A digital circle of healing

Patty Talahongva

Indian Country Today's newscast for July 21. Conversations with Theda New Breast

Patty Talahongva

Indian Country Today

When cases of the coronavirus started appearing in March, many organizations had to quickly adjust. At the Native Wellness Institute, 80 percent of their work is done by going to tribal communities to meet with the people and work directly with everyone from youth to elders. Clearly that could no longer happen, so the leaders adjusted and switched to social media to reach out and help Indian Country cope with this pandemic. One of the founders is Theda New Breast. She is our guest today to talk about the Power Hour that is held each day on Facebook Live. 

Theda New Breast's comments:  

"We're like the rest of Indian country where we've learned to respond quickly, proactively, positively and to call up on our ancestors and to do ceremony, remote ceremony."

"We started imagining sitting in circles since we couldn't sit in circles. We were already imagining masks at that time, being proactive about keeping the infection from coming into our Indian people. We started with subjects of self-care. We started with subjects of kindness. We started with subjects of all of the values that come down from our ancestors that make us resilient that make us like super powered."

"We get 70,000 people viewing this power hour. And they're now saying to us that it's the part of the day that they go and replenish that they go and they get back in balance. And so it's just been an incredible honor by our NWI Native wellness team to provide this."

"It's on at noon Pacific time. The cool thing about it Patty is that everyone can watch it on our YouTube and they can watch it on our website. And it's interesting because like even the one on anxiety and how Indians handle anxiety or the one on how Indians handle grief has got like the original 20,000 views. And now what we're seeing as we're going into the 18th week is that people go back and listen to the storytelling. People go back and listen to the singing. People go back and they listen to ceremonies and the herbs and the plants, they go back and it's soothing to them. And they're telling us that they just go and they watch people over and over because it uplifts them."

"The essential workers, especially in Indian country, that have been working nonstop, they want the self-care and they want the laughter, cause we got the good old Indian humor."

"A lot of it's just laughing together, you know? Cause like Indians (say), 'Yeah. Oh yeah. Tragedy.' We're all just like, 'Okay, what's new? It's a tragedy. We know how to handle this'."

"Our team, we were just talking about it, it's almost like a vow, like when you make a sacred vow and in the Indian way, we've made a vow. As long as we're here, we're going to go on the air and we're going to bring something positive, productive, and proactive." 

"Our mission is to keep the teachings of our ancestors alive. And it's incredibly,"

"People are lighting smudges, they're getting on our power hour and we asked them to all light their smudge. So you get thousands of people lighting a smudge at one time. Patty, imagine the power of that. You get them lighting their sweet grass at the same time and then you get them crying at the same time, allowing themselves, not just to suck it up but just to let it out and to cry and then say, 'We're all here.' We're not there in person, but spiritually. And in the Indian way prayer is the most powerful thing that we have. So we're committed to the long haul."

"We're going to be here for each other on this power hour. And I think in Indian Country in general, we're stepping up. Notice the forgiveness. There's like this forgiveness going on. There's like this alliance, Indian people, helping Indian people. It just it brings tears because we're there for each other, even across nations."

"Native Wellness, we're also getting a lot of requests for training, we're doing the Gathering of Native Americans online. We're doing Self-Care for Essential Workers. We're doing How to Deal with Grief and Still Go to Work. I mean, these are the types of topics that people are saying we need this."

"A lot of our tribes are singing songs to each other. A lot of our tribes are sending a lot of the medicine people, the networks. They're asking for not only the Sage, the everyday medicine, but I see them sharing not only the medicines, but the prayers and it's a time where it's united tribes."

"We had 198 youth on Zoom, 198 youth. And they stayed on the whole time. And it's interactive. It's not just sitting here in front of the camera. It's moving around. They had like a singing contest, they had like a joke contest. We're there for the youth and our Indigenous 20 something program, all of our 20 year olds. They're focusing on four generations."

"And so it's the youth talking to the youth. It's the middle aged talking to the middle age. It's the elders talking to the elders. And, but right now our greatest successes is prevention and intervention of suicide during the pandemic with Native youth."

"We're finding that it's like a circle. It's a digital circle of healing. People come each day and there's tears and there's laughter and there's joy. And we're now seeing joy coming."

Kolby KickingWoman, a reporter and producer for Indian Country Today also joined the program to talk about the effort to correct the Olympic record for Jim Thorpe. Here are some of his comments:  

"So the issue is in the official record books of the Olympics, if you go to their website, it lists Jim Thorpe as a co-winner for both the pentathlon and the decathlon, despite dominating those events. This new petition looks to restore those records."

"I believe a couple of years before the 1912 games in Sweden, Jim Thorpe played summer baseball and was paid for that. According to many reports and research, it was a very nominal amount that amounted to room and board but the Olympics prides itself on amateurism and the best amateur athletes. Those rules have changed over the years.But they stripped him of those, of his metals and the records after they found out that he had been paid to play professional baseball."

"Jim Thorpe is Sac and Fox and Potawatomi and he was named the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century. He won gold metals in the pentathlon, decathlon, played professional football, played professional baseball, was the first commissioner of the NFL. He is just kind of a revered hero and role model in Indian country."

"This petition kind of stems off of a biopic, that's going to be coming out about Jim Thorpe. Nedra Darling is an executive producer and I spoke to her. Martin Sensmeier is going to be portraying Jim Thorpe and so that's a project that Indian country will be very excited about when it comes out."

"He was the first Indigenous person or Native American to win a gold medal and Natives weren't considered American citizens until 1924. And so he brought the nation, all of this glory and reverence, but wasn't considered a citizen."

"The last event (was) the decathlon but when he went to get his shoes before the race started, they were misplaced, lost or stolen. And so the story goes that he found two mismatched shoes in the trash. One was two sizes too big. So he threw on a couple extra socks and the other was a little bit small and he still ended up winning the race by more than 25 yards. So it just goes to show how dominant he actually was during those games."

"I believe the historical record says that a Carlisle Indian School was the first team to throw a forward pass. And you know, now the NFL is a very pass-happy league. And so we can trace it back to the Natives."

"If you want to sign the petition, you can go to brightpathstrong.com." 

Also in the newscast, Jourdan Bennett-Begaye has the latest numbers of positive COVID-19 tests in Indian Country.

The anchor and executive producer of the newscast is Patty Talahongva.

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