Welcome Message

Welcome to "Words to Re-Member", the official blog of Re-Member.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


by Alex Hultgren, Re-Member Social Media Director

There are a lot of different groups that have come out to Re-Member over the years;  church congregations, youth teams, college students on alternative spring breaks, families, seniors . . . the list goes on.  But the directors and men from Jaywalker Lodge in Carbondale, CO, bring a unique perspective to Re-Member when they attend:  the perspective of recovery.

Jaywalker discovered Re-Member 4 years ago by program manager Dan Reed.  “I had been dabbling in Native American spirituality and was invited to do some work on a Sun Dance Arbor here on Pine Ridge,” explained Dan.  “Once I got here, I was taken with the Rez and I stumbled upon Re-Member.  I decided to come out for a week as a volunteer and do the program.”  Dan was so moved by the experience – and immediately saw how much the men from Jaywalker could get out of this program – that he came back that same season.  Only this time, he brought a crew of men with him.  They have been coming back ever since.
Dan Solutions Pine Ridge
Dan Reed, Solutions Program Director at Jaywalker Lodge

As volunteers, the men of Jaywalker blend right in to the group at Re-Member.  “Most of our men are in their early 20's and come from middle- to upper-class backgrounds,” explains Bob Furgason, founder of Jaywalker. “The first day or two, no one knows who we are – or realize the struggles our men have had with addiction.”  Dan, who was marking his seventh visit to Re-Member this spring, adds: “as the week unfolds, it’s been great to see how other people open up.  The volunteers here are already open-minded, or they wouldn't be here.  I remember one week there was an older gentleman from a church congregation that had been fairly quiet, but once he found out who we were, he began sharing a story about a family member – I think it was a grandson – who has struggled with addiction.”  This was not a story he was able to share with many people, but the presence of Jaywalker allowed him to open up, share and ask questions about a topic many people are afraid to discuss.

“Addiction is a self-destructive path, and people make lifestyle adjustments,” explains Bob. “The use of drugs and alcohol are on a curve.  The difference is how far down on the continuum someone goes.  At some point, people tell themselves they can control it, and they can’t.  They feel like failures and spiral down … they lose self-esteem.”  Dan continues: “Using drugs becomes the only motivation in life.  Every other relationship takes a back seat.”  One can tell immediately by interacting with the participants from Jaywalker that these men have taken a positive step to put that lifestyle behind them.  

Is it challenging to go into homes on the Rez to do work for Re-Member -- and occasionally find residents who are drunk or high?  “Most of the guys do not react when we encounter that kind of thing on a work site,” stated Dan, “and the few times I've had one of our men say something, I pull them aside and say: ‘Hey.  That was you.  You were the one lying on the floor passed out, and it wasn't too long ago. Don’t judge.’ and they come around pretty quickly.”

Based on his 22 years of personal experience and work in the world of recovery (actually 75% of Jaywalker’s staff have been through recovery), Bob can see how alcoholism and addiction on the Rez present particular challenges:  “Our men are in a community and culture that supports them.  When only 10% of the community has an addiction problem, the other 90% can support,” explains Bob, “but when alcoholism is running at 80% on the Rez, it is a much, much tougher battle.”  At the same time, the beliefs and traditions of the Lakota are a great foundation.  “The core values of the Lakota culture appeal to everyone.”

“At Jaywalker, we try to emulate Gandhi’s teaching:  ‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.’  This is exactly why Re-Member’s work is so relevant to our program,” explains Dan. “Most of the men in our program are from homes where the parents went to college and are progressive thinkers.  Our men have the core values or service to others inside of them; those values have just been dormant.”  Bob adds: “But recovery is about shifting, shifting away from ‘this’ to ‘that,’ so we can draw a parallel to the work at Re-Member.  Even though our men may only be working on one or two work projects during the week -- when there are so many issues on the Rez -- it all matters:  little differences can have a huge impact.” Dan concludes:  “We will be back.”

We are privileged and fortunate to have the men from Jaywalker Lodge spend time with us at Re-Member.  Personally, I am humbled by the strength and courage each of these men have found to address their addictions head-on, and I was honored to have met Bob, Dan, and the rest of the staff that are making such a difference in these men’s lives. It also reminded me that you never know what interesting and amazing people you may encounter spending a week at Re-Member, so why not book a week with us?  And as always, we appreciate your ongoing support! Comments/questions?  Please contact me at alex@re-member.org.