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‘Buy into greatness’: Red Lake Community Wellness Summit focuses on opioid crisis

Motivational speaker Chance Rush speaks on Wednesday at the 12th Annual Community Wellness Summit at the Seven Clans Casino in Red Lake. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer)

RED LAKE -- Eight months after a rash of opioid overdoses prompted the Red Lake Tribal Council to declare that the reservation was in a state of emergency, band members and public health officials gathered to address the crisis.

Though the organizers of Red Lake’s annual Community Wellness Summit just recently expanded the scope of the event -- formerly the Drug and Gang Summit -- this year’s three-day gathering circled back to its namesake topic.

“This conference, we'd like to focus on the opioid epidemic,” said Arlen Medicine, the interim executive director of Red Lake Chemical Health Programs. “This is just not something that’s going to come and go.”

Wednesday’s event served as an introduction to Medicine, who took over as interim executive director in December. He is a licensed alcohol and drug counselor and has worked as a Rule 25 assessor for 19 years.

Medicine said he hopes to improve education regarding opioid addiction and dependency and use knowledge he gained during time away from the reservation.

“I do have a lot of experience as far as the last four or five years now with opioid addiction,” Medicine said. “That’s kind of one of the things that I’m bringing back with me, is some of those best practices that are being utilized out there on the outside.”

The workshops set to take place Thursday afternoon aim to address efforts made by the tribe to curb the crisis. Along with sessions on healthy relationships, relying on positivity and lake-related ceremonies and traditions, three hour-long sessions on medication assisted treatment were scheduled for the bulk of the afternoon.

Motivational speaker Chance Rush, who grew up in North Dakota, followed short statements by Medicine and Chairman Darrell Seki, Sr., with a presentation on levels of success.

“Indian country is a dying race unless we buy into greatness. We are the last ones left,” Rush said. “I don't care what tribe you're from. As a matter of fact, I don't care if you're tribal or not tribal. We all have to buy into greatness and I've said this all the time is that if you are with us, if you worship with us, if you ceremony with us, if you pray with us, if you live with us, you are us.”

Rush encouraged attendees -- especially young people -- to figure out what greatness meant to them and to do anything to achieve it.

“We have to buy into greatness on a community level, but also on an individual level,” he said. “You have to buy into what you want to become, you have to believe in what you want to become...Where you buy into greatness is by knowing who you are.”

The summit resumes at 9 a.m. Thursday with opening remarks from Medicine, followed by talks from law enforcement and break-out sessions. The event ends Friday at noon.

Grace Pastoor

Grace Pastoor covers crime, courts and social issues for the Bemidji Pioneer. Contact her at (218) 333-9796 or

(218) 333-9796