“Whenever we take an in depth look at the drug and alcohol problems …”

Science North Polar Bear

Young Warriors NetworkTHUNDER BAY – Lee Mason is with the Young Warriors Network. The Young Warriors Network evolved in 1995 from the realization that culturally sensitive workshops and education and empowerment programs were a much-needed service for First Nations Communities across Canada. To date we have provided a wide array of workshops and specialty programs throughout the Provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, with integrity, honor and respect.

Alcohol and Drug Problems

Lee Mason shares his thoughts on how to solve problems with drug and alcohol abuse:

I do have some concerns about the Federal and Provincial Governments knee jerk reaction of possibly throwing band-aid money down a bottomless pit with useless programs that aren’t going to have a lasting impact upon individuals, their families and the community at large.

This is a much bigger picture than bringing in a bunch of psychologists and psychiatrists and mental health workers that can sit around and bob their heads up and down with their umm-hmms, I see, and how does that make you feel at the end of the day?

What we have going on in First Nations communities across Canada is the multi-generational effects of colonization, the impact of fear based religions that were forced upon our people as a replacement for our own spiritual practices that we followed for thousands of years and served us very well thank you very much.

Then there were the hell-holes called residential schools where children were tortured, sexually, physically, mentally and spiritually abused and then dumped onto the streets where they turned to alcohol and drugs as a way to cope with all the traumas they had been forced to go through. This problem has been passed on from generation to generation of deeply traumatized people.

Whenever we take an in depth look at the drug and alcohol problems any individual is struggling with there are always underlying factors that have fueled their need to numb the pain and sadness with alcohol and drugs or other mind altering practices. These unresolved issues are the core and fuel of their addictions, be they substance abuse or other addictions, the unresolved issues will remain an obstacle in the lives of individuals and their families until their losses and traumas are effectively addressed and healed. Substance abuse is all related to past issues, the drug and alcohol abuse is simply a means of escape, some people are still affected by the bad experiences they went through in residential schools, accidental deaths and suicides, domestic violence, family turmoil, community infighting, the anger, the depression, suicide ideation, they are all linked to something traumatic that people of all ages have gone through.

Many of our young people and even some older ones are in self destruct mode and in some cases committing suicide because they see no other way out of the sadness they are experiencing. There is a very high percentage of first nations people across all age groups that are being prescribed anti-depressants and this is not helping the matter at all, it is simply masking the depression and making people dependent on these drugs.

The best way to truly help the people is by giving them the opportunity to walk through their issues in a safe and supportive atmosphere right in the community.

Many communities have a psychiatrist or a psychologist that only comes in sporadically; this is not helping, in many cases it is making matters worse because there is no actual healing going on and in far too many cases it is the psychologist/psychiatrist that is recommending the patient start taking anti-depressant medications.

Medication doesn’t cure the underlying problem and is rarely a long-term solution. Not only do antidepressants come with significant side effects and dangers, but recent studies have also raised questions about their effectiveness.

In light of the fact there are multiple issues adults and youth are facing I think it is important to have an introductory program that works with children and their parents as well. Many youth are displaying angry and acting out behaviors and in many cases this is simply a reflection of a family that is struggling as a family.

This is why I stress the importance of working with youth and their parents. I would like to spend a week working with the students in the school for half of the day and half days and some evenings to provide a home visit program where I can introduce myself to the adults/parents and invite them to the evening workshops and upcoming healing programs as well.

Mason has shared his complete outline of a program that “I recommended and emailed a copy to Chief Lewis Nate, and Anne Ayotte, Chief of Political Operations, Office of Greg Rickford, MP. I was speaking with Jean Waboose recently and she requested the program outline she stated she would like to forward to all council members and various department heads in Eabametoong First Nation.

“My concern is this situation will entail endless meetings, planning, strategies and study after study. Meanwhile the people continue to suffer the price of addiction”, states Mason.

“The supply is never going away, the solution, reduce the demand, how?  Very simple, give the people the opportunity to heal from the deeply rooted issues rather than continue to cover them up with anti depressant medications”.

Here is the plan:

Introduction to healing program that can take place over five consecutive weeks consisting of:

Session One:

School, morning and some afternoon sessions

Student education circles about respect for each other, bullying, dealing with anger, one to one supportive counseling where needed.

