Tribal leaders, Evers on hand for ground blessing ceremony for teen recovery, wellness center north of Tomahawk
By Eileen Persike
TOWN CASSIAN – A ground blessing ceremony took place north of Tomahawk in Oneida County’s Town of Cassian on Monday, July 31– an event that celebrated the coming together of Wisconsin’s tribal communities and regional partners to create the Adolescent Recovery and Wellness Center.
It’s a project nearly two decades in the making, led by the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council (GLITC).
The celebration was held in part to “Imbue the ground with the wisdom of tribal elders” and connect to the healing energy of nature.
“It’s not about sticking that shovel in the ground first and breaking the ground,” said GLITC CEO Brian Bainbridge. “It’s about starting it in a good way so we can heal from this ground.”
Cultural connectivity will remain an integral part of the facility, combining “multiple Tribal wellness themes and harnessing the healing power of nature, fire and water,” according to a facility brochure.
The 36-bed residential facility aims to provide culturally relevant services and treatment for Native American youth, ages 13 to 17, who are suffering from substance use disorders and any co-occurring mental health conditions. It will also be available to non-Native teens.
“It gives my heart happiness to see our flags flown in a place that will not only provide our kids their indigenous journey to healing, but it also reminds our kids and anyone who is fortunate enough to come here that they are supported, loved, seen and valued by all of our tribal nations,” said Shannon Holsey, President, GLITC Board of Directors.
Holsey noted this is one of only 12 such collaborations in the country.
The non-profit GLITC was established to “provide a means by which Member Tribes could unite against the threat of termination and act as a mechanism for tribes to work through the challenges of governance and services for their communities.”
Completion of the recovery and wellness center, according to the brochure, “will help meet an urgent need for our member tribes and Native American youth, and the non-Native youth of Wisconsin” to overcome threats of historical trauma, opiod use disorder and mental health effects of isolation and an increase of drug use due to the COVID-19 pandemic and aftermath.
Bainbridge said more than 1,000 properties were considered before purchasing the 150 acres in Cassian.
Governor Tony Evers and many of his cabinet secretaries attended the event. Evers said the project has received bipartisan support going back to former Governor Scott Walker’s 2017 budget, which included $200,000.00 for a feasibility study.
In 2019, Evers and the Republican legislature supported $640,000.00 for architectural plans, and in 2021, $350,000.00 was approved for construction.
“This facility is needed and will be an incredible benefit not only to tribal nations, but to this region and the entire state of Wisconsin,” Evers said following the ceremony. “(It) will provide culturally competent care that acknowledges experiences and history of native nations and will have a generational impact in native communities throughout Wisconsin and beyond. We desperately need these resources in our communities, and I’m grateful to all the partners who have made today happen.”
Bainbridge said the hope is to break ground in the fall, once Oneida County has approved the necessary permits.