- Ten years ago, Star Nayea began speaking with children in the schools in New Mexico and Arizona about living free of alcohol and drugs and that having good health is essential to a good life. A few years later, she officially dubbed her efforts Spring Into Wellness.
SEATTLE – As winter pushes out to make way for warmer temperatures, spring cleaning rituals abound like wild onion dinners. The timing is perfect for a tour coming to Oklahoma aimed at helping children and youth live better inside and out.
The 7th Annual Spring Into Wellness Tour will be in Oklahoma March 18-30. Founder and presenter Star Nayea said the goal is to reach as many Native communities as possible with a message of healthful, positive living.
“In New Mexico, we have pretty cold winters. When the spring came, I saw changes in behaviors when they came out of their shelters,” she said.
It seemed that kids anxious to get out of the house after the long “quiet season” of winter would also get into trouble and make wrong decisions, Nayea said.
Spring Into Wellness began in Santa Fe, N.M., when she lived there and taught music. Now a Seattle resident, Nayea is a speaker and mentor. She may be best known as a recording artist with several solo albums to her name. She also was part of the album Sacred Ground: A Tribute to Mother Earth, which won the Grammy Award for Best Native American Music Album in 2006. Sacred Ground, a compilation album, also includes singers Robert Mirabal and Joanne Shenandoah. In 2008, Nayea was named the Native American Music Award’s Songwriter of the Year. She is of Canada’s First Nations people known as the Anishinabe tribe (commonly referred to as Ojibwe or Chippewa).
Ten years ago, Nayea began speaking with children in the schools in New Mexico and Arizona about living free of alcohol and drugs and that having good health is essential to a good life. A few years later, she officially dubbed her efforts Spring Into Wellness. The message is one share by Chance Lee Rush, who will be also tour this month.
Founder of Cloudboy Consulting, L.L.C., Rush is sought out nationally for speaking engagements, workshops, comedy shows and as a life coach among other specialties. The core of his work is about helping Native people reach inside themselves to accomplish great things personally and for the community. It begins with taking care of the self.
Growing up in Pawhuska, Rush (Three Affiliated Tribes-Hidatsa/Dakota/Arapaho/Otoe/Oneida) is a Tulsa resident.
“I wasn’t the greatest student. I wasn’t the most popular kid. I struggled academically my whole life, and was always told what I could and couldn’t do,” Rush said. “… I was always told how far I could go in life. I knew I could do better than that.”
After earning his degree from Oklahoma Baptist University, Rush took the usual routes to support his family, but he always wanted to be a motivator and consultant. Soon he was asked to visit schools, churches and various conferences and communities to promote healthy living and advocate for unity in family and communities.
The Spring Into Wellness Tour is planned for Arizona, New Mexico and Northwest U.S. This year will be the first time the event will be in Oklahoma. With a spring break camp event planned in Pawhuska for March 22-23 (details to be announced), Nayea and Rush are keeping the rest of the last two weeks of this month open for schools, tribes and organizations interested in having them bring their widely sought message.
Nayea said many communities find themselves in a cycle of trauma that continues and affects youth. High teen suicide rates, obesity, domestic violence, teen sexual assault, drug abuse and alcoholism are all tied together and part of the historical/generational trauma all Indian communities today face.
Also called “multi-generational trauma,” historical trauma is a term based on shared experiences of people affected by such events as displacement, cultural suppression and forced assimilation, according to the Native American Center for Excellence at the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, a service of the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). The trauma often leaves behind a sense of powerlessness pervading successive generations that can lead to abusive behavior.
“It’s different for every community,” Nayea said. “Sometimes kids have diabetes. Sometimes it’s food addiction or suicide because of sexual assault, domestic violence. They (children and youth) feel neglected. There’s spiritual abuse, too.”
Nayea shares her own story with her young audiences. She was adopted as a baby away from her tribe to live with a non-Native family in the U.S. during a period in which many infants and children were removed from their homes and adopted away from the culture. There, she experienced abuse and neglect. Worse, she said, she did not know who she was. When she left home, she escaped into music. She is still searching for her birth family.
“When we go into these communities and share something they can’t even fathom, it inspires them. It’s meant to make them grateful for the lives they have and for their families,” Nayea said.
Tribal and cultural connection is important, and so is keeping a strong body and mind to withstand negative pressures to abuse substances, she said.
Rush said youth today are constantly searching for their next move.
“A lot of youth today service their peers, but a lot of these youth are hurt and wandering, too. They’re trying to look for answers themselves, but they can’t slow down and better situate themselves either,” he said.
Wellness, Rush added, is about focusing on what you have – passion, culture, identity, faith and spirituality – and using it to go forward, exercise and be a positive influence for others.
While Spring Into Wellness is in Oklahoma, both speakers hope they will have more opportunities to address young people and ways to make Native communities stronger and better.
Star Nayea, a speaker and mentor, is best known as a 2006 Grammy Award winner.