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White Earth group starts new prevention initiative

The social issues of the White Earth Reservation -- such as suicide, chemical abuse and depression -- are well known.

A new initiative called Native Alive seeks to curb those problems through a hotline and other means of consolation and education for the residents of the community.

"Our goal is community awareness and prevention of suicide on the reservation," Julie Smith, co-manager of the Native Alive Campaign, said.

It all started in January, when the Native Alive Campaign sponsored a community retreat of the Gathering of Native Americans.

"It included a lot of healing of self and family and community," said Verna Olson -- an NAC Committee Member.

From there, it evolved into a program designed to specifically lower the rate of suicide and other destructive behavior.

"It's to help the underlying issues which may lead to risks and self-destructive behaviors," said Olson. "To focus locally on those issues."

"It helps with cultural awareness as well, within our community," Olson added.

Native Alive is intended to serve as a comforting mediation between struggling people and the professional services that may intimidate them.

"We're really a link between the people and the professionals," said Smith.

"We're everyday people that just want to help," Smith said, but added that Native Alive will be involved with the ambulance, the police, and area mental health professionals.

Although the program eventually hopes to broaden its scope, the priority is the hotline. Olson envisions the prospective hotline as "something like the Becker County crisis hotline now."

"As far as getting the telephone line running, that's going to be our major concern."

Whether the hotline - and Native Alive in general - will come to fruition rests solely on the amount of funding that can be raised for it.

"We will need funding to run the line and have coverage," Olson said,

"it's all volunteer based."

Those who can't give money are encouraged to donate their time.

Ways to participate include answering the phone, being a part of the media campaign, being a part of a debriefing group or being a supportive person who is willing to give their input and expertise to the campaign.

Those directly involved in the campaign are optimistic about the future of Native Alive and the positive effect it will have on the White Earth community.

"We're off to a great start," said Smith.

Native Alive meets 8 a.m. Wednesdays at the Shooting Star Casino Event Center.

You can visit Native Alive online at

Upcoming events include Taco sales in White Earth on July 22 in Naytahwaush.