Westside church provides offices for national Indian Wellbriety Movement
Leader, Don Coyhis, receives $100,000 award

       The Colorado Springs Indian Center (CSIC) and the national White Bison organization have begun moving into office space provided by the Trinity United Methodist Church, 701 N. 20th St.

Trinity United Methodist Pastor Jerry Boles, who is part Navajo, is shown wearing a ceremonial scarf and necklace made by Indian artisans.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Staffed with volunteers, both groups are leaders in the Wellbriety Movement which its leader, Don Coyhis, helped start through White Bison 20 years ago. Bolstered by a recent $100,000 individual grant to Coyhis, Wellbriety is a training strategy that focuses on traditional Native American teachings to help Indians who are trying to find themselves. On the White Bison website, Coyhis is quoted as saying, “If we bring back the cultural knowledge of the old days, we should be able to take on the issues of alcoholism, domestic violence and the problems we have today.”
       According to Eulala Pegram of CSIC, Coyhis will formally present a check from his award - called a “Purpose Prize” by its grantors, the national Civic Ventures organization of California - to both CSIC and White Bison at 1 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 19 at the monthly CSIC community dinner in the Fellowship Hall of Trinity United Methodist Church.
       The public is invited to the dinner, which will be a pig roast, with guests expected to bring a side dish. For more information, call Pegram at 593-0165.

Don Coyhis, in a photo in Indian Country Today.
Photo courtesy Ed Kashi/Talking Eyes Media/copyright Civic Ventures

       The establishment of offices at Trinity follows an involvement with the church going back to late 2007, when “a number of American Indians in the Pikes Peak Region contacted White Bison about their interest in establishing an Indian Center in this community,” according to the CSIC website (wellbrietyindiancenter.org). The idea was to “focus on a consciousness of wellness and creating a sense of community for American Indians in the Pikes Peak region. The focus of the Wellbriety Indian Center would be on wellness. Wellbriety means sobriety plus a life way that is healthy and balanced emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually.”
       In January 2008, a coalition of the groups began holding meetings and events at the church, initially on a temporary basis.
       But the relationship worked out, and the church had unused office space, explained its pastor, Jerry Boles, who is part Navajo (as well as part German). “They [CSIC and White Bison] said some awful nice things about being here and the spirit they felt,” he said in a recent interview. The church trustees approved the decision, and it was announced to the congregation in November. “We're excited about it,” Boles said. Pegram, editor of the CSIC newsletter (the Camp Crier), expressed gratitude to Boles and Trinity. “This church has been very welcoming to us,” she said.
       The Indian groups will use approximately 500 square feet of space, Boles said.
       Pegram quoted an article in the national publication, Indian Country Today, reporting that Coyhis, of the Mohican tribe, will use the Purpose Prize “to create a national Native Wellbriety Institute” in Colorado Springs.
       The article continues: “Coyhis says two things will happen as a result of creating the Institute, 'They (clients) can come here and not wait for training out there, and I can start offering the training by Webcast and Webinars. We can do that same training for multiple communities and we can reach remote villages.'”
       In addition to supporting the Wellbriety effort on its own merits, Boles finds an interesting irony, in that his church in Colorado Springs (originally named Methodist Episcopal Church), was started by Rev. John Chivington in 1860. Chivington is best known - infamously by many Native Americans - for being the commanding military officer at the Battle (sometimes called a “massacre') of Sand Creek in 1864. Now, Boles said with a smile, “The epicenter of Native American ministries is right here in Chivington's church.”
       According to the Civic Ventures website, Purpose Prizes are new grants (five of them given out this year) to “exceptional individuals over age 60 who are defying societal expectations by channeling their creativity and talent to address critical social problems at the local, regional, or national level.”

Westside Pioneer article