Byline: Morgan Taylor/Multimedia Producer
GLENPOOL, Okla. – The 30th Annual Native American Sobriety Conference was hosted by the Trail of Hope at the Glenpool Conference Center March 17-19.
The three-day event kicked off after the work day Friday evening with registration, an opening ceremony, special guest speaker Andrew Bearpaw of Tahlequah, entertainment and lastly talking circles.
Talking circles split the men from the women into smaller groups to share stories and become acquainted. Some tears were shed and laughs were had during the talking circles.
New friends and some old stayed well into the night, chatting and sharing experiences of the long, hard life they once lived during their active addictions.
With new connections, participants were overly excited for the early start on Saturday morning at 8 AM.
For the first two hours, participants learned about the medicine wheel during a workshop.
Several speakers from different organizations took the stage to speak words of encouragement into the recovery groups.
Dinner was provided to the attendees which was followed by some dancing and entertainment by a disc jockey.
An optional sweat lodge was open at 5 AM Sunday morning at a separate location. Events at the conference center did not continue until 9 AM with the final speaker and a closing cedar ceremony to follow.
The late Lana Harjochee (Mvskoke) played a major role in the annual event and the Trail of Hope organization as the Chairwoman before her passing in 2020.
Harjochee explained to the Cherokee Phoenix in a 2016 interview that Native people need other Natives to talk to and understand them.
According to Harjochee, the organization was developed by a group of Native men attending Alcoholics Anonymous, where they noticed that the Natives present would not share their experiences during these meetings, even when they began new lives clean and sober.
“These men began a Native American conference that our people would be proud to attend and gather together sharing with one another life’s experiences, hopes, strength as a new person without the chemical that controlled and destroyed their lives,” she said.
The conference has no affiliation with any AA or Narcotics Anonymous groups.
Many participants do attend meetings in their local areas that include AA, NA, 12-step programs, and other various groups.
According to the American Addiction Center, substance abuse among Native Americans is generally much higher than those of the general U.S. population. Methamphetamine use is reaching three times the rate of any other race.
Data indicates that Native Americans have the highest rates of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, inhalant, and hallucinogen use disorders compared to other ethnic groups.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that 13% of Native Americans need substance use treatment, but only 3.5% actually receive any treatment.
Studies have shown that cultural identity and spirituality are important issues for Native Americans seeking help and may experience better outcomes with traditional healing approaches.
For more information about the Trail of Hope, they can be called at 918-519-5447, emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or contacted through the organization’s Facebook page, Trail of Hope Supporters.
Tribal members living within the Muscogee reservation that struggle with addiction can call the MCN Behavioral Health Department at 918-758-1910.