Grandparents form group to fight drug, alcohol abuse on Sask. First Nation
Kokums and mosoms plan interventions and counseling on Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation
Every Wednesday night, a group of grandparents meet to plan their next step in the fight against the drug and alcohol problem on the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation in Saskatchewan.
Some nights there are 20 people in the group–other nights there are as many as 40. They call themselves "Kohkom and Mosom Warriors Against Drugs and Alcohol." The names are the Cree words for "grandmother" and "grandfather."
"There isn't one house on this reserve that isn't touched by drugs and alcohol," said Irene Mitsuing, a grandmother and one of the members.
Band council is aware of the problem too. A notice posted in the community's grocery store warns people that anyone caught dealing drugs could be expelled from the reserve.
Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation is about 330 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon and about 60 kilometres west of Meadow Lake.
School struggles to cope
Community leaders say the problem is deeply rooted.
"A lot of kids come to school with not enough sleep because there's parties at their house," said Tommy Littlespruce, a member of the group and a community elder. "And a lot of the young ones are starting to do drugs."
He said it hit home over Christmas when students decorated a tree with their holiday wishes. Littlespruce said kids were asking for more than just iPads or cellphones.
"They were wishing for stuff like, 'My Christmas wish is that my mom and dad would quit the drugs and alcohol so we can be a happy family again,'" Littlespruce recalled.
"Another one: 'I wish my mom would laugh again instead of crying all the time because of drugs.'"
Kokums and mosoms expanding the fight
Beyond the school visits, the grandparents' group is also planning interventions with addicts, grief counseling and spiritual ceremonies.
"I just think that it's up to all of us," she said. "Each and every one of us has to get involved. We can't just sit on the sidelines and let certain people do it."
Making a difference
One of the founders of the grandparents' group, Roy Mitsuing, went through his own battle with addiction. He's been sober for 30 years now.
"We're out here, we're a group of people that care. You know us. Phone us, come to our meetings, come and join us," he said.