Beating the drum to a better life seems like the right way to do things. There is a high recidivism rate among Natives that have spent time in the big house. This group is looking to change all of that. We met the men as part of the Earth Day ROOTS art workshop. The ROOTS event was organized by the incredible Rachel Heaton of the Muckleshoot tribe. Rachel is an indigenous rights activist. She is currently playing a leading role in the global divestment movement.
The HEAL drum is part of the HEAL for Reentry non-profit. They are dedicated to helping any indigenous person overcome the challenge of reentering the community after incarceration. They do it for themselves and for any that might find themselves in need of a way back onto the red road.
HEAL is actually an acronym, according to Wesley Roach, who tells us it means “Helping Enhance Aboriginal Lives.” “It’s a program that is heavily invested in seeing our indigenous brothers come home and do well with their lives,” he said.
Indigenous Incarceration is a big problem in the United States.
Native Americans are twice as likely to be incarcerated as Whites and have a 69% chance of recidivism or likelihood of reoffending. In Washington State, Native Americans comprise 2.5% of all custodial sentences. For clarity, Indigenous Americans only make up only 1.1% of the population.
Furthermore, this trend is seen in Indian Country nationwide which makes programs like HEAL especially relevant. It’s a problem that starts in the juvenile system where Native Americans are grossly overrepresented according to population size. In some communities, many natives sentenced end up in adult facilities because there are no juvenile options.
Hope and brotherhood through the drum.
“This journey started with a vision from our sponsor Winona, ” Jeffrey White explained. “and now this vision has been on the road for the past couple of years.”
Brotherhood is not a term used without merit. In our short time with the group, we were able to see them banter and tease each other. There was a real sense of brotherhood and they clearly support each other. They also were able to switch modes and get serious when it came time to beat the drum.
Bobby G Hicks was straight to the point “First and foremost,” he told us, “I’m just happy to be here.” It is clear that he is, relaxed and comfortable with his drum family. “It all came together,” he said when “like-minded Native American men who have served time found a way to keep themselves out of trouble. This is by relearning, if not learning all over, their culture and their ancient ways as tribal people. ”
Follow Heal for Reentry, here.