The Northwest Indian Treatment Center


The Northwest Indian Treatment Center runs a 45-day inpatient treatment program in Elma, WA. The Squaxin Island Tribe created the program to address an unmet need for culturally based drug and alcohol treatment centers for Indian people who grew up on reservations. The program specializes in treating people with chronic relapse patterns related to unresolved grief and trauma, including historic trauma from colonization.

The treatment center weaves culture into the fabric of the program. According to the director, June O’Brien (Nansemond), patients must be able to see themselves in their recovery, and when patients’ traditions are honored in the healing process, re-traumatization is less likely to occur. “Their culture is their medicine,” she says. “Native plants, singing, drumming, a sweat lodge, beading, and support from local Native spiritual communities are part of the program. These act like pillars to hold patients up during their recovery.”

In 2005, the treatment center created the Native Foods Nutrition Project to increase patients’ access to and knowledge of high-quality foods, including fruits, vegetables, and Native foods such as berries, wild greens, seafood, and game. Weekly hands-on classes teach patients how to grow, harvest, process, and prepare these foods. Twice a month, tribal elders, storytellers, and cultural specialists speak as pan of the program. On Sundays, families can visit patents, and the treatment center also offers monthly classes to patients and their family members. This helps families see what patients are learning and teaches activities that families can do together at home.

The partnership also benefits patients who want to enter college or find jobs working with traditional foods and medicines. Upon graduation from the treatment center, patients receive a Traditional Foods and Medicines Certificate with 2.7 continuing education unit credits.

For full text, visit: Sovereignty%20Elise%20Krohn.pdf

From Food for Thought, Issue 7. Published June 2013.

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