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HomeWalking in Balance curriculum
 
 

Walking in Balance with All Our Relations:  An American Indian primary prevention bystander intervention curriculum based on indigenous pre-colonization values.

The curriculum features twelve values that are relevant to all indigenous communities:  These include true democracy, compassion, respect, generosity, courage, wisdom, sacredness, humility, empathy, balance, gratitude, and connection to the land.  Elders teach and mentor adults and children in the community.  This curriculum is being evaluated in a culturally appropriate story-telling format that yields both qualitative and quantitative data.  Using the Talking Stick Circle Process, this curriculum highlights the intersections of gender equity, structures based on true democracy, economic justice and environmental justice and their role in preventing all forms of interpersonal violence. It will also demonstrate how empowered indigenous community members can design and author their primary prevention curriculum with the goal of living in safety and peace with each other.  The evaluation process is seamlessly integrated into the teaching modules.

 
Sample Teaching Module:
 Walking in Balance with All Our Relations

Respect Module

 

 

Explanation of Talking Stick:

The Talking Stick, according to indigenous legend of unknown nation, is a tool American Indians use to call a Council meeting for teaching, decision making or conflict resolution.  It allows each person in the Circle to present their point of view.  The Talking Stick is passed around the Circle clockwise.  While the individual is speaking, no one else can interrupt or crosstalk.  Individuals may pass. The Talking Stick continues until all have spoken.  Every person present must listen intently to the person speaking.  This means Circle participants will not be thinking about what they intend to say, but rather be transformed by what they are hearing.  Active listening in this way allows for changes of heart and thinking.  A feather is part of the talking stick to reflect that the individual contributions of the whole will allow the Circle to see the big picture with the eyes of an eagle from above the clouds.  Each individual would identify the details that need attention. The Circle Keeper of the group is responsible for making the Talking Stick. Each part of the Talking Stick is a reflection of the Circle Keeper’s personal medicine.  Because of this, each Talking Stick will be different.  White Pine represents Peace; Birch stand for truth; cedar represents cleansing, etc.  Each tree carries its own medicine.  Often the purpose of the Circle informs the making of the particular Talking Stick.  Every item incorporated into the Talking Stick has significant meaning.  It is important that the building of the stick be made in a sacred way.  It is good to open one’s heart to what is needed and allow the Talking Stick to make itself through the person.  Turn off the brain, turn inward to the inner knowing and begin collecting those feathers, leather, tree branches, shells, lacing, fur, etc. that are wanting to become part of the Talking Stick. Sit with these collected beings and allow them to arrange themselves how they see fit. 

Items Needed for Teaching:

Talking Stick

3 x 5 index cards numbered one on one side and two on the other to pass out to circle participants at beginning of the Circle Teaching.

Basket to collect the cards at the end.

Audio equipment to tape the final circle round to gather thoughts about what participants learned from participating in the session.

Explanation of the Circle Process

Explanation of the Talking Stick, its purpose, how it was made.

Explain the Circle Protocol:  The Talking Stick travels clockwise round the circle. While the person holding the stick is speaking, there can be no interruption or cross talk.  A person can pass the Talking Stick to the next person without speaking.  Touching the feathers and decorations is discouraged.  Do not touch the Talking Stick to the ground.  The purpose of the Talking Stick protocol is to encourage more listening than speaking, allowing the participant to be transformed by those who spoke before.  Avoid preparing what to say; Listen intently and speak only when the Talking Stick is passed into your hands.

Establishing ground rules and safety;

Indigenous model involves a calling in of directions, calling in of the ancestors.

Smudging all who participate.

Identifying elders or trained community member who can lend support when and if anyone is distressed by anything that comes up in the conversation.

Pre/Post question: 

 

Round 1: Introduce the following pre-post question in the very first round. Have participants write their responses on side one of the 3x5 card.

“What steps can you take to contribute to a culture of respect and to help prevent relationship violence?”

Teaching Rounds:

 

Round 2: 

 

Circle Keeper (1st teacher) begins the respect round by sharing how indigenous people view respect:

  • The indigenous elders taught that “Everything in Creation has a spirit that is instructed by the Source of Being.” All that exists is sacred. (Montitonquat. “The Original Instuctions”, 2010).
  • All are equal and interdependent. This is the first instruction all beings were given in ancient times.
  • Mother Earth has rights as a person.  Modern day physicists have scientifically proven that Mother Earth is a singular being; what happens in one area affects all other areas, much like how things are when we get a toothache.  The pain resonates in the brain center and the pain goes out to other areas beyond the tooth itself.
  • In forgetting the original instruction that all beings are equal, human beings have become a problem to themselves and to all life on earth.
  • Indigenous perspective on the root cause of violence: White male Christians drew a line on Mother Earth and fenced her in, claiming ownership of her. They denied ownership of land and resources to all other people. In the process they “othered” and objectified nature, they “othered” all women of all races and creeds. They “othered” men of other races and religions.  This allowed for the objectification of Mother Earth; the objectification of all women and all men of color.

Second teacher:

  • Whatever human beings did not create they must respect.  Human beings did not

    create Mother Earth. 

