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Billings Urban Indian Health and Wellness focuses on a holistic approach to healing



BILLINGS – Last week, we took you downtown for Smudge the Streets, an ancient ritual used to cleanse the soul in many Native American cultures.

It was just one step for Urban Indian Health and Wellness on their journey to help a growing community heal, and thrive.

“The urban population, it’s a growing population. A lot of people don’t know this but the urban population is larger than the population from the reservations,” Billings Urban Indian Health and Wellness’s CEO Leonard Smith said.

This growing number accounts for 80% of the indigenous population base in the United States.

And with a growth in population come a number of issues.

A number that requires a collaboration of resources, and an open mind.

Urban Indian Health and Wellness focuses on a holistic approach to healing.

“Some of the unconscious biases I received through services here in Billings, some of them was, ‘Well here in the real world, this is how we do it. ‘ And so I had lived on a reservation the majority of my life and so coming to Billings wasn’t my choice. I didn’t come here by choice. I had an addiction. That is the unconscious bias that I would receive. I felt less than,” Billings Urban Indian Health and Wellness’s Philene Whiteman said.

An important step is to remove the patronizing, and the barriers.

“It’s looking at each other as relations, we’re all in need, it’s not one sector of the community that is the only one suffering. We all need to look at the services we’re providing because it’s not going to just be the person you see down the street that’s suffering from this, it’s going to be a relative, it’s going to be a cousin, it’s going to be someone close,” Clifton said.

“One of the things we do here at Billings Indian Health and Wellness Center is we meet our clients where they’re at, we just meet them right where they’re at,” Whiteman said.

Their clinic provides anything from medical services to behavioral health services, the latter rising in demand.

“One of the things that I do in my practice is I use the medicine wheel concept, it’s pretty universal. Anyone can use it, Emotional, Mental, Physical, and Spiritual. It’s healing those parts. Because you can’t just heal one part of the medicine wheel. Heal all of it. I understand that alcohol and drugs is something that takes care of things, it helps you through,” Whiteman said, “So we take a look at who we are as a people. There’s a lot of people that, it doesn’t matter if you grew up on a reservation or not, we become disconnected from our culture, and our peace and who we are as a people. That doesn’t mean that we’re going to go back to liiving in teepees and hunting buffalo, it just means that we are going to get back to who we are as a people, and what’s in our DNA.”

“Go back to who we were traditionally, and that was entrepreneurs, and cultural medicine people, artists, community people, we’re most comfortable when we’re in the community. And it’s time to take our place in this community and to do things in a good, positive way,” Mary Walks Over Ice, COO of Billings Urban Indian Health and Wellness said.

The clinic is located at 1230 North 30th St.

Next week, Jenny takes a look at the ever expanding Urban Indian economic realm, and the collaborations taking place to promote more opportunities in our area.

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