NESPELEM – Colville tribal members Willie Coleman and Daniel Nanamkin graduated from the Colville Confederated Tribal Court’s Healing to Wellness Court with a ceremony held at the Lucy F. Covington Government Center in Nespelem, May 17.
The two are the second group to graduate from the tribal program.
“When we first started Healing to Wellness, a lot of people didn’t know the difference between Healing to Wellness and drug court,” said Colville Tribal Courts Traditional Judge Sophie Nomee. “Drug court is pertaining to punishment. We wanted to come up with a way to not punish people but to help them. Healing to Wellness is about healing within ourselves, from our history of trauma from our ancestors, to our grandparents, to our parents, to us … It’s not only about addiction, it’s about whatever trauma is in your life.”
Tribal members Denise Gorr and Keith Jim graduated from the program in January.
“For generations, we have dealt with alcohol and drugs, all different types of maladies,” said Colville Business Council member Janet Nicholson. “We were able to take a negative and turn it into a positive, give these people a different path. We didn’t have to use the normal system of jail as the only alternative for them.”
Colville Business Council member Darnell Sam sang a song in form of prayer at the event, and Colville Tribal Courts Robin Gunshows sang a prayer song in closing of the event.
Elders Claudine Smith and Bill Russell presented the two graduates with eagle feathers.
“We’ve all slipped,” said Smith. “We’ve all fallen, but how do we get back up? A lot of times it takes somebody else’s hand to give us that helping hand to help them up … Today, I hope you gain your own wings and you fly high, like you’ve never flown before, and you have that strength and you have that courage.”
Tribal Courts’ Healing to Wellness Program is offered as a diversionary program for some drug and alcohol offenders on the reservation. Along with weekly court hearings, participants in the program participate in self-help groups and other classes. Participants also work with elders in the Colville Tribal Peacemakers Circle.
“These people go to sweats. They go to church. They pray. They sing,” said Judge Nomee. “It was a joy to watch these two graduates grow, as we watched the other two who graduated a few months ago … This is continue support for our people, and hopefully we will get more people in our program and they can be successful. They can be role models for others who are up and coming.”