Gala & Regalia for a cause
The Shooting Star Casino was full of native color, gala and regalia Sept. 9, as the Native Alive Campaign held a fundraiser fashion show there. The fun, enjoyable evening was also held for more serious reasons, however -- to help fund the campaign's suicide prevention hotline.
The Native Alive Campaign was established in September 2009 after the tribal health division secured a grant for a meth and suicide prevention initiative.
"We renamed that to the Native Alive Campaign and we have focused our efforts on the suicide part of that," said Native Alive Campaign co-manager Julie Smith.
For the next year, Smith said a group of about 30 committed volunteers helped develop a suicide support hotline on the White Earth Reservation.
"It's basically for anyone having thoughts of suicide. They can call a number and a local person will answer the phone," Smith said.
She said a need for a suicide support hotline was identified after the Becker County suicide prevention was getting calls, but few from the reservation.
"They were not getting calls from the reservation, yet there were so many suicides on the reservation, so there was a gap there," Smith said. "People were obviously having thoughts of suicide because they're committing suicide, but they're not calling."
She said a member of the reservation is more apt to call for help if they know they'll be talking to a local community member on the other end of the phone.
"Then we can get a volunteer on the phone or in the home, and there's more of a trusting relationship there," Smith said. "It's really a link between community members."
Training volunteers is a very large part of what the campaign does. Native Alive Campaign volunteers have attended several single-day and two-day training sessions. The campaign has 18 volunteers on the reservation that have been trained in suicide intervention, Smith said.
"The volunteers are just everyday people in the community," she added.
For the most part, the volunteers are not professionals in suicide prevention. So the Native Alive Campaign maintains a close relationship with the Becker County crisis team, in case there is a situation where a volunteer needs help.
"It's kind of a little buddy system that's worked out well between White Earth and Becker County," Smith said.
Smith emphasized that the Native Alive Campaign is a community effort, which revolves around many volunteers and supportive tribal members. In the campaign's early stages, organizers held a Gathering of Native Americans that asked for community input into the program.
"(The gathering) really got the community involved and energized," Smith said. "Our major theme is the volunteerism involved, and it's worked pretty well."
A regalia fashion show
The grant that has supported the Native Alive Campaign is in its last year of funding, so a Gala & Regalia Fashion Show Native Alive Campaign Fundraiser was held to fund the suicide support hotline.
A successful silent auction was held, along with a walleye dinner and the fashion show. Several members dressed in native regalia and walked the runway as the emcee described the styles of dress and why they were worn.
"It was kind of an educational piece to the event to help share in the cultural awareness and educate people," said Verna Mikkelson, a fundraising committee member.
A wide range of models -- from the very young to a couple of elders -- and varied fashions made for a good show, Mikkelson said.
"It was a nice array, and the emcee gave a history and kind of a guide to understanding the powwow as a celebration," she said.
The event is being planned annually to help fund the Native Alive Campaign, and Mikkelson said she hopes the money raised can help continue the suicide support hotline.
"We think it's important to keep (the hotline) going," Smith said. "For the community to at least have that choice. Is our phone ringing off the hook? No, but we have gotten some calls and it's been pretty successful and we hope to continue that."
The Native Alive Campaign suicide support hotline can be reached toll free at 1-888-261-8691 or online at nativealivecampaign.com.