Not Our Tradition, Not Our Culture, Not In Our Home

Ft Berthold Housing Authority hosts alcohol and drug abuse awareness events across the reservation throughout the month of October.

Photo Submitted by Jena Johnson L to R Nathaniel Mayer, Jena Johnson, Councilwoman Dr. Monica Mayer, Toni Parisien, Colby Rabbithead, unidentifiable person due to face covering.

Community support outpoured for the drug awareness event/walk in New Town.

Story and Photos by Anne Morsette

The war on alcohol and substance abuse has been fought on all fronts within MHA Nation. Amidst the recent COVID-19 pandemic, numerous agencies have stepped and continue to step up to the plate to bring awareness and educate the community on addiction in the community. Most recently, Ft. Berthold Housing Authority has organized a drug awareness campaign designed to educate the public on drug awareness and prevention, which is even more so important with all the increasing overdoses and deaths that are occurring on Ft. Berthold Reservation. 

The first annual “Not Our Tradition, Not Our Culture, Not in Our Home” campaign has taken place in numerous segments, including South Segment-Twin Buttes, West Segment-Mandaree, and recently in North Segment-New Town; and will continue to do so throughout the entire month of October in all the other segment communities (weather permitting). FBHA encourages community participation at all events, where T-Shirts are given out, an awareness walk/run ensues, followed by a meal, and door prizes. CDC guidelines have been followed at events and will continue to be observed at future events. 

The Drug Awareness Campaign not only educates and informs, but also promotes health and exercise. “It takes courage to Live Your No, but it’s worth it to be healthy”, notes the Ft. Berthold Housing Authority on their Facebook page.

Drug and alcohol abuse affects everyone in a community, After seeing a spike in overdoses and deaths in the MHA community, and with a number of those having taken place in FBHA units, the Housing Authority has made a commitment to educate the community with the goal of preventing any more overdoses. “This problem not only affects us, but our community”, noted on the FBHA Facebook.

Nicole Chavez, executive assistant of the FBHA, acknowledged that drug and alcohol abuse is a serious problem and the Housing Authority very well knows this, and they want to help stop it. “Lately, there’s been a lot of overdoses and deaths happening and this affects us a lot, as the leasers and workers for the Housing Authority, and this keeps happening in our units. It affects us personally, and not to mention how much money it costs us (FBHA) when there is drug use going on in our units”, (referencing to the cost of clean up and the demolition of drug contaminated FBHA homes). The FBHA has a strict no drug use policy for their units, which is a rule that sometimes gets broken resulting in the eviction of tenants. Eviction sometimes serves as an outside intervention factor for those suffering from addiction and substance abuse, but the Housing Authority cares about their community and that is why they want to help prevent it also. “We want this to be an annual event so that it gets better”, Chavez said during a phone interview.

The community turn-out for the events so far has been tremendous. The events have targeted the right people and they hope to reach out to more as they continue on with more events. The Door Resource and Recovery Lodge is also teaming up with FBHA and is present at all events to give real life testimonial that addicts can and do recover, and to also provide support and information to anyone that may need it. In Twin Buttes, the school children all showed up and participated in a fun color run. Mandaree had roughly 50 participants that walked through the west segment community. Most recently, New Town had a big turnout for their walk across the Four Bears Bridge. Community support came from all fronts, including MHA Drug Task Force agents, sober community members, The Door staff, and councilwoman Dr. Monica Mayer M.D.

Councilwoman Dr. Monica Mayer gave a passionate and heartfelt speech in the cold October wind, commending the valiant efforts of the FBHA and reflecting on how serious this drug issue is within MHA Nation and also her own family. She also acknowledged that more needs to be done to combat this issue, and gave verbal permission to the MHA Drug Task Force to do random searches on all North Segment properties. “It takes a community to fight this”.

L to R Lexi Heska, Ferrin Wells, Jena Johnson, Telia Baker, Morgan Tveter, Mark Skibsrud, Anne Morsette.

The Door Resource and Recovery Lodge staff also spoke and gave their own testimonials that addiction is an issue but addicts can and do recover. Director Telia Baker brought her teammates Morgan Tveter, Mark Skibsrud, and Rachelle Baker, and other members of her “recovery army” up to speak on their personal recovery experience. Everyone that gave testimonial had anywhere from 3 months of sobriety to 20+ years of sobriety under their belt. The Door will continue to be present at future events to help inform and provide support services to anyone that may need it.

With the cold, inclement weather approaching, FBHA will persevere with the Drug Awareness Campaign events. “It might get cold out and get hard, but we’re not stopping, The drugs don’t stop, we don’t stop either”, exclaimed Toni Parisien, (executive director of FBHA) at the New Town awareness walk. Four Bears October 28; and at the time of the publication of this article White Shield’s event has already occurred on October 19.

If you would like to get involved or would like more information, please visit FBHA on Facebook @Fort Berthold Housing Authority.