Commercial Tobacco Use Prevention
Oso Vista Ranch Project facilitates events and provides education and awareness programs for the youth and adults of Native American communities to increase self-esteem, personal empowerment, cultural identity and community connection, all resulting in an ability to resist commercial tobacco use. These events and programs facilitated by our Commercial Tobacco Use Prevention Facilitator, include: youth leadership events, Challenge Course Activities, Elder Presentations, Navajo Culture Education, Native American Horse Inspired Growth and Healing Activities, Traditional Navajo family and individual counseling, Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU) peer mentoring program, Service Learning Projects, a student produced newsletter and community outreach.
The Oso Vista Ranch Program staff continues to mesh the Mountain Smoke and Blessing Way curriculums with tobacco use prevention programs through culturally-based presentations, service learning, project-based learning and individual interventions. As always, the basis for all presentations, discussions, interventions and projects is Native culture, songs and ceremonies as it relates to tobacco use prevention with a final focus on empowerment. Elders are encouraged to present to the youth at many group functions.
Radio, film and a bi-monthly newsletter are this year’s community based service learning projects. These projects allow the students to teach other youth and the community at large the facts regarding the damaging effects of commercial tobacco, the sacred use of Mountain Smoke and the importance of cultural identity.
Our experience with integrating Spiro Manson’s idea of financial sustainability with our programs has been a very natural and essential progression. Currently, our Financial Literacy Counselor oversees the implementation of the youth and adult financial education programs using curriculum from Junior Achievement New Mexico Native American Initiative, Oweesta, Neighborworks and Wells Fargo Bank.
Our counselor also provides both workshops and individual financial education sessions for youth and adults to increase their budgeting, financial management, business and consumer skills. Additionally, financial literacy as a life skill and prevention tool has proven very effective in raising the confidence and responsibility level of the participants. In the words of one of the Junior Achievement participants, “Understanding about how to make money and use it properly is very important because when you become an adult you won’t be so ignorant or confused when you make payments or buy something.”
As prevention is foundational to creating a movement toward healthy choices, Oso Vista Ranch Project believes that Youth Leadership programs are essential to healthy communities. Based on youth interviews, we understand that youth love challenge course events, youth leadership activities and camp evenings and weekends. They are hungry to learn about their culture, do wilderness hikes, learn about horses, build things and develop as leaders. We are aware that these activities produce the most effective substance abuse prevention results possible as they offer powerful opportunities for personal growth. Oso Vista offers evening, weekend and summer youth leadership events which include challenge course initiatives, equine growth and learning activities, elder presentations, cultural crafts and service learning activities.
In addressing the needs of a more high-risk group, we also provide additional culturally competent alcohol and substance abuse prevention, intervention and recovery support for first-time juvenile offenders and for men and women who have been court ordered to reconnect with their cultural heritage. We have the facilities and elder network to do just this. These interventions will happen at our leadership camp and cultural facilities throughout the spring, summer and fall. The Youth Leadership Coordinator, elders and community social services partners co-facilitate with consultants who specialize in Native programs focusing on wellness, equine therapy and personal development.
The Ramah Navajo Tribal enrollment is 2,400 strong in Cibola County in west-central New Mexico. Approximately 1,600 people live permanently in the Ramah area. Many people have moved to other areas to seek employment. The unemployment rate in the Ramah Navajo area is more than 50% with the average hourly wage rate being approximately $7.50 per hour. The average household income is well below the poverty level. Ramah Navajo School Board is by far the largest employer offering 375 jobs. Many of these jobs are more suited to women, being clerical, teacher aid, food service or cleaning positions. Unemployment for men is far higher than for women.
Unique Aspects of the Program
Historical trauma is variously defined in literature, but the basic elements are consistent: it is the legacy of numerous traumatic events that a community experiences over generations, and includes the psychological and social responses to those events. (Evans-Campbell, 2008). Relating all poverty, substance abuse and co-occurring disorder data to contemporary American Indian youth requires viewing it through a lens of historical trauma and cultural values. Programs designed to help American Indian (AI) youth gain skills that will translate into greater social and economic success must incorporate the lessons learned from this research. While it is beyond the scope of any program to completely redress historical trauma, there is evidence that some factors operate as protective factors and thus enhance AI youth resiliency to withstand historical trauma’s effects. .
To better understand protective factors, some scholars have developed a model, the “Indigenist stress-coping model,” where protective factors, including family/community, spiritual coping, traditional health practices, positive cultural identity attitudes and enculturation would reduce stress, defined to include both historical trauma and traumatic life events. (Walters, 2002).
The Oso Vista Ranch Project’s board of directors and staff are predominantly from the Ramah Navajo community. The Executive Director has lived in the community and worked as an educator for 31 years. This team is inherently sensitive to the issues of historical trauma and traumatic life events. This life-perspective, combined with Oso Vista’s culturally-competent programs and the strong inclusion of elder wisdom, has proven to be a model that alleviates traumatic stress by valuing the indigenous knowledge that has been intricately woven into the fabric of community life for generations.
Also unique to Oso Vista Ranch Project is its culture center, youth leadership and challenge course facilities. All are located on the Oso Vista Ranch just 15 miles from the community-centered Pine Hill, NM office. The combination of these facilities is highly effective. The office provides an easily accessible location for individual and classroom work while the ranch facilities allow for youth or adults to experience personal development, team building, elder wisdom and Navajo ceremonies all at one pristine venue.