This is a brief article I wrote for a Indian Education class I taught in December, 2005 . I found it yesterday and read it last night at our A.A. Talking Circle at the Ponca Tribal Office here in Lincoln. The reason I read it was in response to someone's question about why we had Talking Circles. They wanted to understand the meaning.
Before Contact: Millenia of Our Own Teachings...The Tribal Circle (in 3D)
For indigenous peoples of Turtle Island, our tribal circles (or spheres) have existed for thousands of years. The tribal circle was based on the balance of everything that exists in the universe, the duality of masculine and feminine forces. To look at the symbol of the circle, you must imagine it as a sphere, with the top half of the circle representing the sky and the bottom half representing the earth. Around this sphere you also have the four cardinal directions, and the center, which represents the here and now or the human being. This ancient symbolism was reflected in all our tribal systems: governments, villages, homes, and within ourselves (the very act of breathing represents the duality of in and out).
Through our tribal educational systems, our clans, in particular, we were taught how to relate to the Sky and the Earth because as human beings we were composed of the same elements as both (spirit and matter). This relationship was one of respect, a mutual respect between all living matter. We had the understanding of what modern science terms "Relativity" and "Quantum Physics." We understood our relationship to the microcosmic subatomic level on up to the macrocosmic universal level. We encompassed this understanding in one phrase: We Are All Related. The phrase acknowledged the spirit or energy that vibrates in all of us. The Omaha people called this energy Wakonda.
The tribal circle was the foundation of how we learned and survived. From the time we were born, we went through growth cycles. Ceremonies marked each stage of growth and we developed our teachings around the skills acquired at these benchmarks. In the Omaha system the men and women learned separately. We each had our own language, our own ceremonies, and our own societies. There was respect between the two sexes where neither was considered better than the other. We were complementary.
And, the one underlying method of teaching in our system was that no one was allowed to fail!
This did not mean that we lived in perfection, however, because there were always natural catastrophes, illness, and warfare that would disrupt our circles from time to time. Yet, we were always able to reestablish our circles through any conflict...especially now.
And, these days we engage with one another through Talking Circles, such as the one I attended last night. I hope that this was helpful to all who were there.