A Talking Circle is called to address crime or harm that is done. It is part of “Restorative Justice,” which is described in more detail on the Restorative Justice page. Talking Circles do not have winners or losers and are non-adversarial. The circle process is divided into four equal parts based on the framework of the Medicine Wheel, which is widely used by Native Peoples. Those parts include:
- Getting acquainted
- Building relationships
- Addressing issues
- Developing action plans
Equal weight is given to each of the 4 parts, as all are necessary for reaching meaningful, long-term healing solutions.
A circle can be called for conflicts of a personal nature, like domestic violence, or broad in scope, like reservation/tribe issues with the surrounding community or state. Those trained in the Talking Circle become peacemakers and Circle Keepers in their communities. Individuals or groups call on Circle Keepers to organize Talking Circles in order to resolve some conflict. Tribal nations successfully used this powerful approach for many generations, but recent generations have forgotten its value. I seek to train people to use Talking Circles for the benefit of all people.
ELEMENTS OF A TALKING CIRCLE INCLUDE:
- Participants sit in a circle without tables. The circle helps each person hold equal status during the exploration of an issue.
- Typically, a center focus is present, which includes meaningful objects expected to help participants speak from the heart.
- An opening ceremony sets the intention of the circle. It is fundamental to create a safe space for understanding one another.
- Participants establish guidelines for behavior.
- Participants share values.
- A Talking Piece gives an individual the opportunity to speak without being interrupted. The Talking Piece is passed in turn to each person, giving everyone the opportunity to be heard.
- Circles use guiding questions, prompting questions or themes to facilitate discussion that goes beyond surface responses.
- If decisions are made, use consensus decision making to empower everyone to have an equal voice in the decisions.
- A closing ceremony closes the circle.
- Follow up.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF A CIRCLE KEEPER
- When approached, determine if a circle is a right approach for resolving an issue
- Help identify circle participants
- Prepare the participants for the circle
- Plan the specifics of the circle
- Prepare one’s self physically, mentally and spiritually to facilitate the circle
- Help participants create a safe space for conversation
- Monitor the quality of the space throughout the circle
- Bring the group’s attention to any disrespect and help to reestablish a respectful space
- Participate in the circle
- Follow up after the circle is closed.