soboleff. The Hoonah Indian Association Domestic Violence Task Force adopted selected “NATIVE VALUES” for their “Code of Ethics.” Dr. Walter Soboleff went further and developed the 31 Tlingit protocols that have been distributed to all participants at Healthy Nation activities. These “Protocols” provided insight to the very traditional respect shown to all people.

In 1993, the Recovery/Support systems “in place” and recognized by our community tribal members were not available, not accessible for a number of reasons, not utilized or even unknown to individuals seeking help. The high cost for aftercare treatment affected many families and it was easier to step right back into “drinking and/or drugging” then to follow through. Healthy Nations began to advertise and promote prevention via newsletters and the computer. Personal invitations were directed to prevention projects to formally introduce themselves to the community through Juneau Local Circle or to the Regional Circle Board. There were actually only three sources tribal members identified as drug and alcohol prevention: 1) private offices, 2) NCADD, and 3) Mt. Edgecumbe/SEARHC. More and more of our community groups have accepted and promoted the various “Talking Circles” and new support groups. The majority of the people Healthy Nations reached at the recent Sobriety Celebration 2000 were tribal members in recovery who stood up proudly to announce their success, their struggles and the continued need for these types of alternative activities for the community. One Elder stated that she is “proud of the work Healthy Nations has done through the years and the fact that the whole family was included.” Judge Froehlich from the State of Alaska’s Judicial Court System recognized Healthy Nation’s past accomplishments and our work with the youth. He agreed to work with the youth committee for the Native Values Project and was the judge who referred the 24% “at-risk” youth to this project. Noteworthy is that Judge Froehlich is an avid fan of the Drum Dancers and rarely misses a performance. He also assisted with HNBC (Healthy Nations Basketball Competition) and attended Juneau Local Circle Meetings regularly. Never has a tribal agency had the opportunity to bring in someone in this position to be part of or take part in meetings or activities. Judge Froehlich has reported to the Mayor’s Task Force on Youth a number of times his support and endorsement of the Healthy Nations projects.

Native Presenter Training:  Healthy Nations sponsored event covering, “Why be a Native Presenter? Assess your Expertise, Recognize Your Skill Level, Where and How to do your Research, Identify your Message, How to Deliver your Message, Self-Evaluation.” The purpose of this training was due to community interest from non-native organizations, agencies, and businesses desiring a Native Presenter to address certain topics for meetings, trainings or activities.

“Survival of Culture Through Leadership” Traditional Leaders & Youth Conference:  Healthy Nations assisted Sealaska Corporation with this two-day conference. 85 Elders and 45 youth participated from 21 communities in Alaska, Seattle and California. Healthy Nations staff assisted in the planning, organizing, coordinating and participating in this conference.

Camp Counselor Training:  Healthy Nations has always been involved with the youth culture camps sponsored by Juneau Tlingit & Haida Community Council. Healthy Nations offered training for the camp counselors that included storytelling methods, art projects, planning, coordinating and scheduling, job responsibilities, health, and techniques in working with children.

“Healing from the 4 Directions” Conference:  This conference was held in Anchorage and brought together individuals within the health field - either professionally certified or cultural practitioners. Special featured keynote speakers addressed conference participants each morning then each had an opportunity to select classes to attend throughout the day (faith healers, healing touch, mediation, herbs, new practices, general practices, medicine woman). The mission was to demonstrate the timeliness of the traditional prophesies.

Culture Awareness Training: This conference, sponsored by Healthy Nations, was approved for 15 hours of culture consideration certification or re-certification through NCADD. This was powerful with recognized Native leaders and educators. Topics covered: “Indigenous People and Transitions, Culture Values & Spirituality, Family Values, Tlingit Social Issues, Communication & Language, The Tlingit in Drama and Culturally Relevant Services.”

ASAP (All Substance Abuse Providers) I & II: These meetings were sponsored by Healthy Nations. The focus of both of these conferences was to encompass the majority of programs that deal with substance abuse. All agencies were invited to present their goals and objectives and services available. Agenda items included: Anger Ties, New Approaches 2000, National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence Affiliate, Alaska Department of Corrections, personal testimonies from youth and adults, Natives Making a Difference, Youth Placement, and two panels (5 agency representatives from various programs) discussions – one panel that addressed youth issues.

“Journey to Our Identity” Protocol Conference: Healthy Nations sponsored this conference, the first of it’s kind with the focus on Native Protocol – an important facet within our culture. The speakers included Southeast Alaska Native leaders that had the knowledge, expertise and leadership to address topics that included Ceremonies and Protocol, Tribal Census Information, Clans, Making Amends/Peace, Family Values, Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Alaska Native Sisterhood, Eagle Youth Speaker, Raven Youth Speaker, Songs-Dance-Regalia, Oratory Potlatches, performances by the Raven’s Voice Theatre and the Drum Dancers.

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Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska
Healthy Nations Circles of Support

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