The Barbara Schneider Foundation

Report date
January 2015

What has been most instrumental to your progress?

Personal contacts were very important in all the communities we contacted. We have developed these contacts over many years in the Native Community through work on the Police Community Relations Council, American Indian Safety Council, Mde Maka Ska, and by participating in a variety of events and forums in the Native Community. Contacts we made in these ways were very
helpful in reaching out to their family and community relationships in their tribal homeland communities and introducing us
and asking their contacts for assistance. These personal contacts were very important because tribal communities have
had very negative experiences with outsiders coming into their communities and benefiting from their generosity and then
abandoning them once they had gotten what they wanted. References from our contacts helped us overcome the
appropriate skepticism in the Native community. We spent an enormous amount of time getting to know individuals we
contacted in this way. This made our initial progress very slow but laid a strong foundation for our work with these
We found that using the Art of Hosting approach helped us build the conversation from our initial contacts to include broad participation from health, mental health, education, justice and tribal government sectors. We utilized the world café model to engage all these sectors in visioning a better mental health crisis response system in their communities.
We found that the de-escalation trainings we brought to the tribal communities built on the initial community conversations and taught concrete skills for de-escalation of crisis situations. We produced a six minute video that illustrated the dialogue
among Native community members and law enforcement participants in our work. This video is posted on the home page of our web site: under the title; Indigenizing CIT in Indian Country. We utilize this video in our trainings in the Native community to introduce the concepts we explore in the training.

Key lessons learned

We learned that it is important to slow work down so we can achieve a comfort level with our Native partners. They want to take time to get to know us, to have a broad conversation in their community before deciding on next steps. We found that broaching the subject of mental health and crisis is difficult for many in these communities but that when we speak frankly about these issues they are very engaged and appreciative of our point of view. We found that these communities are very interested in the development of resources in their community, but that they suffer from the same silo problem in the
broader community. Also, they experience the same disconnect from law enforcement that we observe in our work in nonNative communities. When police officers participated in our events, they reported that they learned a lot about the community they serve and they seemed pleased to find that community members want to partner with them on public safety efforts. We found that we made significant progress in improving police community relation. In addition, we were able to identify resources and strengths in each community.
We did have a slow start in our work. Numbers in the first meetings were low but we appreciated the community comment that it wasn’t the numbers but the quality of the participation that mattered. We found this to be true and in later meetings and trainings the numbers grew as well. We also learned that bringing non-Native trainers into a Native community is difficult because of the lack of understanding of local history, culture and practices, knowledge and behaviors. We worked to
orient our non-Native partners, and we are working to recruit and train a core of Native partners that we can work with over the long term.

Reflections on inclusive, collaborative or resourceful problem-solving

All three of the elements: inclusive; collaborative; and resourceful have been essential to our work. We want to include all elements of the community in our process and include non-Native and Native partners in each community. We find that the Native communities are very interested in a collaborative approach rather than a more bureaucratic, administrative approach. They are very interested in restoring the cultural approaches that were repressed by the US government and US population that overwhelmed them in the last centuries. And because of the long distances we have to travel and the limited resources we have we must be resourceful as we seek to make real change and support our Native community partners in this work.

Other key elements of Community Innovation

I find that humility and generosity are very important in this work. Our partners bring a rich and strong cultural heritage and practice to this work that has been denigrated and repressed by majority society. We come to them out of this majority society that has made enormous errors in our relations with Native communities and we have so much to learn from them as we engage with them in this work.

Understanding the problem

We began this work with the thought that the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) approach would be a new tool that might be helpful for tribal communities in their response to crisis calls, their efforts to build collaboration among the systems and partners in their reservation communities. We have had the opportunity this year to get to know several unique Native communities, each with their own set of assets and challenges, desires and commitments. Getting to know individuals, engaging in the community conversations, participating in the cultural life of the different communities has provided a richness of understanding we could only imagine but not really know until we engaged in this work.

If you could do it all over again...

I would add more time for preliminary introductory visits to each community where we could just introduce ourselves and discuss our mutual interests. Likewise I would add much more time for the planning team we have developed in the Twin Cities that is made up of leaders from Rosebud, White Earth, Bois Forte and Turtle Mountain. We began the work thinking more about implementing our model. What we have done is found a way to develop an organic process in each community to grow the strengths around crisis response, crisis prevention, wellness and recovery promotion.

One last thought

Amount of prep time on the phone and in prep meetings among partners and our staff was much larger than we anticipated. That is reflected in the budget lines for facilitators.