Heart-Mending, Life-Changing


Mending Broken Hearts will be held at the Anishinaabe Izhitwaawin Immersion Grounds in Rutledge September 26–28, December 5–7, and March 26–28. Registration forms need to be submitted at least two weeks prior to the workshop. For registration forms, e-mail kala.roberts@hhs.millelacsband-nsn.gov.

Wally St. John didn't know what he was in for when he signed up for Mending Broken Hearts training when it was first offered in District III in 2017 — before he was elected District III Representative. His main motivation was to support community member Briana (Matrious) Michels, who was facilitating the training.

"I'm a firm believer in Briana's compassion and passion, and I wanted to support her and show that I believed what she was doing is a good thing," said Wally. "Mending Broken Hearts is very enlightening. To enlighten is to let go of the darkness, and Briana is an enlightened person who sacrifices her time for the sake of everyone else."

Now that he is an elected official, Wally is even more grateful that he participated in the training when he did.

"If you're going to be in a leadership position, you need to exorcise your demons, because if you go in there toxic, you're not going to be an effective leader," Wally said. "You'll be too mean and vicious because of the pain inside. In my administration, my motto is 'Love is the key,' and this program helps you get back to the understanding and the belief that there is love, that people can love, that you yourself can love unconditionally. To me, that's a godsend."

Wally thought of himself as a pretty healthy person when he embarked on the training, but he soon realized that there were issues in his life that he hadn't dealt with. Facing those issues and learning to forgive has lifted a heavy load from his shoulders, he said.

"It's a very in-depth, healthy tool. It helps you to explore the dark corners of your mind, your psyche — not skeletons, so to speak, but the pain. We're compassionate as humans, and we like to fix people, but in order to fix others, you have to fix yourself first."

Monica Haglund, a chemical dependency counselor in District III, was attracted to the program the first time she heard about it. "I've always been interested in grief, working in the addiction field," said Monica. "Addiction often times comes from sadness, but it's something we don't talk about. I've always been drawn towards the Wellbriety concept and movement, and when I saw they were doing Mending Broken Hearts, I was really excited."

After going through the training herself, Monica applied for a grant to bring the training to Four Winds Lodge, the Band's treatment center in Brainerd. She encouraged Briana to attend the training, and the two of them decided to offer the program in District III.

Monica encourages everyone to consider the training, and she says there's no need to worry if you're reluctant to share the details of your past.

"I would just say come and listen, and you may be surprised at what happens," said Monica. "There's no pressure to talk or share before you're ready. It's just an awesome opportunity for personal healing. I wish everybody could go through it."

Matt Roberson, a member of the Wichita Tribe and the Executive Director of the Mille Lacs Department of Athletic Regulation, also gave the program high marks. "As Indigenous people, we all have some form of intergenerational trauma," said Matt. "Briana does an amazing job of explaining how our history of forced assimilation and genocide has negatively affected our mental well being. The Boarding School era robbed many of our family members of a loving family environment. This class has changed my life and given me understanding of why certain behavior patterns surface from generation to generation. I would recommend this class for anyone that is interested or feels they may need it. The friendships and bonds with others were an unexpected and welcome surprise. This is a great program."

District I Band member Val Harrington agreed. "I initially thought this would be a way for me to take responsibility for hurting others and myself, and I thought this would be a great time to learn to let go of past hurt," said Val. "I had no idea how this training was going to affect me and bring so many things that I had stuffed for the past years to the surface. It was an honor to be able to attend this training, and I wouldn't have made it through without the love, care, and support of the other attendees."

Val attended with her partner and said it was good to have him with her and also beneficial for their relationship. "I think this is something that all Band members and non-Band members should get a chance to attend," she said. "It is life-changing to be able to deal with baggage that you have been holding in for years — things you didn't even realize that still affected you from long ago. The tools and resources I have gained are priceless."