Exploring Sharing Circles and Indigenous Ways of Knowing

It was lovely to see 27 faces pop up on the screen, on Monday night, October 26, zooming in to take part in our first Sharing Circle, offered in partnership with the Pemberton and District Library.


Led by Lil’wat7ul educator and cultural consultant, Tanina Williams, we were walked through the process of setting up a Sharing Circle, of establishing the protocols that would guide us – a respect for confidentiality (what is shared in the circle, stays in the circle; we will only speak of our own reflection or experience, not someone else’s story; if we’re zooming in from a shared space, we’ll wear headphones), everyone should feel safe to say what they need to say without any judgment (we take our turns to speak, swearing is okay but angry outbursts will be muted, we can have our own feelings, we don’t need to self-censor as we explore), if our technology allows it, we’ll keep our cameras on to share our faces, the sessions won’t be recorded. What is shared in circle, stays in circle.

These guidelines were developed mutually, with Tanina’s guidance, so that we can create a safe space. She shared how this practice has worked with school students, even kindergarteners, even reluctant carpet-sitters, and how she imagines it might have once worked pre-contact, when 20,000-40,000 community members came together over a period of time to reach a decision by consensus.

It seems so unimaginable to me, in the current state of the world, divisive politics, yelling over each other, and cancel culture, to make any decision by consensus, but as I sat and listened, and came to understand the discipline and patience I will need to cultivate to be part of a sharing circle – to not interrupt, not jump in and respond, just to listen, to offer my presence, and then to speak when it’s my turn, even if nothing profound jumps into my mind at that point – I glimpsed the possibility of this way of reaching decisions, and the great power of providing a safe space for everyone to be heard. 

Your hosts, Brennan Armstrong from the Pemberton and District Public Library, Lisa Richardson from The Wellness Almanac, and facilitator Tanina Williams of Amawilc.

I’m really looking forward to practicing this way of communicating, over the next 4 sessions.

Monday November 9, we will come together to share with each other something we have learned about Chief Dan George.

We have been tasked to go away and research Chief Dan George, and learn something of him and his poetry and politics. We could watch Little Big Man with Dustin Hoffman, read some of his poetry, watch a video of him, learn of his politics… let Google lead the way.  And then, when we come to our next circle, we will each have the opportunity to each share one personal takeaway or insight from our explorations. 

Explains Tanina Williams, “I chose Chief Dan George because he was someone who moved forward and became a resounding voice. Like ripples in the water.”

If you discover something exciting in your research, or have thoughts about sharing circles, between gatherings, we invite your thoughts in the discussion section of the event’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/810264839791302/?active_tab=discussion

(We have intentionally pushed our 3rd gathering by a week, to support the offering of the Squamish Library in conversation with Bob Joseph. We encourage everyone to register for that event and discover 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: www.facebook.com/events/3381434931972353/

We will reconvene our Wellness Almanac Sharing Circle again Monday November 30, with our focus shifting to Dr Lorna Williams. 

On Monday December 7, the invitation is to explore an offering from the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre.

On Monday December 21, we will celebrate winter solstice, and learn how do close a circle, so we can complete this series with a feeling of resolution. 

Details at (8) Wellness Almanac Sharing Circles | Facebook. Your comments or excited discoveries about Chief Dan George or Sharing Circles are welcome at the event page. 

Newcomers are welcome. Register at the library.

For those who attended on Monday – your registration link serves for all 5 Sharing Circles in the series. (So don’t delete it!)

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