First of all, I would like to thank everyone who has helped keep Eagles Nest Center alive. Either by your financial contributions supporting our various projects and activities or your time. Giving of yourself toward something greater than any of us individually. Without your help we would not be able to help others.
In January of 2017, a vision of mine came to life when we took a group of kids to Africa. The goal was to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro using the mountain as a classroom. Three weeks were spent in Kenya and Tanzania with the focus on at-risk youth. Our organization found ourselves feeling uncomfortable with that term. Even though this term is used widely, we came to realize in today’s world ALL kids are at risk; especially when looking at issues such as alcohol use, drug abuse, children experiencing bullying and violence as well as sexual abuse. No one is immune from becoming a victim to these things.
The time spent in Africa took two years of fundraising and preparations. It didn’t help that many people thought I was crazy. But I’m happy to say after all was said and done, the process has already begun for our second trip to Africa to replicate our initial adventure.
This year a group of volunteers have run a concession stand at Lambeau Filed during Packer’s home games. The proceeds for their efforts are going to the K2K2 (Kids to Kilimanjaro 2) trip. We are looking for volunteers for the 2018 football season to expand our fundraising efforts at Lambeau Field. If you are interested in helping out, please let us know. And, if you are interested in directly helping to support the K2K2 project your help is greatly needed.
After returning from Africa at the end of January 2017, I was invited to speak to a group of professionals at Winnebago Mental Health Facility about Native American culture. They were interested in how to better understand and help Native American mental health patients. I chose to speak on PTSD in the Native American communities. I was given 45 minutes and wound up speaking for an hour and a quarter and answered questions for another half hour. Either they were really interested in the presentation I gave or they just didn’t want to go back to work. I believe it was the former because they have asked if I would come again in February 2018 to speak.
This month (December 2017), I have started my 12th year providing Spiritual Ceremony at 8 State prisons for the Native American inmates. Working with 200+ inmates each month has, over the years, given me an education that no school could offer. I’ve been honored to help and humbled at the same time. I have also experienced sadness as well as seeing some of the kids that we have tried to help in the past now as adult inmates. I have beat myself up with what more could I have done. I know better than that but none the less it has re-enforced within me to continue to strive to do better.
I think about the K2K vision; I can’t turn back time but I can sure try harder to shape the future of our youth. In the past, I remember often saying “It is our youth that you will one day need to depend upon to take care of you”. That’s why you need to be concerned, that’s why I continue to help. I am also happy to say that my half-side Judy is now also going into a correctional facility each week to provide spiritual services for some of the Native American women. I am proud of her efforts. It is not an easy thing to do. Eagles Nest Center’s mission statement involves working with youth, cultural education and restorative justice. I have talked about a lot of things we have been doing, restorative justice is not on the list I’m sad to say.
There has been a huge adaptation of restorative justice principles which I guess is a good thing but learning what I have over the years and being taught by the best Keepers of this knowledge I can only say what is being done is not truly in balance and restorative justice is about putting things back in balance.
My opinion is not very popular with many but it still is this; The best parts have been taken out to meet specific needs. Restorative Justice is not something that can be dissected. Its strength is in the sum of its parts. For example, Victim Offender Mediation or other programs that provide for victims. Don’t mis-read me. Care for victims is paramount but also, is care for the offender. If the offender is not helped there will just continue to be more victims. This may not settle well with many, but, our criminal justice machine is huge and a very large economy of its own. I feel the motivation is lacking to truly put things back in balance by helping offenders to any extent. It would be like putting yourself out of business. I don’t think there will ever be a shortage of people doing bad things but for so many restorative justice principles should be used in the right manner to put things back in balance.
In the real world of dollars, it’s great to spend dollars on victims but not real popular to spend dollars on criminals, I’m just saying.
My final thought of the year regarding Eagles Nest Center is this; in the past few years I’ve had to face the fact that I’m 62 not 42 years old. My robe is becoming worn, my heart has slowed down and my third back fusion has left me with a crushed nerve root that controls my left leg. I’m still working toward one more high altitude climb but the future of Eagles Nest Center has been on my mind. Doubtful that I will overcome the ‘inevitable’, will Eagles Nest Center die with me? I sure hope not, which has left me thinking. How can I assure the organization’s survival? This past year we have taken on some new Board members who are much younger, who are excited about what we are doing. This has given me hope for the future.
If I’ve learned one thing, “We may not know what the future will bring, but we do have a say so in it by the choices we make in life.” If by some chance we wake up in the morning, be grateful you have been given another day to live and when you lay down at the end of the day to rest, be grateful you have had another day to have lived.
Walk with Gratitude
Mato Iyankahan (the bear that has been running)
11/04/10 ARTICLE: Prison: A warehouse for individuals with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders}
3/30/2011 NATIVE LIVES: Read Vi Waln article from the Lakota Country Times.