In their own image: Native Americans share stories of recovery


Sigwan Rendon of the White Earth Nation
1 Sigwan Rendon of the White Earth Nation fought methamphetamine addiction and homelessness. She's been sober for 55 days. Born in Minneapolis, she belongs to the White Earth Nation. She's been in treatment three times, twice at Mash-ka-wisen which she credits with saving her life. She wants others struggling to know that "It's okay to forgive yourself. It's okay to move on." 
Paul Falling of the White Earth Nation
2 Paul Falling of the White Earth Nation came to Mash-ka-wisen for his second time in spring of 2015. He's been sober since he was incarcerated on April 8, 2015, just after his step-daughter died in a car crash. While he was jailed, his son was slain in north Minneapolis. He now works as a technician at Mash-ka-wisen. "I missed having a kid to take care of, but working here has really helped me ... I tell them, helping you helps me." 
Colin and Brendan Cash of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.
3 Colin Cash of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe (pictured with his 12-year-old son Brendan) is 30 months sober. He survived a heroin overdose in 2015. "When I shot up the drugs, I knew instantly that it was too much." He prayed he would survive so he could see Brendan again. His son helps him now at the Sober Squad, an activist group he started in Mille Lacs. The group promotes sober living on reservations across the region. 
Timothy Tiessen of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
4 Timothy Tiessen of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa just past 80 days into his recovery. He grew up in Sawyer on the Fond du Lac reservation and has witnessed the effect of drugs and alcohol here: "Sawyer used to be a lively happy little town, but now it's a ghost town. I want to try to bring that liveliness back." 
Ricky DeFoe of the Lynx Clan of Ojibwe
5 Ricky DeFoe of the Lynx Clan of Ojibwe came to Mash-ka-wisen for his first of three times when he was 21. DeFoe, whose native name is Gwiiwizens, meaning "a boy," now returns to the treatment center as a fill-in and cultural advisor. He uses what worked on him to help others, "The moment I used culture, language and principles of the program, then I was able to stay clean." 
Monique Lynn Crow of Rosebud Sioux Tribe
6 Monique Lynn Crow of Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota has been sober for about four months. She's a recent Mash-ka-wisen graduate. The cultural treatment helped her see herself as a sacred woman: "This is the first time in my life that I've been truly happy with myself and it feels good. It feels amazing." 
Two Suns of Sisseton Wapheton Oyate in South Dakota
7 Two Suns, as he wanted to be known, of Sisseton Wapheton Oyate in South Dakota has been sober for four months. He has been to Mash-ka-wisen nine times, most recently two years ago. He now lives in north Minneapolis and hopes to stay in recovery with the help of his wife and kids. "I'm worthy of a great life and I can do so much better for myself," he said. 
Coco Gomez of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
8 Coco Gomez of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe started treatment at Mash-ka-wisen on July 19. She's been in treatment before, but this is the first time she's been able to stay longer than 2 weeks. "I haven't learned the 12 steps yet, but I know the first one is acceptance." 
Robert Kesner of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
9 Robert Kesner of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa uses meditation and connecting with nature to help in his recovery. He describes himself as a "gratefully recovering alcoholic and drug addict ... I would have went back and told myself, you're going to die. This is going to kill you." 
Shandelle Friedman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
10 Shandelle Friedman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has attended the powwow her entire life. She's been in recovery for 20 months and now works as a technician at Mash-ka-wisen. She credits the cultural aspect of treatment for her sobriety. "A lot of other treatment centers talk a lot about God but don't really show you how. Here I was able to connect with my higher power." 
James Fisher of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe
11 James Fisher of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe came back to Mash-ka-wisen just a year after graduating the program in 2016, this time it was for a job doing maintenance. In treatment, he learned beadwork and went to meetings, which he attends weekly. "It feels great being employed somewhere where I was a client," he said. "Mash will always be here when you're ready." 
Elwin Benton of Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
12 Elwin Benton of Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa built the Mash-ka-wisen treatment center and has attended all 40 sobriety powwows. He was the director of the center for 30 years and now sits on its powwow committee. Working toward his 52nd year of sobriety. He compares treatment to being part of a wolf pack. "I'm a member of the pack, and other people have got my back." 
Lee Abramowski, of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
13 Lee Abramowski of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has been in recovery for 18 months. He spent 87 days at the Mash-ka-wisen treatment center last year. "I'd just had enough," he said, "I did dope for 20 years." He said the key to his sobriety has been changing everything about his life: "you have to change everything, and if you don't, you're going to fall back in."