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Communities unite to seek solutions to substance abuse

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ELMO —Junior Caye is passionate about making changes to help children. And when he called a gathering to seek solutions to alcohol and drug abuse, nearly 100 people responded Saturday in Elmo.

 “This is for our children, so they know that we love them, that we care about them,” Caye said between opening songs. “They are searching for help, but they don’t know how to get help for this disease that is taking them further away from us. They are crying because they are hurt. They want our help.”

Caye urged people to speak freely during the meeting.

“We ask the Spirit to look down on us today, listen, and touch our hearts so that you are not afraid to speak from your heart what is on your mind,” he said.

After passing out sheets of paper, attendees were asked to write down their concerns and ideas on how to attack them.

Then he began passing the microphone.

One by one, each person shared a bit of their own story, lessons learned from their own journey, and possible long-range solutions.

Willie Caye said he has not been drinking since 1983, and he doesn’t take pills. Money spent on alcohol, he noted, should be spent on children instead.

“I hope we are able to get the word across that alcohol and drugs will take everything you love, it will take it away from you. Alcohol and drugs are not the way to go. It’s unacceptable,” he said.

Voiced frequently was the need to return to traditional Indian ways — changes that begin in the home and communities first.

“We need to change internally, understand our culture, our ways, and bring up our children right. They’re confused on where we belong, and we know we belong right here. We know why, and we need to tell our children why,” elder Catherine Hamel said.

Rosemary Caye brought resources for drug and alcohol workshops, as well as workshops on grieving, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and dynamics of a family. Her own family loved her through the hard years, she said.

“My parents loved me no matter what; they didn’t judge me for the person I was before I quit drinking. They didn’t throw me out and get rid of me,” she said.

Because of that, she said, she’s working hard on not judging people. Instead, she’d like to help children grow strong so they don’t become victims. “I want my children to protect each other,” she added.

Lousie Stasso of Arlee spoke to youth at the meeting, encouraging independence. She said there are two tools to becoming independent: education, and praying to a higher power. “Mine is God,” she said.

Stasso later said she wished the meeting had been more focused on solutions. One of hers would be to teach about substance abuse in the schools, starting with first grade. She also suggested they bring in professionals who can help facilitate the meetings.

Elmo resident Francis Auld is upset with the changes and abuses the native people have seen since 1892. And he’s seen “the system” merely slap the hand of an offender.

“The people who are dealing ‘coyote piss’ to our kids? They are laughing all the way to the bank,” he said.

To see a change will require difficult decisions and hard commitments.

 “There’s no holy grail when it comes to recovery. Yourself — you make that happen. And I would rather be the solution than the problem,” he said.

There’s always an opportunity to make a different choice, to take a different action, Leslie Caye said. 

“We need to fill our life with the things that make us happy, that make us healthy. We need to put those things that are killing us down, put sorrow behind us and walk forward,” he said. “I believe in the possibility of change.”

There is a community in Canada, Pearl Caye said, where a young girl refused to go home to drinking parents until the house sobered up. The mom was willing to change to get her daughter home; over the next 20 or 30 years, the whole community had changed.

“It was hard, and it took a lot of work, but when a community decides to change, it really can happen,” she said. “We need to decide what we want. You are experts of your own community. No one outside can tell you. You have the answers here, somewhere, buried here. You know what is best, so polish it up and brush the rocks away so we can see it clearly.”

Joseph Caye agrees the problems should be tackled as a community. He doesn’t want to see his son, nieces, nephews and peers trying to tackle their issues by themselves. In fact, he said, there are a lot of people in attendance that are great role models for the generations to come.

“There are people out there they can go to and not be judged, he said. “If it weren’t for the people ahead of me, I wouldn’t be where I stand today. I’m no better than anyone else out there, I do have troubles, but would like to help any way that I can.” 

Change isn’t going to happen overnight, he noted.

 “We need to continue to fight for it until our kids are fighting for it,” he said. “This is the start of something big. I know we can do it together.”

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