Adult community members, some afternoon and evening sessions

I believe it is important to do a home visit program whereby I go to each home and introduce myself and talk about the evening video workshops and the upcoming healing sessions. Many people avoid going to mental health facilities because they feel ashamed of having troubles in their life or they don’t want to be seen at these places because of what others may think. I go to the people to develop a trusting working relationship with them and this gives them the comfort and the desire to come to my workshops and healing programs.

Tuesday and Thursday Evening Video/Sharing Circles, 7:00 to 9:30

Tuesday, 7:00pm to 9:30pm

The role alcohol and drugs play in family breakdown

Once were warriors: follows the struggle of a Maori family caught in the grips of alcohol fueled parties that lead to domestic violence, neglect, abuse and more.

Wednesday, 7:00pm to 9:30pm or later if need be

Open talking circle, moving beyond substance use. Open to everyone

Whenever we take an in depth look at addictions there are always underlying factors that have fueled the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that are ultimately leading people to addictions and other forms of self defeating and self-destructive behaviors. The unresolved issues people suffer from are also the core and fuel of their addictions be they substance abuse or problem gambling, or other addictions. When we consider the long-term health and harmony of the individuals and their families within a community the best way to assist individuals and the community as a whole toward their long term wellness is to help the people understand the importance of beginning to heal their past issues, this will naturally lead the people and ultimately the community itself toward long term sobriety and wellness.

This special session provides community members with the opportunity to take an honest look at the importance of reaching out for help rather than reaching out for alcohol and drugs. I would like to state this circle is held in a non-shaming and non-blaming atmosphere, it is a circle of respect and opening the lines of communication, focusing on our similarities rather than our differences.

Thursday, 7:00pm to 9:30pm

Rabbit Proof Fence

This is a true story about three spirited Aboriginal girls, Molly, her sister Daisy, and their cousin Gracie removed from their homeland and they are relocated 1,200 miles from home to a grim settlement. The harsh conditions they must live under shock Molly, and she convinces Daisy and Gracie to run away with her. With Moodoo, a cruel and master tracker on their tails, they begin a grueling three-month journey home, following the rabbit-proof fence that will guide them back to their mother and their rightful home. This movie embodies the inner strength of Aboriginal people and they see how much can be accomplished if they stop playing the victim role and take back their pride and personal power.

Friday: 7:00pm to 9:30pm, The Peaceful Warriors Support Network

Joining the honor circle and becoming part of the solution.

This program will consist of a video and talking circle for youth ages 11 and up. Youth and adults join together in a circle of respect, they learn more about the heart of the Young Warriors Network and what it stands for, Honor, Excellence, Ambition, Respect, Truth. Adults are encouraged to act as role models, guides and mentors to the youth, to help them with traditional teachings, to help them learn more about their culture. This is what so many young people have asked me for over the many years that I have been on the road. “We want to learn more about our culture and our traditions”. Workshop participants will also be invited to join the Young Warriors Network by setting up a Peaceful Warriors Support Group in their community.

The Young Warriors Support Network was originally set up to give youth a healthy group to identify with. This is not a militant organization, the Young Warriors Support Network was designed to be a healthy alternative to the gang lifestyle that so many youth are getting caught up in, many of today’s youth are struggling with identity issues, many of them join gangs to fit in, to feel accepted, to feel they have something to be a part of. They wear bandanas and other gang affiliated clothing, tattoos, etc., to identify that they are part of a gang; unfortunately the gang mentality is destructive and self-defeating.

Saturday Peer Counselor Development, 1:00 to 5:00

The peer counselor development program is designed to teach as many as 30 community youth and young adults ages fourteen and up the skills to respond in a healthy way to their peers that may be struggling with alcohol and drug problems, thoughts about suicide, young children using solvents and inhalants; and additional issues youth are faced with today. Peer counselors will also learn the skills to develop a healthy working relationship with youth. How to use videos as an educational tool, how to facilitate youth groups, the importance of youth outreach.

Session Two:

Grief and Loss Healing Program

Monday through Friday, 9:30am to 3:30pm

Grief and loss healing sessions for adult females and those interested in learning the skills to become helpers to those struggling with grief and loss issues.

