(Editor’s note: Gabe Galanda is the guest author for this post. Gabe is founding partner of the Galanda Broadman tribal law firm, a member of the Travois New Markets advisory board, and a founder and Chairman of Huy.)
If you are reading this blog, you likely work in the field of community economic development in Indian Country, and your work is all about helping tribal communities build assets and create economic opportunities. I am writing today to introduce you to Huy (pronounced “hoyt”), a tribal, community-based organization that is dedicated to helping out too oft-forgotten Indian relatives: prisoners.
As a young father myself, with parents who each did time in Washington State prisons, I want to help other mothers and fathers who have fallen to get a second chance in life.
Along with some good friends and Indian Country leaders, I founded the organization Huy. Our mission is to increase opportunities for incarcerated American Indians to engage in traditional religious and healing practices to help them find the Good Red Road.
There is no word for “goodbye” in most Coast Salish languages. Huy means, roughly, “I’ll see you later.” Tribal community leaders know when a member is incarcerated that they are likely to see them later, because if prisoners are ever released from the “Iron House,” they will surely return home — they will “see them later.”
Through our shared tribal spiritual experience and religious freedoms advocacy, leaders within state prisons have learned that traditional indigenous spiritual practices do help tribal inmates change their lives from within; and they leave the system as better men and women. This can create benefits for all of society, to which these men and women, many of whom are mothers and fathers, will return.
In 2011, we successfully worked with the Washington State Department of Corrections to restore access to religious and ceremonial articles such as tobacco that had been wrongly defined as contraband. Like other programs throughout Indian Country, we focused on reducing recidivism and protecting the rights of the incarcerated. We believe in second chances.
In any community, our people are our most important asset. Giving people the tools they need to succeed in life, especially when they are down and virtually out, is the best prescription for increased economic opportunity. If you share our vision for protecting the rights of the incarcerated and supporting programs that heal our people, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.