Partners Highlight: American Indian Health and Wellbeing
This month our newsletter highlights some of the incredible work being done by our partners focused on addressing American Indian health and wellbeing in Western Montana. We want to take this opportunity to recognize these organizations who are doing this important work and to thank Aly Schock for her efforts to advance this work here at Headwaters. After several years with Headwaters, first as a trustee and then on our staff, Aly decided to move on. We appreciate everything Aly did to lift up our grantee partners and to highlight important issues folks in tribal communities are working on. We look forward to continuing to support our partners who work every day to make their communities healthier.
The Headwaters Team
On the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Reservation, Headwaters Foundation partnered with schools to provide resources to protect, preserve, perpetuate, and enhance the language, culture, and lifeways of indigenous peoples. Schools were supported in creating innovative and inclusive projects aimed at promoting health, understanding, resilience, strength, and cultural pride for youth.
Ronan School District supported cultural preservation in their schools by providing students the opportunity to build a native plant garden, incorporate more indigenous authors into the school libraries, and increase Selis, Qlispe, and Ksanka language and cultural presence throughout the District by adding more cultural curb-appeal through the incorporation of signage, outdoor furniture, and posters. Hear members of the Ronan School District share their stories in this short video that highlights their work over the last year.
Our partner spotlight this month is Dana Grant of Safe Harbor.
Dana Grant has been the SAFE Harbor Director of Development for the past decade. SAFE Harbor serves Lake County and the Flathead Reservation to provide shelter, safety, nurturing, advocacy, financial support, and healing to the survivors of domestic violence and those in need.
In addition to his work with SAFE Harbor, Dana is the President of Lake County Community Housing Board of Directors. He was the Director of Development at Salish Kootenai College, the advisor for the National American Indian Higher Education Consortium Student Congress, on the founding board for Nwkusm-the Salish Language Immersion School, a co-founder of the Flathead Reservation Boys and Girls Club, and is a grants writer and evaluator for numerous local agencies.
Tell us something about the work you’re doing that you’re especially proud of?
Conversations around change, community development, social justice, and prevention have been particularly inspiring during the pandemic. Even with limitations on interaction, our team has continued to build relationships with people of all ages, from across the valley. I believe these relationships are the key to systemic changes that can improve the quality of life for all people. The dynamics of violence cross nearly all service areas and connect with so many other societal challenges we are facing. By developing healthy, supportive, and engaged relationships, collaborations can evolve, supporting important work and leading to meaningful change. And in times of crisis, those relationships, as we have witnessed in the last year, bring people together to share the journey.
What is something you want people to know about the communities you work with?
We have so many wonderful people doing amazing work every day, that is often taken for granted or undervalued. Within the community, even with the differences we face, there is a beautiful sense of caring. I’m often overwhelmed by the demonstration of support I see, whether it is donating time as a volunteer, providing resources or contributing financial assistance. Last week, a lady in her 80’s stopped by to donate some household supplies and canned goods. She had a difficult time walking. I ran out to meet her in the parking lot and she gestured to the back seat. I brought in her two boxes. “I can’t get around and help like I use to, but I see you coming and going, so I figured you must be doing something to help others. Keep doing it,” she said. As she backed out, I momentarily ponder her driving, as I wiped a tear from my cheek.
What is the hardest part of moving the needle on outcomes in your community and what would support for the difficult parts look like?
Helping people move forward without fear is the greatest obstacle. They have seen failures. They have known loss. They have been betrayed. All of their experiences have given them so much fear and so little trust. Shifting their vision and building their confidence could really help us to overcome the impasse and achieve real change
What makes you hopeful?
Seeing new programs find success, with whatever work they are doing, fills me with great hope, because it reminds me that we don’t have to accept broken systems or faulty structures or inadequate services. The possibility is always there for something better. Several local groups have flourished in the last year, modeling fortitude, calm, and community spirit, as they pressed on in their work, helping others, and never looking back. These programs came into existence because a few people chose to make a commitment to change. Driving by their office and seeing the hub of activity is without question inspiring and heartwarming
In 2019, Headwaters supported Voices & Visions, an event that brought together nearly 200 participants from various entities within the Flathead Reservation and Lake County who engaged in a 2-day design thinking community conversation. It brought together a broad swath of community members—both tribal and non-tribal—and engaged them in a process to identify solutions to the community’s most pressing health challenges. Aside from the meaningful conversations and connections, the event also resulted in the community voting on one project for Headwaters to fund moving forward. Journey to Wellness, a project focusing on mental health crisis intervention and prevention, was selected by the community.
In 2020, the Journey to Wellness team worked through the pandemic and conducted a comprehensive landscape analysis of community mental health resources for the area, identifying existing resources and key gaps. Earlier this year, Journey to Wellness hired their first Project Coordinator, Ashlynn Fish. Housed at the Center for Prevention and Wellness at Salish Kootenai College, Ashlynn will lead the Journey to Wellness team in developing a model for both preventative and mental health crisis response care for the Flathead Indian Reservation and Lake County communities.
This year, the team will focus on aligning stakeholders by hosting community roundtable discussions, as well as building an online mental health resource website and community awareness campaign to deliver preventative mental health tips. The Journey to Wellness team wants the community to know they remain committed to the work and that the work continues. We look forward to hearing more about this exciting effort and sharing it with you all as it progresses.
Homelessness is a social determinant of health that affects many people in Western Montana leading to poor health outcomes. The pandemic created new challenges for people experiencing homelessness. The new Morning Star Apartments recently opened on the Flathead Indian Reservation and is the first permanent housing unit of its kind in this area.
This project was a collaboration between the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Salish Kootenai Housing Authority and the Tribal Defenders Office. The supportive services offered with this housing opportunity include legal consultation, job readiness training, mental health services and more to help people get back on their feet in a healthy, supported way. Read more about this project here.