Healing Blackfeet Women and their Children



Pikuni Healing Center


            “Most of the clients who come in here are not only assessed with alcohol dependency but also meth and cocaine dependency.  I have been working here a long time and I see the increase of meth use,” says Darrell Rides at the Door.  A Montana state certified chemical dependency counselor, Rides at the Door works for the Pikuni Family Healing Center. 

The center is devoted to helping Blackfeet women or descendants of Blackfeet women and their children heal from the wounds of drug use.  Children under eight years old may stay with their mother during the recovery process which lasts for three months up to a year depending upon the mother’s progress.

Most of the patients are court-ordered to attend the facility.  In some cases they come in voluntarily as a last resort because if they don’t, they may lose their children.  This recovery center does have a considerable relapse rate, which Rides at the Door calls “the revolving door.”

            This center has room for twelve moms and two of their children.  Once the patient lives at the center they begin the phases of their treatment.  Phase one is assessments; phase two is the therapeutic part; phase three is transitional living.  They live in apartments where they can stay for three to six months.  Even though they live away from the center, they return for therapeutic treatment, which includes counseling and educational lectures. 

Many cultural activities are available at the center.  Rides at the Door described how this program differs from others: “Our program is really unique in that we use our Blackfeet culture to incorporate into the healing process.  We work with the women and also their kids.”

            The Pikuni Healing center incorporates many traditional healing into its treatment program.  For example, patients can participate in sweat lodge ceremonies, jump dances, and other sacred ceremonies.  They also have pipe ceremonies.  Plus they go to pow wows and other kinds of cultural activities.  Culturally influenced recreation opportunities include gathering sage, picking sweet grass, picking berries, cutting dry meat.  In June mothers made costumes for their children to dance at the pow wow, during Browning Indian days.

            Rides at the Door, expresses his support for the traditional element involved in treatment, “When you work with Native Americans you have to incorporate their culture into the healing process.  You have to deal with identifying with themselves who are we as Native American people.  And they have to begin a journey of searching first for their self-identity, self esteem, self realization, all part of the things of the self.”

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