The Fourth Annual Men and Women’s Gathering was held August 27-29 at Talking Stick Resort. This conference continues to bring our Native communities together through various workshops in which participants are given the opportunity to share their ideas and experiences with those in attendance. It is hosted by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s Life Enhancement and Resource Network (LEARN) and Fatherhood and Healthy Relationships Program.
Speakers included SRPMIC President Diane Enos; Kevin Poleyumptewa, SRPMIC Fatherhood and Family Resources Specialist; Robin Poor Bear, a member of the Spirit Lake Tribe in North Dakota; and Herewini Jones, a speaker of Maori heritage from New Zealand.
Poor Bear is an advocate working to raise awareness about sexual abuse, child abuse and domestic violence. Kind Hearted Woman, a documentary based on Poor Bear’s personal experiences, has been aired on the PBS show Frontline and is available for viewing on the PBS Web site.
Poor Bear said, “The [SRPMIC] Fatherhood Program is so awesome. The amount of work put into it, all for this program to flourish, is amazing. We need to implement this type of program [into the rest of Indian Country]. It’s encouraging our men to take better care of themselves, so they can care for their loved ones. It’s saving our warriors. It’s such a blessing. I took away more [from this Men and Women’s Gathering] than what I gave.”
Special events included entertainment by the SRPMIC Senior Steppers and the Employee Volunteer Choir. Kind Hearted Woman was screened on the evening of August 27, and on the evening of August 28, participants took part in a Cultural Exchange in the main ballroom at Talking Stick Resort.
“I liked the workshops; they were very informative. The keynote speakers and just everything [was] by far one of the best [conferences I’ve been to]. The rooms, people, energy and comfort all added to the experience. This is a real good place,” said participant Maria Madril, program coordinator for the Native TANF Program (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) in Sacramento, California.
The Men and Women’s Gathering, now a national conference, proved to be a hit with participants. The SRPMIC Fatherhood Program is a model all across Indian Country. Next year’s event will be held August 26-28, 2014, at the Talking Stick Resort.
Here is a brief overview of a few of this year’s conference workshops.
Native American Family Wellness
This workshop was taught by Candace Johnson-Hampton, wellness consultant at CRJH Wellness, LLC. Through a PowerPoint presentation and group discussion, Johnson-Hampton explored healthy lifestyles for individuals and families, healthy activities, and how to reduce health disparities. Participants were given the chance to express their concerns. A handout with wellness resources was given to each participant.
Native Health HIV Program
Taught by Deidre Greyeyes, HIV prevention specialist at NATIVE HEALTH in Phoenix, this workshop gave an overview of HIV/AIDS within Indian Country, including statistics, trends, case management and testing sites. Those who attended also received information on rapid HIV testing and various HIV programs and services within the Valley.
Gangs, Drugs and Fatherhood
This workshop was taught by SRPMIC Fatherhood and Family Resources Specialist Kevin Poleyumptewa with Elliot Sneezy, a consultant/instructor at Elliot Sneezy Education and Empowerment Training, a former police officer with experience serving in the gang unit. There was a screening of “The Right Choice,” a Native American public service announcement that looks at issues within Indian Country. Participants expressed their concerns about drug and gang problems within their communities.
I Don’t Need Any Help, Really! Male Help-Seeking Behavior
This session discussed ways to encourage individuals to ask for help when they hesitate to, which particularly applies to men. Neil Tift, director of the Father Involvement Program at the Child Crisis Center, talked about how male single parents are most likely not asking for help from programs that can provide healthcare, housing, family support and other services for their families and also themselves.
“There is a wide range of cultural, social and programmatic reasons that contribute to this issue,” said Tift, and he gave suggestions that offered insight into understanding males better.
He explained how males are different from females in the brain and body. For example, “Women can multitask,” said Tift, “and males are not all that great at doing that.”
He and the group went over identifying and addressing common barriers males have and how to get through to them—for instance, talking face-to-face can make men feel the need to be confrontational, so it’s better to talk to them while standing or sitting side-by-side.
Tift had the men and women in the group play a vocabulary game. Everyone was given 60 seconds to list all the words they could think have related to feelings. The women came up with more words than the men did.
“This doesn’t mean that we are dumb,” said Tift. “Males just do not know how to express feelings.”
Integration of Housing and Behavioral Health Innovation
Native American Connections (NAC) is a Phoenix-based organization that designs behavioral health, housing and community development services that are culturally appropriate for Native Americans. Ken Lewis and Antonio Maestas from NAC gave a presentation about the NAC residential treatment facilities throughout the Valley, with a breakdown of each facility, its services and location.
NAC has been successfully designing properties that offer affordable behavioral health services for Native Americans and cultural settings, like talking circles and sweat lodges, which are available for the use of residents as well as for other cultural events.
Depending on the facility, the residential services are affordable and may even be free to those who are seeking help for substance abuse or mental health issues.
Many Native Americans are homeless throughout the state and city of Phoenix, and NAC does its best to reach out to as many as it can find to get them help and a roof over their head. “We are a Community development organization,” said Lewis.
Each property has support services for adults and children and is LEED certified using green-building strategies. They are oriented to transit (bus) routes and are designed with low-cost utilities. Emergency cases and walk-in appointments are accepted. There is also a 12-week intensive outpatient program for adolescents ages 13-17.
For more information, contact Native American Connections at (602) 252-2865 or visit them on the Web at www.nativeconnections.org.