This healing/training program will be open to anyone interested in learning conventional and traditional healing practices Monday:

This session teaches participants the importance of respecting each other, respecting confidentiality, respecting the sanctity of a healing circle and supporting each other on this special journey they are about to take together.

Step one, circle in a circle technique, part one. Personal issues are explored and identified through drawing and music.

Tuesday: This session focuses on the individual’s issues as they have been gathered from the Step one circle in a circle process.

Step two, circle in a circle technique, part two. Personal issues are further explored through drawing and music.

Wednesday: This session focuses on individuals’ issues that were identified as a result of the Step two circle in a circle process. Individual and group sharing sessions will include the empty chair process for some participants.

Thursday: Continuing the empty chair process to properly close the issues individuals have been dealing with. Preparing for the fire pit letting-go ceremony.

Friday: The fire pit medicine wheel letting-go ceremony, this is a special session that helps everyone reach healthy closure concerning the issues they have been working on throughout the week. Participants are also taught to proper way to use the fire pit medicine wheel so they can use it whenever necessary to celebrate life, honor those that have passed on, or let go of any other issues they may be carrying.

After the fire pit letting-go session there is a sharing circle that focuses on celebrating our advancement, walking in balance as an emotionally stronger human being with a new focus on our personal life, our family life, our professional life, and our community life.

Tuesday and Thursday Evening Video/Sharing Circles, 7:00 to 9:30

These workshops will be open to all community members

Tuesday, 7:00pm to 9:30pm

The real truth about gangs and gang mentality

This workshop is designed to help everyone in the community learn more about the Native Gang Movement, how they operate and what established organized crime groups they are connected to. I also expose the inner workings of a gang and the ensuing gang mentality that leads to extreme violence, abuse, neglect, and disrespect for self and for all human life. I talk about how gangs recruit and how the gangs have always used the young wannabes to do their dirty work. What gang members and gangster wannabes don’t seem to understand or in many cases just don’t care about is the fact they are now victimizing their own people. Included is a documentary video showing the true-life stories of hard core gang members, it is a very powerful presentation that shows the path to destruction that happens for young wannabes, gang members and their families.

This is a very interactive session and involves role-plays and open discussion. Parents and youth alike have thanked me for showing them the hard cold realities of gang life. Community youth not involved in gangs have thanked me for waking up some of their relatives that previously thought gang life was so glamorous.

Wednesday, 7:00pm to 9:30pm

Peer counselor development program continues

Thursday, 7:00pm to 9:30pm

Sweet Nothing:

This is a very powerful video presentation about the devastation cocaine and crack cocaine brings to individuals and their families. It is based on a true story and has been very instrumental in opening the eyes of people either already involved in crack cocaine use or pondering thoughts of experimenting with it.

Never before have I seen a presentation that tells it the way it really is concerning this drug. I have been using this in workshops since its release in 1996 and it is so impacting that only a fool would use these drugs after seeing this video. The video presentation is followed by a sharing circle and during this time I also discuss the importance of healing the issues that are fueling peoples desire to use crack and other drugs to feel better about themselves.

Friday: 7:00pm to 9:30pm, The Peaceful Warriors Support Network

Joining the honor circle and becoming part of the solution.

Saturday Peer Counselor Development, 1:00 to 5:00

Session Three:

Grief and Loss Healing Program

Monday through Friday, 9:30am to 3:30pm

Grief and loss healing sessions for adult males and those interested in  advancing their skills to become helpers to those struggling with grief and loss issues.

Tuesday and Thursday Evening Video/Sharing Circles, 7:00 to 9:30

These workshops will be open to all community members

Tuesday, 7:00pm to 9:30pm: 500 Nations Part One

500 Nations is a thought provoking and inspiring documentary that explores the history of the indigenous peoples of North and Central America, from pre-

Colombian times through the period of European contact and colonization, to the end of the 19th century and the subjugation of the Plains Indians of North America.

500 Nations utilizes historical texts, eyewitness accounts, pictorial sources and computer graphic reconstructions to explore the magnificent civilizations which flourished prior to contact with Western civilization, and to tell the dramatic and tragic story of the Native American nations’ desperate attempts to retain their way of life against overwhelming odds.

