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White Sky Hope Center Looks to Community, Culture and Land to Support Healing

The White Sky Hope Center is located on the Rocky Boy Reservation of the Chippewa Cree Tribe, an area rich in cultural heritage and tradition. The Center was originally called the Rocky BoyChemical Dependency Center, but was later renamed to honor a great Tribal leader - White Sky. The mission of White Sky Hope, as an addiction recovery center, is to address community substance abuse through collaborative provision of culturally competent, holistic prevention, intervention, and treatment services to community members. Like many Tribal communities, the effects of substance abuse and behavioral health issues are far reaching into the adult and youth populations on the Rocky Boy Reservation. Through the support of the community and the development of robust MSPI activities and strategies, the White Sky Hope Center is making changes and empowering people to "achieve sobriety and to reach their fullest spiritual and cultural potential."

While the Center uses many contemporary, evidence-based treatments techniques, White Sky Hope relies upon the medicine wheel approach as its primary treatment modality. The wheel provides a circular healing model to treatment. White Sky Hope defines the medicine wheel model as "a holistic, right-brained, spiritual approach towellness that targets the dysfunctional behaviors and promotes a circular model that embodies mental (thinking), emotional (feeling), physical (movement), and spiritual (connection)". The Center provides many services geared toward this model of healing such as talking circles, traditional ceremonies, seasonal cultural events, dances, and many others. Mike Geoboe is a staff counselor at White Sky Hope and has heard many stories of success from patients. He mentioned, "many of our patients that have gone through our programs have really enjoyed our holistic and circular model of treatment, but what makes our program unique and successful is the utilization of local people and local resources". Mr. Geoboe highlighted the importance of "promoting our local people, the information and wisdom that they carry can help others and can revitalize our connection to our own culture".

For example, White Sky Hope in collaboration with the Tribal historic preservation program held a tour to historical sites around the Rocky Boy Reservation and surrounding areas in an effort to educate patients. Other similar events involved archeologists taking groups to sacred sites to further instill the importance of understanding "who we are" and identification with their cultural heritage. There were seasonal outings for participants to learn how to harvest and braid local sweet grass for personal use, to gather cedar, and to harvest local bear root all under the guidance of local community members. Beading lessons from a local artist allowed participants to create earrings and participate in art therapy. Recently, horses were donated to White Sky Hope and efforts are underway to incorporate equine therapy into their program.

In keeping with their belief of utilizing local resources, in 2011, White Sky Hope collaborated with their local radio station KHEW (Golden Eagle) to begin airing public service announcements about meth and suicide awareness. Through this joint effort, five audio clips were created and broadcasted throughout an 80-mile radius. The PSAs created were culturally relevant and identifiable to the intended community audience with quotes such as "Meth is not a part of our culture and never will be" and "My addiction will no longer rule my destiny". Another PSA intended for youth set the listener in a post-apocalyptic scene ravaged by a zombie take-over until it is revealed that the zombies are actually meth users - educating the listeners of the health consequences of methamphetamine use.

Innovative and collaborative ideas such as these are allowing the White Sky Hope Center to be successful and best serve its community and patients. Chief Rocky Boy said, "Love one another and take care of each other" and that's what White Sky Hope Center strives to uphold.


For more information about the White Sky Hope Center and their MSPI activities, contact Mike Geboe at [email protected] or for information about KHEW PSA project contact Jonathan Eagleman at [email protected].