The Cedar Bough Native American Program, which closed in 2016, was a private, independent residential treatment facility for tribal youth. For nine years, Cedar Bough provided high-risk/high-need youth, many who had been involved in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, with culturally-competent mental and behavioral healthcare services. Using traditional practices like equine therapy, drumming circles, and smudging, the Cedar Bough program sought to strengthen participants’ tribal identity and connection to Native culture. Program staff worked in partnership with a variety of supportive adults, such as therapists, case workers, child welfare workers, tribal representatives, and family members, to support, empower, and meet the needs of each participant.
Tribal juvenile justice systems, like many state systems, have seen a significant shift in recent years away from punitive policies that rely heavily on detention and toward community-based interventions that seek to give young offenders the support they need to avoid future justice system involvement. Youth play a special role in many tribal communities, and young tribal members face a unique set of challenges. Native youth experience high rates of substance abuse, mental health disorders, suicide, poverty, and exposure to violence, often the result of historical and intergenerational trauma. Recognizing the need to address these challenges, tribes are connecting justice-involved youth with treatment, counseling, healthy social activities, family supports, cultural programming, mentoring, and other critical services. These programs seek to protect youth from a future of crime and incarceration and build a new generation of tribal leaders.