Public Radio for Alaska's Bristol Bay
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Bristol Bay's health corporation teams up with communities to hold wellness and healing events

File photo
Dillingham's harbor at moonrise.

The Curyung Wellness Committee has partnered with the Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation’s Opioid Overdose Prevention Program to host a community healing gathering Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 in Dillingham.

KDLG's Izzy Ross sat down with Curyung Tribal Council Chief and Wellness Committee Chair Carol Luckhurst and BBAHC Prevention and Recovery Director Nathalie Dull to hear more about the event.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Carol Luckhurst: My name is Carol Luckhurst. I am born and raised here in Dillingham. I am a chief on the Curyung Tribal Council. I'm also the chair of the Wellness Committee.

Nathalie Dull: Hi, thanks for having me. My name is Nathalie dull. I'm a United Houma Nation tribal member. I've lived and worked in Dillingham since 2005, and I currently work as the prevention and recovery director at BBAHC. That includes Jake's Place Treatment Center, the Opioid Overdose Prevention team and the village-based behavioral health aides.

Izzy Ross: Thank you both so much for being here today. I would like to jump right in and hear a little bit about the event this week and what people should know. It is a wellness and healing event; could you both talk a little bit about what it holds for people?

Dull: Sure. So I'll give a little background: The opioid overdose prevention activities are prevention-based, and at the heart of that prevention are the concepts that one, culture is prevention; two, that knowledge is prevention; and three, that connectedness is prevention.

So to take that even a step further, we also understand that culture, knowledge and connectedness are also healing. These things have a significant impact on treatment and recovery, but also just on our well-being in general. And so with those understandings, Tiffany Webb, Tish Olson and Amber Webb, in consultation with our good friend Christina Love of the Alaska Network for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, have developed a variety of venues that lend themselves to the promotion of culture, knowledge and connectedness.

So this two day community healing gathering is just one of the strategies that they have been hosting, or this tool that they use. The overarching goal is to understand why we as Native people are disproportionately impacted by a lot of social ills, and providing strategies for healing, and then having a promise of a better existence for our future generations.

Ross: And Carol, I would love to hear a little bit about your work on the Wellness Committee and what the tribe is working on with this event.

Luckhurst: Recently, we've offered Native dancing in the evening. We haven't had a night of that for a while, because we're still trying to organize and set something more. But we also have had arts and crafts and stuff, because this is part of our tradition.

And as Nathalie said, this is part of our well-being. Being able to come together and have these opportunities to learn about our culture, to feel our culture. So during some of these events, we also kind of have a little bit of conversation about wellness and what it means to us. And so I'm really excited about this event, because I truly believe that it's time that we start talking about some of this stuff and start healing from it, you know. Getting together and just like our people when we used to do these kinds of things in the qasgiqs, and having these opportunities. So we're hoping to bring some of this back to our community.

Ross: That's wonderful. And both of you mentioned this, but it's not just for folks who are experiencing a lot of difficulty right now. It's so wonderful to be able to talk about things and have a space to do that. So for someone who might be listening to this right now, who's in Dillingham or the greater Dillingham area, what might be some of the reasons they might want to attend, and what can they expect? I'd love to hone in on that a little bit more.

Dull: So they kind of follow a loose outline and let the process flow organically as to the specific needs of that community. The Wellness Committee of the Curyung Tribe has been in existence for quite a long time. They've done a lot of work putting together a wellness plan. And so to the extent possible, we want to incorporate every community's own plans for wellness. And so the team will follow that.

But in general, there will be some information on the specific historical trauma of this region — specific, culturally relevant healing strategies. And then, again, just the opportunity to connect with one another and understand one another better and have a little more grace with one another. Understanding that people's trauma response can bring out a behavior in them that is not really them but just a trauma response allows us to deal with people in just a little bit of a kinder way.

Whether you have a great life and very little history of trauma or adverse childhood experiences, we are all interconnected. And so if one of your child's classmates is experiencing a tough time at home, and they're acting out in class that impacts your child, too. And so, everybody can benefit from this gathering and coming together and understanding one another better.

Ross: Can people jump in at any time? Are there times that people need to be there? What's the format?

Dull: Yeah, really anytime. So it'll be open and it'll be held at the tribal council building right here next to KDLG and it will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. But yes, if you need to come and go, stay for one talk or half a talk, you're free to come and go stay as long as you like, and we take no offense, we'll be happy for any amount of time people are able to stop in and participate.

Luckhurst: Yes, and just being able to come and observe and listen. Curiosity, hopefully — let your curiosity allow you to come to this event and see what it's about. Because I think there's a lot of good information, and a great opportunity for you to come and start the process of wellness.