Wednesday, 7:00pm to 9:30pm

Peer counselor development program continues

Thursday, 7:00pm to 9:30pm

500 Nations Part Two

Friday: 7:00pm to 9:30pm, The Peaceful Warriors Support Network

Joining the honor circle and becoming part of the solution.

Saturday Peer Counselor Development, 1:00 to 5:00

Session Four:

Grief and Loss Healing Program

Monday through Friday, 9:30am to 3:30pm

Grief and loss healing sessions for female youth and those interested in advancing their skills to become helpers to those struggling with grief and loss issues.

Tuesday and Thursday Evening Video/Sharing Circles, 7:00 to 9:30

These workshops will be open to all community members

Tuesday, 7:00pm to 9:30pm

The Gods Of Youth

This movie hasn’t been released yet but I play a part in it and was given a pre-release copy by the producer so I could use it in my workshops to let people see how devastating crystal meth is on people’s lives. Terry King learned how to make crystal meth in his high school science lab and along with younger brother Jay , they set up shop in a garage and supply meth to privileged neighborhoods, schoolyards, art schools and First Nation Reserves. “It is easier for kids to get drugs than alcohol,” Terry observes in the film. Art student Paul Moon has never heard of crystal meth but when he meets Jay, a charismatic drug dealer who convinces him to try it, they form an instant bond and a playful invincibility that neither could find in their banal day-to-day lives. The two boys go on a binge they call an adventure, riding every rail that seems to transcend reality. The lines between running and chasing are blurred and the characters they encounter get uglier. When the drugs run out, reality sets in and the nightmare begins. The Gods of Youth is based on a series of true stories. Cast and crew studied the subject and rehearsed the stories for over a year before pre-production began. In doing so, the production team interviewed narcotics-division police officers, paramedics, councilors, and addicts and ex-addicts, many of whom are in the film itself. This unique production style gives the film an unusual sense of immediacy, or in the words of one viewer, the sense of, “Danger, like it’s not acting going on…it’s real, and it’s messed up. I feel for those kids and I now know more about crystal meth. I had no idea…”

Wednesday, 7:00pm to 9:30pm

Peer counselor development program continues

Thursday, 7:00pm to 9:30pm

On the Corner

Sixteen year old Randy leaves his Reserve in Prince Rupert and travels to

Vancouver looking for his father. Angel and Randy Henry are a sister and brother, caught up in the mean streets of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. While Angel finds the strength to escape her seemingly hopeless situation, Randy slips deeper into a world consumed by abandonment and fuelled by drugs. This is a powerful story that I see happening far too often when young Aboriginals leave their communities and end up trapped in the belly of the beast known as the skids or the downtown Eastside of Vancouver.

Friday: 7:00pm to 9:30pm, The Peaceful Warriors Support Network

The honor circle, becoming part of the solution.

Saturday Peer Counselor Development, 1:00 to 5:00

Session Five:

Grief and Loss Healing Program

Monday through Friday, 9:30am to 3:30pm or evenings if requested

Grief and loss healing sessions for male youth and those interested in advancing their skills to become helpers to those struggling with grief and loss issues.

Tuesday and Thursday Evening Video/Sharing Circles, 7:00 to 9:30

These workshops will be open to all community members

Tuesday, 7:00pm to 9:30pm

When we make bad choices in life

Tears for April: is a video shot in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, a notorious haven for the drug addicted and downtrodden. The current statistics show that the Native population on Skid Road is 4 native people to every non-native person. This is real life real time video that shows the downward spiral life takes when one is addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Wednesday, 7:00pm to 9:30pm

Peer counselor development program continues

Thursday, 7:00pm to 9:30pm

Freedom Writers

This is based on a true story about young people and the challenges they faced in life and, how the power of education made a lasting impact on their futures. There are many similarities in this movie that our First Nations youth experience, this shows them that they too can make great advancements in life and that education is the key to getting ahead in life.

Friday Celebratory Dinner and Peer Counselor Recognition, 6:00 to 9:30

I think I would be good to get the entire community together to celebrate the many changes people have gone through over the past 5 weeks. When people heal together there is an amazing and lasting bond that develops among them.

This dinner celebration is about honoring each other and the community at large. Making a commitment to continue working as individuals and as a community to help each other, to protect each other and to be positive role models to the youth.

Please note: If you have any questions or would like to discuss dates to bring this program to your community please call me at 604 313-2896