Apr 23, 2018

​This week’s CHEER Champions of the Week are Windy Burd and Lynette Raining Bird, members of the Blackfeet Tribe and the local Blackfeet grassroots group, the Silent Warriors Coalition. Silent Warriors is comprised of community members who are working hard to expose addiction, educate youth, and support people on their recovery journeys. They are dedicated to helping the community find solutions to help prevent and treat addiction.

Silent Warriors is an active member of the Opioid Prevention Taskforce (OPT) in Blackfeet. CHEER facilitates the OPT, which is working towards establishing a medication assisted therapy (MAT) clinic on the Blackfeet Reservation. The Blackfeet Tribe, Tribal Health, the Indian Health Service Blackfeet Community Hospital, the Silent Warriors, and many other community groups, with CHEER’s technical assistance, aim to launch the clinic in the coming year at the Southern Peigan Health Center in Browning, Montana. Initially, the MAT clinic will be for mothers with opiate addictions, but eventually plans to expand services to a larger population.

Windy and Lynette were guest speakers at the OPT meeting on December 7, 2017 in Browning. They are both recovering from addictions and shared their journeys through addiction and answered a lot of questions the group had. Their stories brought tears, laughter, and a sense of connection to the people the OPT hopes to help through the MAT clinic.

“When providers understand and know people, they are able to empathize and consider approaches with more gentleness. We (the OPT) want to make sure that we are involving the people we are trying to assist in the solutions,” says CHEER Project Manager and OPT member, Kirsten Krane.

In the question and answer portion of the meeting, participants were given small pieces of paper on which they could anonymously write questions for Windy and Lynette. The questions were thoughtful, and Windy and Lynette answered them with honesty. The group wanted to know if traumas played a role in the women starting drug use and what kinds of things acted as the wake-up call for the women to realize that they needed to seek help to stop using.

There were also questions about how people in the Blackfeet community smoke and inject (also called “slamming”) methamphetamines and opioids. The women shared how people sometimes use the older, non-LED lightbulbs and the empty part of a ballpoint pen to smoke meth. Pipes used for smoking substances are commonly referred to as “loaks” in Blackfeet. OPT members discussed the increase in meth injection over meth smoking these days because it takes less to get high and the smoke won’t be detected by people testing their home for drugs. Windy and Lynette also showed the OPT what a “bindle” looks like so that they could spot them on the street (a folded piece of paper used for carrying meth). They even folded one for the group to show them the approximate size.

CHEER and the OPT are grateful to Windy and Lynette for graciously sharing their stories and information. We feel honored to know them and to have their help as we offer assistance to the Blackfeet community in opening their first MAT clinic.