Elder seeks to lead movement for social and political change in the Blood Tribe
By Tim Kalinowski on June 24, 2021.
LETHBRIDGE HERALD[email protected]
Elder Roger Prairie Chicken (also known as White Water Buffalo and White Buffalo Horn) at first glance seems an unlikely person to lead a movement for social and political change on the Blood Tribe reservation.
Spectacled, elderly, smiling, portly with a wide-brimmed hat, Prairie Chicken looks more like someone’s good-natured grandfather than a hard-minded social radical. Indeed, the former Blood Tribe policeman and, until recently, the longtime Blood Tribe Crisis Coordinator, Prairie Chicken (who has 15 grandchildren with his 40-year-old wife, the elder Charlene Plume), would say that he is not radical at all: it is just the spiritual path he takes forcing him to stand at that point in his life where he feels he must take a stand.
“My wife and I are alumni of the Blood Tribe Horn Society,” he explains. “The most difficult life in the Blackfoot culture is the Word of truth. That’s what we deal with all the time, the Word of Truth. We look and see things for what they are. We must stand up for the people. “
Prairie Chicken says part of his role as an emergency counselor is responding to sudden deaths on the reserve as a result of overdose, suicide or other tragedies. In this role, he worked closely with the Blood Tribe Police for many years, and Prairie Chicken says from his days in the police force until today, he has witnessed the aftermath of over 500 deaths on the reserve, one of them being his own son who committed suicide. at the age of 24.
“I believe the foundation of this whole reserve is in mourning,” says Prairie Chicken. “I have had a lot of overdoses. Many of these overdoses are related to addictions, whether it’s alcohol abuse or prescription drugs. They call it cocktails. They mix all kinds of drugs provided by doctors. Right now you would think opioids are really essential on the reserve, but no, it’s the doctor’s prescription cocktails that are causing the deaths.
Prairie Chicken says the problem, in its mind, is compounded by leadership and administration more concerned with keeping their jobs than dealing with the underlying social issues that led to the overdose tragedy on the Tribe. Blood – a tragedy, he says, that has been compounded by the First Nation’s housing policies and, in particular, its recent evictions of dozens of drug-addicted gang members, leaving them no place to go but the streets of Lethbridge.
“The best case scenario is that our leadership and administration have to understand compassion,” says Prairie Chicken. “Compassion for the people. This lack of compassion and healing for our people, we can see all the past wrongs that have gone through our people until today. I believe that a nation could be born within a nation once we can understand who we are.
Prairie Chicken draws strength from his 25 years of spiritual training as an Elder to follow the path he feels he needs in this current conflict.
“The people of the Blood Reserve want to be heard,” says Prairie Chicken. “They have a voice and they need to be heard by the leadership and entities of the reserve on the current crisis, with drug overdoses, suicide, homelessness, no job opportunities – the list goes on. . What messages of hope do they have?
“I have listened to them and they want help with their traumatic experiences, and a place or structure in the community that would allow safe detoxification to trauma treatment and paid employment,” he adds. he. “Families also need help with their trauma so they can raise healthy children and grandchildren who have been left behind.
“And the community wants a concept of a trauma center, for a name, that would be devised by members of the community because we are going through these traumatic experiences. The objective is to regain health, to get back on track, to have a paid job, ”he summarizes.
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