The Wellbreity Movement

By Deborah Train

Don Coyhis of Mohican Nation felt an inner calling after a decade of recovery from alcoholism. Like many, he sought a deeper connection to and meaning from his cultural and spiritual roots.

In 1988, he wanted to do more to help raise awareness and begin treating alcoholism in Native American youth in their communities. This led to the creation of White Bison Inc., a Native American-run 501(c)(3) in Colorado Springs.

From this work, it was clear to Coyhis that a path addressing more than the recovery of each individual was needed. The Wellbriety Movement was born to bring the language of the 12 Steps into a circle of healing that looks beyond the individual to include family, community and Native American culture, traditions and principles.

The movement gained momentum in 1999, when the Sacred Hoop of 100 Eagle Feathers travelled to 32 tribal colleges around the nation to raise awareness for the Medicine Wheel & 12 Step program for men and women stopping along the way in communities to share the prophecies that their elders spoke about. They called it “Coming Together Time” and spoke of red, yellow, black and white sitting in circles together as one Human Race.

Twelve-step programs can align with the teachings of tribal ways and can be adapted to what different nations’ traditions respect. This makes them more familiar to Native American and indigenous people everywhere. Worldwide, indigenous and aboriginal spirituality, culture, and ancient beliefs find all of life sacred. They emphasize the wisdom of elders, ancestors, humility, harmony with nature, universal laws, principles and values.

Wellbriety Circle Meetings have specific guidelines and are treated sacred for the purpose of trust, confidentiality and truthfulness. “The Red Road To Wellbriety: In The Native American Way,” by Coyhis Publishing, explains the workings of circle gatherings and outlines how to conduct circle meetings in communities everywhere. Meetings are open to all addictions, and all are welcome. Training through the White Bison organization is available to be able to facilitate Wellbriety meetings, which is where the work to greater self awareness, recovery and healing take place.

Alcohol and drug addiction counselors, or people working in the addiction field can receive continuing education toward their certification through the National Association for Drug and Alcohol Counselors. Resources are available for Native Americans who want to bring Wellbriety recovery to their communities.

In Maine, you can find Wellbriety meetings in several Maine communities, including Presque Isle, Pleasant Point, and Portland. To learn more about the Wellbriety Movement and what White Bison is doing to stretch its reach into prisons and communities, visit WhiteBison.org. The site also includes daily meditations, monthly themes that bring a variety of issues to light, and a principle to follow each day.