Our first session Friday morning was with Cynthia Abrams who is the Program Director for Alcohol, Other Addictions, and Health Care for the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society (GBCS). As a member of the Seneca Nation, she was also able to speak to us about Native American cultural issues.
Cynthia began our session by asking us to share where we were from and what we knew about Native American communities and concerns near us. This was a helpful beginning as it got us thinking about what we have been exposed to but may not have critically thought about before. I mentioned that I was aware of White Clay, a community in northwestern Nebraska infamous for selling alcohol to citizens of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. This also draws attention to our historic blindness as Americans.
Cynthia helped expand our recognition by offering an overview of issues impacting Native American communities, both for the negative and positive. These include gambling as an addictive behavior and as a means of financial independence for reservations. She also discussed how issues such as homelessness and alcoholism stem from historic trauma and a cycle of instability more than they do from individual blame.
At the end of the talk, Cynthia offered a number of suggestions for further reading and staying up-to-date. As a future teacher, I found this especially inspiring. I believe it is important to incorporate a number of perspectives through literature and interaction with cultural groups. Further resources include: Indian Country Today, National Congress of American Indians, and Friends Committee on National Legislation.
By: Amy Kenyon