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White Buffalo Healing Center offers balance, healing to those in need

BUTTE – Coming back from addiction and abuse takes many forms. For those seeking recovery through the practices of the Native American culture, the White Buffalo Healing Lodge may provide the answers.

Opening its doors in late September of this year, The White Buffalo Healing Lodge offers those struggling with addiction, mental health and other similar issues a place to find their center and start getting better. The Lodge uses techniques found in Native American culture but accepts everyone regardless of their background.

“I had seen that the Native American culture lacked in the recovery field,” said director Mandi Boston. “When I was with Job Corps. We saw a high percentage of Native Americans coming through and knowing nothing pertaining to their culture. I saw them falling away from their culture due to ancestral trauma.”

Boston, who is a licensed addiction counselor, explained that Native Americans were systematically ripped away from the practices and traits that made their culture unique and provided a sense of who they were. They were unable to speak their native tongue, have long hair and were told their culture was bad. That started to change some 50 years ago in the 70’s.

“I was finding that some Native Americans don’t even know what their culture is,” Boston continued. “They don’t know what smudging is, don’t do it on a regular basis. Don’t know what a talking circle is. Don’t know the history of their culture and that is necessary to them for recovery.

“If you don’t have that spiritual tie it makes it very difficult to recover. Having it makes recovery that much stronger.”

As it grows, White Buffalo is designed to be a peer-led drop in center with recovering clients leading groups to help those in the midst of their battle to talk to people who have been where they are and offer potential real world solutions.


Our purpose for the community is to provide recovery services with the Native American culture as a strong foundation that includes education and support.


Our vision is to provide culturally competent, holistic and wellness focused services that promote mental health and addiction recovery and address social-emotional problems that currently exist. We will do this by using peer support strategies in our service of individuals, such as; mutual support, and mutual aid groups, including the sharing of experiential knowledge and skills, by supporting staff training and well being, by implementing effective mental health and addiction consultation to individuals, by facilitating behavioral health services for individuals in our community who need them. We will continue to strive for excellence in supporting mental health and addiction recovery for all individuals who seek our


Three Native American practices that are front and center at the center are Smudging, Talking Circles and the Medicine Wheel.

Smudging uses sweet grass, sage or white sage and clears negative energy by burning it and putting it over the individual. The practice is designed to remove negative energy and spirits while the client is undergoing treatment. But because of its spiritual nature, the clients cannot be under the influence of any substance.

Talking circles, also called “peacemaking circles,” come from the traditions of indigenous people of North America, particularly tribes in the Midwest. Circle processes are based upon equality between participants and the principle of sharing power with each other instead of having power over one another.

The Medicine Wheel is used to help heal a person by guiding them toward the four basic components of their makeup – Physical, Emotional, Spiritual and Mental. It embodies the Four Directions, as well as Father Sky, Mother Earth, and Spirit Tree—all of which symbolize dimensions of health and the cycles of life.

One other concept that the White Buffalo Healing Lodge promotes is that of Wellbriety. Translated from the language of the Passamaquoddy nation of Maine given by an Elder in the mid-1990s, it means achieving sobriety and abstinence from substance abuse and misuse without stopping there. It means going beyond “clean and sober” by entering a journey of healing and balance - mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Boston’s own journey began when she adopted her son in 2011. Not being of the Native American culture herself, Boston learned six years later that her son was and that set her on a quest to make sure that he became aware of his culture and heritage.

In its first month of operation the White Buffalo Healing Lodge saw nine drop in without so much as one shred of advertising. Their first Talking Circle had three clients and a peer group saw eight attendees.

The message? What White Buffalo is offering is desperately needed in Butte and the surrounding communities.

With the assistance of Kathy Chavez, referring therapist, the Lodge is able to offer assessments for mental health and addiction and offers White Buffalo the opportunity for clients to get more specific help that may go beyond peer groups. Chris Yellowtail also hosts weekly Talking Circles to aid in the recovery process

As a licensed counselor, Boston can also perform assessments and counseling services.

The White Buffalo Healing Lodge is a 501c(3) and is open weekdays from 9 to 5 and has phone lines that are manned until 10 p.m. each night. They can be reached at 406-221-6908 or 406-221-7345.

There are some individuals who just don’t resonate with AA,” added Boston. “Your shared experience is going to help someone else. It’s like saying, ‘Here’s what I went through and here’s how I’m doing now.’ What hope there is in that! To hear someone’s story and think, ‘Wow! you overcame that and maybe I can too!’”


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