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Passing the Feather

Written by Gina Lopez
CCASA Rural & Indigenous Communities Specialist

NAUHZCASA FV (Navajo, Apache, Ute, Hopi, Zuni Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Family Violence) is a multi-tribal, multi-disciplinary coalition that meets every month at various hosting agency members of the coalition. It operates without funding and aims to create equal partnership as well as opportunity to share in resources, offer support and discuss sexual/family violence issues. This month’s meeting was hosted in Chinle, Arizona located on the Navajo Nation reservation at the Hayooł Kᾁᾁł Hooghan building that operates as  the Division of Behavioral & Mental Health Services. Hosted by Clinical Specialist Donella Arrow who has been a member of the community of Chinle for well over 20 years, the same as her years of practice in these services.

On the early morning of the meeting, I carpooled with my good friends, colleagues and now sisters for life Judy Wolfe (IHS SANE Care Coordinator) and Dr. Christine Benally (IHS Epidemiologist) through southwest Colorado into the small community of Teec Nos Pos, Arizona where Judy and I picked up Dr. Benally. We drove about 2 hours through the Navajo Nation to the small, rural community of Chinle where we made our way to the building that houses one of the much needed resources in Indian Country, Behavioral & Mental Health. Some of these locations are not able to be mapped through GPS capabilities and so, we must depend on directions that describe stores, businesses and schools as indicators that we are getting close or have gone too far.

Today, we are able to make it in one swoop right to the correct building where we are met by our gracious host Donella Arrow. All participation and hosting is done on a volunteer basis so, we continue to be grateful and respectful when agencies or tribes extend this welcome to the group. As we had Dr. Benally with us, we were able to locate the building pretty well but we were lucky and realize that others may stream in later as they find their way through the directions that didn’t include a map.

The journey to each location serves a very important trauma-informed reminder: These trips and their distance, difficulty in locating and rural aspects are also the journey that victims and their families must take for services. With each passing mile in these beautiful landscapes, a victim of violence is making their journey as well. Not knowing what will become of this trip, what outcome awaits, so many unknown

answers but the possibility of hope no doubt fuels their resiliency to continue on. It is with such a strong survivor spirit that NAUHZCASA FV proceeds and continues to meet at these different locations each month. We carry these thoughts with us and say small prayers upon our completed day that we were able to support the important people who are there to meet folks on their journey.

At this meeting we were given the incredible opportunity to hear from one of the founding members of the Coalition, Ursula Knoki-Wilson who currently works for IHS (Indian Health Services) Administration. Ursula took the time to stop in and give us a look into the history of the founding member’s vision for this Coalition, her marvel in the Tribes who have joined since her time when it was the NAHCASA (Navajo, Apache, Hopi Coalition Against Sexual Assault). It was truly a blessing to have the opportunity to meet Ursula and to visit the hosting agency Hayooł Kᾁᾁł Hooghan in Chinle. Much gratitude and blessings to Donella Arrow for her time and giving us a great space to meet, we all wish her the very best in the work she does for her community.


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