July 5, 2012
Empowerment conference concludes, but hopes to go on
By Lailani Upham
Tony Redhouse, Dine, inspires healing through the hoop dance, he says. The best part of traveling around the country to speak is meeting folks from other tribes to join in the journey with him, Redhouse added, after technical difficulties occurred and Blackfeet Manpower staff, Sooney Little Plume volunteered to offer a song for Redhouse. (Lailani Upham photo)
POLSON — For years the Empowerment Conference for Native American with Disabilities has been held at the KwaTaqNuk Resort, and – for free.
Last Friday was the farewell of the ongoing annual conference, according to Barbara Kriskovich, Disability Transition Programs Project Director.
However, last year was expected to be the last due to funding, said Kriskovich but with some funding available participants from around the state enjoyed one more workshop of motivation and healing.
Kriskovich said she hopes the workshop will have hopes of continuing in the years to come, regardless of the finality of the grant.
A federal grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was awarded to The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) to develop a basic structure to support working individuals with disabilities and increase employment options.
The infrastructure grant program was established in 1999 when Congress passed the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act. The grant’s purpose is to enhance state Medicaid programs and services, promote links between Medicaid and other employment-related services agencies, and develop a system of employment that supports people with disabilities.
Shannon Kring Buset, keynote speaker has traveled across the world, and has been featured on CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, FOX and Lifetime Network. The Empowerment Conference for Native Americans with Disabilities features sign language interpreter during the entire conference. Kring Buset shared from her own research working alongside women in Central America, Indonesia, India and other countries on “sisterhood relationships.” (Lailani Upham photo)
Sen. Jon Tester announced an appreciation for the dedication and support for Montana’s disabled workers. “As your Senator, I know we must continue to look for ways to create jobs and improve Native communities. That’s why I recently included a provision in the Labor-HHS appropriations bill to strengthen the 4-4-7 worker training program, which gives Indian Country the freedom to combine training dollars into one training program.”
Sen. Tester added that the plan is flexible and allows tribes to focus training on disabled tribal members.
This year’s theme was “Honoring Women.”
Keynote speaker, Shannon Kring Buset, writer, director and producer for WildHeart Vision encouraged the group with telling her personal experience of living and working alongside women of indigenous cultures in India, Central America, Honduras and other countries.
Kring Buset said she left or basically lost everything she had due to a divorce that was not of her choice in 2008. She left behind a career, award-winning author recognition, executive producer role and co-starring in Emmy-winning PBS reality cooking series and even owner of acclaimed restaurants to live in a remote village on the Honduras-Guatemala border. She brought only one suitcase and three inner goals: to heal her heart, to reconnect spiritually and discover her higher purpose.
Empowerment Conference returning motivational speaker and founder of Leadership Success International, Dr. Earl Suttle, gets the crowd alive and energized in a positive direction. Suttle is also a consultant to the (NFL) National Football League, and (NBA) National Basketball Association. (Lailani Upham photo)
She said she discovered in the years of experience that women of indigenous cultures had more respect and honor toward one another as “sisters” which was completely opposite of what is the “norm” in the U.S. society. The western society is widespread with competition, gossip, and hurt feelings within “the circle of women,” she said.
“What makes them (Indigenous women) treat each other better?” she asked herself.
Other returning speaker, Dr. Earl Suttle of Leadership Success International out of Atlanta, Ga, says he always looks forward to returning to Montana and see people from previous years and see how they progressed.
Dr. Suttle’s session always brings the most backward Indian out of their seats to exclaim positive affirmations or take the extra step of courage or risk in his hands on activities.
Dr. Suttle’s speaking is not only motivating but making the audience do more than they are accustomed to. His daily motto was: “Don’t do what most people do if you want to be successful.”
Two Medicine Lake singers and dancers offer songs and a variety of dances for the participants each year. The crowd shows appreciation with smiles and applause during a grass dance demonstration. (Lailani Upham photo)
In one game, Dr. Suttle asked everyone to go shake four people’s hands and state a word of affirmation. He then asked those to raise their hands who went to more than four people. A few in the crowd held up hands.
Dr. Suttle said only five percent across the board will take the extra step of growing and getting better within themselves. He stated to the crowd that they were the five percent because they were at the conference.
Three pointers he gave was: “To tell the truth; Get clear with what you want; and force yourself to take action.”
“Little risk, brings little growth,” he added enthusiastically.
He ended with a simple success skill — to carry a positive attitude.
Dr. Earl left the participants for last time and the last year with his ABC’s of a positive attitude:
• “Associate with positive successful people.
• Believe in yourself.
• Claim your responsibility in life.
• Desire to help someone else and others.
• Enlist a support of positive people.”
Regardless of the annual conference ending, the work of the grant to increase programs to promote links to support disbabled Native Americans with jobs.
Sen. Tester stated, “I look forward to continuing partnership to make sure disabled Montanans have the opportunity to live independent, productive lives.”