  • There is no such thing as land ownership.
  •   In indigenous creation stories women and the land are one and the same.  Women are the first instruction.  Everything starts at home.
  • Women are the first teachers of respect and need to claim the power of their connection to the land and teach this to their children. Immersing young people in indigenous culture is critical to having a safe and healthy community.
  • Since the earth is female, the women need to work with her.  Mother Earth belongs to them and the women will carry the ancestral lineage.

    Third Teacher:

  • In nature, the plants and the animals live in complete instinctual understanding of how to live in balance with all that is according to the original teachings.  They are not corrupt.
  • It is important to have love and respect for all the beauty in nature that surrounds us, feed us, clothes us.
  • Inside us lies the memory that we could once walked in harmony with the animals.  There are many mythical stories that speak of those times when we could talk to the animals and made contractual agreements with them about how to live in harmony with one another. Indigenous knowledge is based on natural relationships with the environment and social relationships with those environments. 
  • Wild life is like us and has the same needs and feeling.
  •  Plants in the garden have their own agenda and agreements were once made with them about domestication.  When people were nomadic we had more food choices.  The need for domestication came when people were forced to live in one place because of increased population.  Healthy relationships with plants needs to be based on reciprocity and equality

Third Teacher:

  • In nature, the plants and the animals live in complete instinctual understanding of how to live in balance with all that is according to the original teachings.  They are not corrupt.
  • It is important to have love and respect for all the beauty in nature that surrounds us, feed us, clothes us.
  • Inside us lies the memory that we could once walked in harmony with the animals.  There are many mythical stories that speak of those times when we could talk to the animals and made contractual agreements with them about how to live in harmony with one another. Indigenous knowledge is based on natural relationships with the environment and social relationships with those environments. 
  • Wild life is like us and has the same needs and feeling.
  •  Plants in the garden have their own agenda and agreements were once made with them about domestication.  When people were nomadic we had more food choices.  The need for domestication came when people were forced to live in one place because of increased population.  Healthy relationships with plants needs to be based on reciprocity and equality.

Fourth Teacher:

  • White men developed currency to further separate people from each other and the land.
  • It is important to acknowledge the role money has played in fostering violence against women and Mother Earth.
  • Money creates a situation where some people are valued more than others. This creates a hierarchy where respect is not equally shared.  It allows for the sale of Mother Earth and the treating of nature as a cash crop for exploitation and profit.
  • We need to consider a new set of values that those not involve stealing and hording resources and exploiting the environment.
  • What we do the land we do to ourselves.
 

Round Three

 

Circle Keeper:  summaries what has been shared in first round and begins new information for third round:

  • It is important that we know our place and function within the whole of all that is.
  • We affirm the importance of consensus decision making and the need to keep anyone from corrupting that idea and creating a dictatorship. We need to establish protocols and ethics ahead of time and establish ground rules.
  • We acknowledge that the hard part is transforming those who harm through a truth and reconciliation process that acknowledges the impact of historical trauma.  In line with this we considered three parts of the process of dealing with harmful behavior: 1. SPIRIT IS BOSS; 2. Transformative Circle Process; and 3. restorative justice. to affirm the need for accountability and consequences for violent behavior.

Second teacher:

  • From our view, the minority voice is always the most important voice to consider.
  • The decision making process needs to be participatory, inclusive, and include the perspective of the land and the perspective of human relationships. Material things do not have a lot of meaning then and fear can disappear.  It is people and community that sustain you and create security.

 

Third teacher:

 

  • People of this generation seeking to build a bridge between the powerlessness of our grandparents to empowering our children in a process of recovering our sovereignty.”
  • We need a new story to rebalance the relationships between indigenous people and colonials.  What we have is cowboys and Indian stories. We need to dispel the fear of the Indian.
  • We once knew how to care for those among us who were sick and in need.  We knew how to live with respect. When the plants shared their medicinal properties in our dreams, we knew how to live with respect for these ones.  All this respect was not predicated on material wealth.  It happened in the spirit of cooperation and respectful relationships with what each being brought to the whole.
  • Four Main roles for every society: elders, mothers, fathers, and youth. 
  • We determined that immersing young people in indigenous culture through nurturing and teaching is very critical to healthy community.

 

Fourth teacher:

  • Tell the story of the Two Wampum Belt. During first contact between cultures agreements were made based on mutual respect.
  • In our interaction with the colonists, we said “We have a canoe and you have a boat, and in your boat you have many religions and many colors of people and ways of life.”
  •  The two cultures agreed to connect the two boats in a covenant chain of peace.
  • The chain has three links: first link is peace; the second is friendship; the third is how long it will last.
  • The real problem would be having one foot in the canoe and one foot in the boat.
  • Indigenous people need to adopt traditional. pre-colonization values and believes to eliminate the interpersonal violence in our communities.

 

Round Four

 

Circle Keeper:  Summaries round and initiates the Pre/Post question:

“What steps can you take to contribute to a culture of respect and to help prevent relationship violence?”

Participants write on second side of card. Then each participant shares what they wrote with others in the circle.

 

Round 5:

Circle Keeper: Introduce final round closing question which will be audio taped.

From today’s sharing, what moved you, what transformed you, what surprised you?

Closing:  Thank everyone for their participation.