Wellbriety on its own now but going strong at Trinity

       The Colorado Springs Indian Center recently moved to Manitou Springs (see story, Page 11) from its former office in Trinity United Methodist Church, 701 N. 20th St.

Maria LaFriniere stands by displays of Indian artwork and artifacts inside the Wellbriety office.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Now renting all the space at the Trinity location - and pleased to do so - is the Wellbriety Training Institute.
       Both entities look for ways to help American Indians improve their lives. They had been sharing about 500 square feet of office space at Trinity since 2009.
       According to Maria LaFriniere, the institute's director, the split was amicable. The center welcomes visitors coming in off the street, and this wasn't easy at the church, which is on a residential side street and locks its doors on weekdays for security reasons. At the same time, Wellbriety - which does most of its outreach by phone and computer - has steadily increased its training dates, enough so that it has already absorbed the space formerly used by the center.
       Wellbriety is run through the nonprofit, national White Bison organization, both of which were founded in the 1980s by Don Coyhis. From its Colorado Springs headquarters, Wellbriety offers 13 different programs in the United States and Canada, with trainings available here or on location.
       Coyhis himself now works in an advocacy role in Washington, D.C., while LaFriniere, who has been with Wellbriety for seven years, runs the Colorado Springs operation. Coyhis, a former business executive, developed the White Bison philosophies to help him come to grips with his own alcohol issues, he has previously explained.
       The White Bison website states: “White Bison offers sobriety, recovery, addictions prevention, and wellness/Wellbriety learning resources to the Native American community nationwide. Many non-native people also use White Bison's healing resource products, attend its learning circles, and volunteer their services… The “Well” part of Wellbriety is the inspiration to go on beyond sobriety and recovery, committing to a life of wellness and healing everyday.”
       As LaFriniere elaborated, the programs help Indian people face up to the root causes of their life difficulties, of which alcohol and substance abuse can be symptoms. At the heart of it all are the 19th century wars that cost the Indians their homeland, their culture and in many cases even their children (to boarding schools that were set up to make them “fit” into a non-Indian way of life). Wellbriety's answers focus not on retribution but on spirituality - Indian people rediscovering the old ways that nurtured the young and honored the elderly; and reaching a level where they can forgive themselves as well as those who inflicted the current pain upon them.
       “It's difficult to do, but it's possible,” LaFriniere said. “Forgiveness sets you free.”
       The message seems to be taking hold. In the early days the trainings happened less often, and keeping the operation going depended a lot on writing successful grant applications. But now, “more and more communities are bringing our programs in,” she said. “We're no longer chasing grants.”
       Her tasks include making sure that the trainers understand their roles - 800 were trained last year - and that the training materials are high quality, she said.
       Two others also work in the Wellbriety office.
       Trinity became involved with area Indian groups more than five years ago, in large part through its minister, Jerry Boles, who is part Navajo.

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