The Healing Power of Culture & Connection
2022 Tribal Opioid Training Academy
by Yoli Flores
The annual Tribal Opioid Training Academy – funded by Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest and Oregon Health Authority and supported by the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board, Lines for Life, and many other partners – gathers leaders and stakeholders annually from all 9 confederated tribes of Oregon to learn and share strategies in fighting the opioid epidemic in their communities while also taking care of one another. It provides a space for tribal leaders to strategize, network, heal, and more – while centering lived experience and the needs of the communities.
I know based off my own experiences that culture is important to my community to keep traditions alive, but I did not know before how critical it is for healing. Traditions like storytelling, art, and food have long been a form of protection for Native community members and only recently have healthcare systems regarded them as a principal source of building wellness.
At the Tribal Opioid Training Academy – hosted in late September 2022 by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation at Wildhorse Resort & Casino – the youngest attendee I met was 1 and the eldest was in her 80s. Multiple generations in the same room provided rich conversation and diverse points of view. Even when contrasting views were discussed, everyone spoke with respect toward one another.
A panel presented together about their project – Native American SUD Peer Best Practices, MAT, and Harm Reduction – in which Debra Buffalo Boy, Jarrod Murray, Eric Martin, and Beau Rappaport discussed and sought feedback on a set of guidelines that will soon be available publicly to help healthcare systems better understand how to serve Native American communities in recovery settings.
My experience at the Tribal Opioid Training Academy was like coming home. I didn’t know anyone, yet I felt so loved. I saw leaders who walk with the strength of their entire communities, and I heard personal stories that made me feel connected and showed an incredibly powerful love for community and culture. I thought about my own indigenous Purepecha and Huasteca roots and inspired to return to my culture through traditional dance and medicine – starting my own path to healing.