By Gwendolyn Packard, Co-Chair, Rain Cloud
Last month I had the honor to meet so many amazing, wonderful, powerful, empowered people and get a glimpse at what is going on in the rest of the world in the wellness and recovery movement at the 2011 “Coming Home” Alternatives Conference. It was the perfect environment, both nurturing and supportive, for introducing Rain Cloud to the national community.
In commemorating National Native American Heritage Month, I would like to highlight and share Rain Cloud with the whole NAMI community. Rain Cloud is a local collaborative that was created as a result of the state of New Mexico’s behavioral health transformation initiative, which began in 2005. Rain Cloud, represents the off reservation Indian community in Albuquerque, New Mexico and was allowed local collaborative status in January 2009.
Behavioral health resources are almost non-existent for Indian people in Albuquerque. Often, the only help available is medication or incarceration, and neither one of these is a suitable solution for us. We know there is so much more we can do. The action statement for Rain Cloud is “Embracing, Engaging and Empowering Our Community.” We are about movement building to create change and so far have done an outstanding job of mobilizing and engaging our community.
The Rain Cloud logo represents our core values. The Rain Cloud is the universal symbol for potential, growth, nurturance and life sustainability. Symbolically, here in the southwest, the rain cloud represents the answers to our prayers. Represented in dances and ceremonies we ask for blessings in the way of moisture for our deserts and high country. Water is one of the four elements along with earth, air and fire. There is not one without the other just as there cannot be the body without our mind, soul and spirit. We are integral beings living in a complex society in the urban environment. The Rain Cloud is representative of what our hopes and goals stand for as a local collaborative—a catalyst for renewal and an organization that cultivates personal growth, respect for culture, diversity, self sufficiency and celebration of community for the honor of all.
New Mexico has one of the largest Indian populations in the United States. Indian people in New Mexico account for 11 percent of the population. Albuquerque has the third largest off reservation Indian population in the country. An estimated 60,000 Indian people live in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, New Mexico. It is important to note that many off reservation Indians in Albuquerque are from the surrounding tribal communities in New Mexico, that vast majority are from the Navajo Nation.
While New Mexico ranks low in almost every socio-economic indicator, Indian communities, especially the off reservation communities rank even lower. Racism, poverty, unemployment, homelessness, alcohol and substance abuse, and violence, along with a lack of resources and a unified or united community have had a disastrous impact on our community.
Rain Cloud was created in response to the total lack of resources for off reservation Indians in Albuquerque and the associated appalling socio economic indicators of our people. Rain Cloud is a grass roots community based organization. We are almost completely consumer and family driven. Rain Cloud is comprised of off reservation Indian people and was established to address many of these disparities and to insure that all Indians have a voice in their treatment and access to culturally appropriate services.
Rain Cloud is concerned with the emotional, physical, spiritual, family, social and cultural well-being and health of our people. Our motto in addressing these concerns is “Unity through Integrity.”
We have established the following principles and core values for ourselves, they are:
- Respect for all life on this planet
- Respect the rights, culture and autonomy of each individual and each community
- Honor the choices and decisions that people make
- Support the changes that individuals, families and communities request
- Work to restore balance and a sense of belonging
- Involve and include people in our community from all walks of life
- Integrate traditional and western knowledge of healing concepts
- Promote individual and community health to support economic development and viability
- Analyze and integrate the impact of race, class, gender and other cultural factors into our work
- Uphold and support our youth who bring energy and innovation into our vision
- Value the voices and the participation of all our people
- Speak the truth and provide valuable education and information on a continuous basis to our community
- Create and maintain an informed community
- Engage and encourage family and community people and grassroots and community-based groups in an ongoing dialogue to strengthen their impact on policies and strategies
We are committed to: Respect; Inclusion; Ownership; Relationship/Kinship Building and Leadership Development throughout this process.
Rain Cloud does not dwell on the negative aspects of our community. Instead, we focus on the tools we need to become strong, to challenge the systems in place that keep us down, to build our organization, to develop an active and educated membership and ultimately to create change in our community. Indian health does not just mean the physical wellness of the individual; it is the social, emotional and cultural wellbeing of the whole community in which each individual resides. If our community is unhealthy, we are unhealthy and if we are unhealthy, our community is unhealthy.