SGI Native American Members Meet in Florida for First Intertribal Gathering
On Nov. 30, some 25 SGI-USA Native American men and women from across the country came together for their first intertribal meeting. The sessions for Native American members took place within the larger context of the Changing Karma Into Mission Conference that was held from November 30 to December 3 at the Florida Nature and Culture Center (FNCC).
The participants formed a talking circle, a Native American tradition in which all members are committed to speaking freely and listening without judgment. They discussed the transformative power of their Buddhist practice and also found that they shared similar challenges in their respective communities--extreme poverty, isolation and the nation’s highest suicide rate, especially among young people.
Although only one talking circle was planned, the first’s success prompted a second to be added to the schedule. “To hear other natives talk about their struggles brought it home for me,” said Michael Sage, Navajo and one of the conference facilitators. “It ignited that flame of hope in us to change not only the reservation but also our entire nation.”
Michelle Bird-Wheatley, a conference facilitator and a member of the Assiniboine, Mandan/Hidatsa and Winnebago tribes, said the goal of the gathering was to unite Native American members to enable them to better support both each other and people in their communities who are suffering. “This process of healing begins with talking and relating to others who share the trauma we, the first peoples, have endured, hidden and unspoken, for so long,” said Ms. Bird-Wheatley.
In traditional dress, the Native American members also helped bring the FNCC conference to a close on December 3 with cultural exchanges that included a blessing in the four directions and musical performances.
[Adapted from an article in the January 11, 2013, issue of the World Tribune, SGI-USA: photo courtesy of SGI-USA]