Ross: This is also not the first time that this kind of event has been held in the Bristol Bay area. There were also similar gatherings in Aleknagik and Good News Bay. What were the responses in those communities from folks who attended?

Dull: Yes. So this has been sort of a concept and a wish for a long time, and the team put it into motion on the first of the year. So the first event was in Aleknagik, and it was very well received. I think that people were a little skeptical, like, ‘What are they going to talk about, I don't know.’ But we had different people show up on the two days and I think overall, it was just really a nice impetus to restart their wellness committees, to become more active, it was sort of a starting point for them to continue work that they've done.

So people were really happy with it. Good News Bay was very, very thankful to the team that they came out and held this event. So we hope this really will be the thing to get wellness teams back up and running and active in every community.

Ross: Are there other events that are planned for the Bristol Bay region moving forward?

Dull: Yes, actually, the team is regularly hosting a Monday virtual talking circle that's open to anyone in the region or outside of the region. We had some people today from Anchorage, and Juneau, and different areas. So we are really excited about that.

Amber Webb is sort of spearheading this [workshop] and she has a phenomenal lineup of speakers. So they provide some information, then there's opportunity to talk and discuss afterwards. There's also the ‘Why We Hurt’ presentation that has been given to a variety of different groups around the region. That one is about who we are, how we have coped with trauma, and how we heal together. Also, regularly the team is in the schools and helping with the Native dance groups and keeping wellness and prevention activities going with the kids. And then, like Carol mentioned earlier, the weekend craft group which has been happening at Curyung Tribe. And that's open to all community members, you don't have to be a tribal member, and it just provides one more opportunity to connect with people and get to know one another.

Ross: Carol, you mentioned the importance of talking about wellness and talking about these different aspects of our lives. And as someone who's worked in wellness in Dillingham for many years, how has that conversation changed for you or in the community?

Luckhurst: So when I was younger, this was something that we really didn't talk about, you know, and I think it was from the trauma from my parents and my grandparents and my great grandparents. This is something we didn't learn in school. You know, these were things that we just didn't know. And probably in the last 20 years, 15 to 20 years, the conversation has started.

My first realization with the historical trauma was me attending the Train the Trainers for Healthy Relationships. The individual that was doing a teach-back to us was talking about the historical trauma that happened in another part of Alaska. And this was something that happened to a family member that I know of, you know, and so when that story was told, I put that into perspective of how that affected that person. And I had to personalize it. And anything that I've learned – when I took a history of colonization in Alaska, a lot of that I personalized into my own family to understand, and understand those feelings that were inside of me, the feelings of hurt, and anger, and those kinds of things, of what happened to my ancestors. So for me, just learning about this and like I said, starting to have these conversations, I share my stories as much as I can to people that I know that it will have an impact on.

But I'm also learning. I'm learning from the group of Tiffany, Amber and Tish, I'm learning from my own family, some of these things that we never talked about. And I don't know if that answers your question, because I feel like I kind of got off.

Ross: No, absolutely, just like thinking about I guess what's acceptable, or what people just generally talk about has changed over the years, and just how those spaces have opened up in the community and in families and everything.

Luckhurst: Sometimes we go through these feelings that we don't understand, and until we have this conversation, until we learn about this kind of stuff, then we have the understanding. And to me, that's where healing begins, is – we have these feelings, and that's probably a lot of the social ills that we have, is because we don't understand this, because we've never talked about it. And now we're talking about it, and it's starting to come out and starting to heal.

I'm excited about this. I'm hoping that people will attend, if not this event, then upcoming events. I don't want it to just stop with this event. I want to continue to have other events to bring people in, like I said, to start the understanding of what happened.

Dull: I’d just really like to thank the Curyung Tribe and the members of my team. They just put their heart into this work. Many people around the region have laid the foundation for these things to happen, and so we're just really grateful to be in a place of moving the work forward and moving healing forward as individuals and as a community.

Ross: And where and when is this workshop taking place in Dillingham?

Dull: So the Curyunng Tribe next to KDLG and the middle and elementary school will host the event. It will be between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Jan. 31 and a second day Feb. 1. Stop in any time during that time frame; you can come for the entire time, or you can stop in as you’re able.

Ross: Thank you both so much for joining me today.

Dull: Thanks for having me.

Luckhurst: Thanks.

Get in touch with the author at or 907-842-2200.

Izzy Ross is the news director at KDLG, the NPR member station in Dillingham. She reports, edits, and hosts stories from around the Bristol Bay region, and collaborates with other radio stations across the state.