Each culture has its own set of values and there are often traditions and expected behaviors for showing respect, creating harmony, and interacting with others In the American Indian tradition it was typical for people to learn to live in harmony with nature, have respect for others, and all living things. It is my understanding that in the Navajo tradition it was frowned upon to look at others in the eyes. The norm would be to keep ones gaze in the center of the torso. Quite the opposite from our norms, particularly when men are talking with women. The touching of hands was different as well. Men would not grip the entire hand but would touch fingers in a similar manner as we would a handshake. As mentioned, their core values were related to respect for others, and they held a strong belief that human beings were inherently good. It was believed that the decisions of others should be respected. Our core values are quite different, and it seems that respect for others, their opinions, and decisions are clearly not at the top of our list. With regards to creating harmony and facilitating communication they would encourage members of their tribe to share their concerns. One tradition would be to sit in a circle and pass a decorated stick to each person in the circle. As the "talking stick", was passed to each individual in the circle, the other member of the circle were encouraged to listen without judgment to their concerns. They could ask questions to gain understanding, but only for that purpose. When the person with the talking stick felt understood, the stick would be passed to the next person. It has been perplexing for me, that in our culture which highly values individualism, we very frequently do not show respect for others opinions and decisions. In the Native American culture which in more communal, each person's thoughts, feelings, opinions, and decisions were highly respected and valued. Many times while working with families I have used the talking stick to help facilitate communication. Children would love to paint and decorate the stick, and as a result would become invested in the idea of talking and listening. This was particularly useful when there was excessive chaos in families and when family members would frequently talk over each other. So it has taken us hundreds of years to go backwards.
American Indian Values and the "Talking Stick"
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