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Women’s Strength Through Culture and Gratitude

Women’s Veterans Online-Retreat

October 30 and November 6: 6 pm - 9 pm (pst)

October 31 and November 7: 9 am - 12 pm (pst)

November 10: 6 pm - 9pm (pst)

(5 days, 3 hour sessions each day)

The purpose of the retreat is to address the high suicide rate, War Stress, Injuries, (including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder—PTSD, Military Sexual Trauma—MST), and drug and alcohol abuse among active Armed Forces personnel and Veterans of current and previous wars. Topics include cultural practices for substance abuse, healing trauma, and resiliency in daily life. In addition, issues of domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, homelessness, and human trafficking will be addressed.

The attempts by the current established rehabilitation methods are not sufficient in dealing with the severity of the problems experienced by many Veterans. These complex problems will not go away by prescribing medications, occasional talk therapy, and holding perfunctory Memorial Day parades.

With an emphasis on Women’s personal experiences, we will create a strong community with a focus on the traditions among Native Peoples to integrate the challenges faced by Veterans in a cohesive and inclusive manner.

Within the sessions, we will provide an environment that is a Sanctuary and a container strong enough to give Women Veterans the support needed so they can tell their story with no restrictions or impositions, use poetry, story telling, songs, writing, community circles, Native ceremonies and spending time in nature. This provides an opportunity for opening up, witnessing, providing the welcome, support, and closure that many Veterans were not given by their families and/or communities upon their departure, time of service and return.

Objectives and goals:

1. Healing of the individual and those around her

2. Developing long-term support

3. Identifying tools for coping with every day life

4. Creating a continuing, active support community

5. Training older Veterans to be Mentors to the young Veterans

Every session is unique depending on the participants, her particular needs, the resources, the group dynamic as a whole and the unexpected. We will attempt to be as flexible as needed for the most positive outcome. However, we have a general format that has proven to be effective that we will incorporate into our time together.

The Sweatlodge is a powerful healing tool for Native peoples. Because we will not be able to provide the participants with that experience, we have designed the sessions to represent the “rounds” that they would be participating in if they were in an actual lodge.

The Facilitators:

Debbie Guerrero

“Uncle Debbie” (There’s a story to her name) is an enrolled Tlingit Tribal member through Juneau Alaska, and is also Filipino on her paternal side. On her maternal side she is a descendant of Cowlitz Tribal Chief Ellias Quantanna, and descendant of Snoqualamie Tribal Chief Patkanim, as well as French Canadian First Nations lineage, plus Irish and German. Her Tlingit name is GunSeek-which means Last of the Royal Princesses. She has worked as an Indian Child Welfare Social Worker since 2000 for three separate Tribal Communities. Her Spiritual path on the Red Road began in 1996, as she learned Sweatlodge ceremonies, and began to drum and sing. She was asked to pour lodges at The Washington Womens’ Correctional Center in Purdy and did so for 3 1/2 years. She has been a social justice, and political activist in the Seattle Native community for many years. She comes from a large family of Veterans, and has traveled, and participated in healing gatherings with Veterans, under the direction and expertise of Navy Veteran Lola Mondragon, since 2015; to help Veteran Women process and deal with PTSD. She is the drum keeper for Kiya’s Heartbeat (Grandmother’s Heartbeat), a sacred drum that came into her life in 2006. In 2007 she and another Woman Veteran organized to bring forth a vision to take a million drums to Washington DC in a Stand for Peace, out of this collaboration, Turtle Women Rising (TWR) was birthed. It was a great time to host these gatherings and TWR hosted gatherings in 2008, and a second in 2010. Invaluable support came from The Veteran’s for Peace who donated food and a way to acknowledge and Welcome Home All Veterans. Eight of the thirteen elders from The International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmother’s joined to offer ceremony and prayers, to promote PEACE, and work with the Veterans and all who gathered. She is humbled, and willing to be a support and a compassionate help to people, from all walks of life. She is a devoted mother, sister, cousin, aunt, friend, and loving Grandmother, who walks her life knowing that Every Woman/Sister is her mirror, and she is their mirror.

Carolyn Hartness

Carolyn is Eastern Band Cherokee and Norwegian. She works extensively with diverse communities, tribes and nations in the US, including Alaska and Hawaii, Canada, including the Yukon Territory and has presented and consulted internationally in New Zealand, Australia, and Norway.

Carolyn conducts workshops on cultural diversity and wellness and works with clients privately. She was a facilitator for the Veteran Women's Indigenous Healing Circle WA in the fall of 2018. She currently conducts a “Spirit Circle” for patients at Olalla Treatment Center and participates in and conducts Native American healing ceremonies.

She co-created and co-authored an award winning series of videos, CD-ROMS and books on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (F.A.S.D.), “Journey Through the Healing Circle”, with Dr. Robin LaDue, which was nominated for an Emmy, has won many awards and is printed in several languages. The series has been used to help educate teachers, families and children and providers about the reality of having an F.A.S.D. She has written a training manual on F.A.S.D, “Alcohol and The Fetus”, and “Through the Eyes of the Innocent” for Western Australia.

She was the keynote speaker for the first Indian Education Summit. She assists in creating “collaborative circles of care” required to best meet the needs of individuals, families, teachers and other community members involved in the life of someone affected by alcohol exposure in utero.

Delores Mondragón

Delores Mondragón, known as Lola after her grandmother, is an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation. She identifies as Chickasaw Chicana; her father, of Mazahua indigenous ancestry, is an immigrant from Mexico who taught her that human dignity is essential to life. Lola is a doctoral student at UCSB in the Department of Religious Studies where her area of study is Native American Religious Traditions with a focus on Queer, Indigenous, and WOC Veterans’ resiliency from military moral injury (MMI), military sexual trauma (MST), PTSD, and how modalities of healing through indigenous ceremonial practices enhance that resiliency. She is a mother, grandmother, wife, community drum-keeper, and Navy veteran. Lastly, but of great significance to her, is holding space and organizing an annual Veteran Women’s Indigenous Healing Circle (VWIHC) with the help of sacred Elders and fellow veteran women.

IT Services:

Sara Gepp

Sara is the Founder of Close to the Earth IT Services based in Malibu, CA. She is an Apple Certified member of the Apple Consultants Network, Apple ACN Advisory Board Member, Speaker, You Tuber and advocate for women in the technology field.

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