Welcome to the history page…. And glad you found your way here after all the brain sciencey stuff! Now it is time to tell you the story of how START UP!™ came to be and a little of my own story that lead me to create this vision. We all have a story to tell that is unique to us, compelling us to do what we do both personally and professionally. I have been a Registered Art Therapist for over 20 years, having worked with many different ages and populations in various settings such as psychiatric units, sub-acute physical rehabilitation, hospital emergency room and all departments, behavioral health, and schools and I have been working with the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota People for over 20 years both spiritually and professionally, being invited to different ceremonies around the US, as well as presenting and doing Art Therapy workshops at Native American conferences. Coming from a background of extreme childhood trauma myself, I understood just how powerful my own healing journey through Art Therapy had been, and just how powerful and impactful Native ceremony had been in my healing evolution. I knew I wanted to “give back” (excuse the overused phrase), but it is true, without wording it in any other way. When on the reservations, I saw the overwhelming poverty, domestic violence, substance use, child abuse and inter-generational trauma that happens on the reservations and knew I needed to bring my gifts and expertise to the Native communities, who had helped me so profoundly through the years. In 2014, I founded Indigenous Healing Arts Alliance (IHAA), a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, a prevention and early intervention Neurodevelopmental Art Therapy Trauma Treatment training program providing trainings to Tribal Schools, mental health professionals, social service and behavioral health agencies on reservations, I created IHAA in direct response to the devastating Native American youth suicide epidemic in 2014/2015. I knew the power of Art Therapy and the impact it had on my own healing journey, and I felt I needed to do something with the skills and expertise I had, and with my in-roads and connections to the Native People of this land. I had already been spiritually and professionally involved with the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota Tribes for over 20 years and saw the sadness and trauma these families faced and felt called to bring my skills and expertise as an Art Therapist to the at-risk Native Youth.
Me as a guest presenter at the Red Road Approach to Healing Training, Santee Sioux Nation, Nebraska, 2008.
I am a deeply spiritual Being and I pray, meditate, and listen. One night, I had a powerful dream or vision, which led me to creating START UP! I prayed for further guidance to make my vision become reality. I received answers immediately and the pieces began to fall into place. It was more of a spiritual mandate more than anything else. Within this practice is where I received guidance to create this organization, and for this I am truly grateful to all of my spirit guides who lead me on this path. My vision was to implement the START UP!™ program in every Tribal school, K-12 grades, to provide Art Therapy trauma prevention and early intervention in accordance within their own cultural heritage, ensuring cultural continuity. My goal was to reach EVERY child, to ensure that no child really wasn’t left behind. I also wanted to empower the Native People to heal their children, and to not be the stereotypical “wasicu” [WAH- SHEE- CHOO] (Lakota term for “white person,” or the direct translation is “Taker of the Fat”), who comes to “save the Indians.” There has been so much of the white man coming to the reservations and doing this training and that, and using the Natives for their research studies, only to take off and leave the Natives without any continued support or guidance, while also taking the research results for their own purposes and not providing ownership rights, access, etc., to the Tribes. I am NOT that person…. On June 7th, 2014, I left for the Santee Sioux Nation, a small Dakota reservation in the north east corner of Nebraska. I already had Native friends there, who had invited me to come live and work with them until I found my own place. I packed up my VW Jetta wagon with my kayak on the top, only $500 in the bank, and left the San Francisco Bay Area of California. Landing on the rez was an amazing and challenging experience; my Native friends already knew and trusted me, but I had to create trust and relations with everyone else, as a white woman. I began work with the Tribal Historical Preservation Office (THPO) through a Native friend of mine. This important Tribal office serves to protect cultural properties and artifacts for the Tribe when a company is seeking to build on non-native land. All Tribes have a THPO office. I was trained as a THPO monitor to inspect the land for burial sites, Sundance grounds, and Sacred sites. I met all criteria under the Tribal Law to become a monitor and after extensive training, I began driving all over the Great Plains region in the midwest, getting paid to monitor the land. While I was working for THPO, I designed the START UP!™ Art Therapy program, and began doing trainings for the Santee Schools, Behavioral Health, and Substance Abuse programs. I also contracted with the Dakota Tiwahe Family Service Unit (DTSU), seeing children and adolescents individually and in groups. DTSU gave me a room that I turned into an Art Therapy studio and gave me a budget for art supplies.
Me, Community Art Therapy project exhibit in the Indian Health Services Hospital, Santee Reservation, 2014.
The whole time I enjoyed going to sweat lodges and ceremonies and Tribal events such as powwows and feeds, and doing Art Therapy activities at Tribal Health fairs. I thoroughly enjoyed living amongst the Native People, in a slower paced society, with a helpful, kind and supportive community along the beautiful Missouri River. I felt a sense of being cared for and belonging to these people more so than to my own non-native culture ( I have since discovered that I have Native American Ancestry on my mother’s side). I began to give IHAA/ START UP!™ trainings on other reservations in South Dakota (although it wasn’t yet called START UP!™). After a couple years of successfully using this Neurodevelopmental Art Therapy program within the reservation’s education and behavioral health systems, I began calling the program START UP!, with the concept in mind that because Neurodevelopmental Art Therapy actually creates new neural pathways, rewiring the brain from the lowest functioning to the highest functioning part of the brain, that START UP! was an appropriate name for the program, as it literally “STARTS UP” the brain after trauma. Every time I did a training on the rez my participants would say how much better they felt, describing their brains to be “energized and awake.”
me, START UP!™ Training, Sinte Gleska University, Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota, 2014.
Because START UP!™ has its roots within the Native American People, I wanted to continue to serve ALL Tribal Nations, as well as other underserved communities, bringing START UP!™ to ALL communities and ALL CULTURES, by making START UP™ affordable and accessible to EVERYONE, online. SO this is how START UP! Art Therapy to Rewire Your Brain, came to be.
RIP John Trudell…. (1946-2015) Me and the late John Trudell, Santee Dakota, 2009, Native American activist, poet and American Indian Movement (AIM) member who occupied Alcatraz in the 1970’s. John was from the Santee Sioux Nation and I want to pay tribute to him here… RIP John….
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