Shonga Ska: Sacred Horse Society Drug Prevention Program

  • Whitbeck, Leslie B (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): This R21 developmental application seeks three years of funding to develop and pilot an innovative alcohol and drug prevention for early adolescents (aged 10-13 years) who are members of the Omaha Nation in Northeastern Nebraska. The proposed program will be based on a blend of equine-assisted therapy techniques and Omaha traditions pertaining to the horse in their culture. Shonga Ska (Sacred Horse Society) will build on strong traditional cultural values of a Great Plains horse culture to teach and sustain positive traditional values and prosocial behaviors to delay onset of alcohol and drug experimentation and to decrease the likelihood of transition to regular use. The goal of this innovative approach is to engage early adolescents in an appealing, prosocial, activity-oriented prevention program that teaches interpersonal Skills, refusal skills, empathy, cultural identity, and cultural values. The concept of a positive, activity-oriented ongoing prevention program is aimed at competing with early substance abuse and associated gang activity on the reservation. The project goals will be achieved through three specific aims: 1) investigating the feasibility of an equine-assisted alcohol and drug prevention program for early adolescents aged 10-13 years based on the Omaha horse culture; 2) developing an equine-assisted prevention program based on Omaha culture; and 3) piloting the prevention program with a small group of Omaha children in the targeted age range. The investigator's earlier prevention work with American Indians based on cultural values has shown that enculturation is associated with prosocial behaviors among early adolescents and that American Indian children are highly responsive to cultural content. The horse has been central to Omaha cultural identity, values, and spirituality for nearly 300 years. This traditional bond between horses and humans is the perfect medium for communicating cultural values and beliefs regarding honor, courage, dignity, protecting others, empathy, unselfishness, sharing, and traditional spirituality to early adolescents. The attractiveness and excitement provided by such an activity-based program will compete with gang recruitment that occurs during this crucial period for early onset alcohol and drug use. The proposed program has the enthusiastic support of the Omaha Tribe and involves a tribal leader as a co-investigator.
Effective start/end date4/1/043/31/07


  • National Institutes of Health: $142,569.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $145,875.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $145,500.00


  • Medicine(all)


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