50 people participated in Sweetgrass Campaign Walk
On October 12th, approximately 50 people from Kehewin Cree Nation participated in the first Sweet Grass Campaign walk; which aims to heal drug abuse through love. The Sweet Grass Campaign, was blessed by the elders and evolved from the Kicking MethCampaign after much thought and prayer went into developing a new way to deal with the challenges of drug abuse on the Nation, says Councillor for Kehewin Cree Nation, Benjamin Badger.
“The Sweet Grass Campaign is an evolution from the Kicking Meth Campaign,” Councillor Badger explains the Kicking Meth Campaign started a year ago, with a walk to display that the residents of the Nation would no longer stand for drug abuse and were determined to fight back. The driving force, like many who face the secondary effects of drug abuse, was anger. “It was based on what can we do as a community to work with our people on the issues that we are facing. The social-economical issues that we all face. It was a very powerful thing.”
“With anything we face in life, anger is typically an emotion. We get angry and we want it to stop. The Kicking Meth Campaign was part of that phase.” Councillor Badger explains, “we have a responsibility to put action into place. There was a missing link and anger had taken over too much.” A new focused started in early September to focus on the root issues, “what we have discovered over this past year, in running the Kicking Meth Campaign, is that anger has taken over too much. We push our problems away without addressing the unresolved issues.”
The group went from an aggressive name – “Kicking Meth” to a softer more compassionate name – “The Sweetgrass Campaign.”
The Sweetgrass Campaign comes from a place of love and forgiveness. Forgiving the addiction and forgiving yourself for being angry at the addict or the addiction, says Badger. The campaign has been blessed by the elders, Kinokamaw Kenteyak (Long Lake Elders). The role of the campaign is to keep the community and the child safe.
One of the first initiatives the campaign will take on is the Purple Ribbons. In Kehewin culture, the colour purple represents the grandmother spirit. The grandmother spirit does not know anger, she only knows love. Councillor Badger explains the group will be placing purple ribbons near the homes of those with addiction problems and hotspots of drug activity. He explains the campaign is ready to expose those who are believed to be abusing, because it is the first step in healing and in protecting the community; most importantly the children. “We have a responsibility to protect them.”
“There were a lot of programs and awareness built from the Kicking Meth Campaign,” Badger says one of the biggest achievements from the campaign was the relationships that were built with neighbouring communities. “We have an amazing relationship with S/Sgt Luis Gandolfi (Bonnyville RCMP). We invited him and worked together over the last year on ways to effectively call-in tips.” Badger explains that awareness was built on what is needed from witnesses of drug abuse or activity for the RCMP to create files with certainty.
“Where we’re struggling is the detox and the aftercare,” the health system has flaws in dealing with addiction, believes Councillor Badger. If someone is ready to go, there may not be a bed available and when there is a bed, they no longer want to go.” Another flaw in the system, says Badger, is that in many cases facilities require someone to be clean for a certain period of time. A near impossible feat if there is no support or health care facility helping someone stop abusing drugs. The Sweetgrass Campaign aims to find ways to better the system by working with neighbouring communities to find solutions, “this is everyone’s problem. Not just Kehewin’s,” explains Councillor Badger.
Other initiatives from the campaign are a men’s group, mirrored from a successful group in Manitoba, Badger explains he hopes to get an active Men’s Community Watch Group going. Men would volunteer their time to patrol the Nation and watch for drug activity.
The Nation has instated a curfew for the kids; which is 1/2 hour after dark all children under 18 years of age must be inside. The reason for the curfew is the root of the campaign, “it’s our responsibility to keep the children safe,” says Badger.
Badger says the Kehewin Health Centre is working on developing an aftercare program that will help people reconnect with the land. An important element missing from mainstream treatment centres. Ideas would be to live on the land and wildness, a retreat with the goal of reconnecting spiritually with the land and the animals of the Nation.
Everything comes back to the main focus of the group. Which is to start at the beginning, work on healing the root problems and healing the trauma that leads to addiction.