Welcome to Fetish Alliance

Healing Divided Communities
A Tribal Approach to Resolving Community Conflict

By Master David Walker

Copyright 2004 by Master David Walker

Master Walker is a long time member of the kink community. He is the founder of the Austin Mentor's program and co-founder of SAADE. Master Walker can be reached at djs404@hotmail.com.

For Native Americans, respect for the environment around them was a cornerstone of tribal life. This included a demonstrated respect for one another, which was expressed through honest and clear communication. When their communication was clear a sense of trust and bonding would grow. Therefore a breakdown in communication was considered an important issue – and one that needed to be addressed.

The Talking Circle was one method used by the Native American tribes as a way to enhance communication and resolve conflicts. Unfortunately these methods were washed away by the reservation systems. As a boy I only heard my grandparents and relatives talk of these old ways and how they worked.

Talking Sticks are an integral part of the Talking Circle. They are used as a method to focus conversation and a tool to force each other to listen to the perspective of other participants. It was a simple protocol but highly effective on interpersonal levels. My family has a Talking Stick and we used it for family matters. It taught my family the importance of "hearing" and then communicating from the position of hearing the other person’s heart as well as viewpoint.

Typically a Talking Circle session is a long session. Depending on the complexity it can last for hours. When Talking Circles were taken to community level and tribal level it could last for days. So ample time was always estimated and set aside for this event.

Family meetings are easily called together, but community division and internal tribal conflict gave rise to different protocols or proceedings. The protocol was simple but designed to achieve a positive outcome. Here is how it worked:

The Talking Circle

A formal Talking Circle included only seven people. Out of the seven only two would actually do any talking to the other party.

Three members from each tribe would be attendance. This would total six (6) members. A seventh member would join in as the moderator and keep the meeting moving forward. Typically this person was an outsider with no particular tie to either group. In fact in some of the cultures like the Cheyenne nation they had specific people chosen for this task. In his book, My Storm referred to them as Peace Chiefs. My tribe had a different title for them but their role in the culture was ambassadors of good will.

Choosing Participants

The Speakers:

The process for choosing the participants was unique. The individuals were chosen from the existing leadership core (i.e.: The Tribal Council or Board Members). The two speakers would be designated by the Chief (or the Chief/President would represent the tribe).

The Advisors:
The other two speakers were required to be part of the leadership core but were chosen by the opposite tribe. This tradition evolved over the years and varied from region to region. The idea was to avoid the hardliners of a particular tribe from forming a block and influence a tribe to war unnecessarily. Because these individuals were requested by the opposite tribe, they were usually moderate or individuals that were known for fairness.

They provided witnesses of what had transpired in the meeting and a broader reporting mechanism back to the tribe.

The Chief Moderator

The Peace Chief or Moderator was also witness of the agreements (or lack thereof) being made. He/she had no particular say in the matter as it was being discussed but had power over the meeting. As moderator, members of the Talking Circle respected his presence and direction. He kept the meeting from degrading should tempers flair.

He was also witness to the final conclusions and provided neutral party validation of the proceeding and what transpired should future conflict or a breaking of the agreements take place. Although he could do nothing about such a situation he served as a reference point for the tribal system.