maple leaf 2-8. Circle Talks

Here are some general guidelines for conducting circle talks. Please check with how they are actually conducted in the local area, as there are differences between Native nations.

In its simplest form a circle talk:

  1. is done in a complete circle,
  2. only the person holding the stick talks, all the rest listen,
  3. the stick is passed around in a clockwise direction,
  4. a person talks until they are finished, being respectful of time,
  5. the circle talk is complete when everyone has had the opportunity to speak,
  6. a person may pass the stick without speaking, if they so wish,
  7. if desired, the stick may be passed around again,
  8. what is said in the circle stays in the circle,
  9. a circle is used to discuss issues of importance,
  10. is extremely respectful of everyone as individuals and what they have to say.

Some additional issues:

  1. Before a circle talk is conducted, it is usually a good idea to review the protocol for the circle (if this is the first time this group of people are doing a circle talk together.)
  2. It's wise to be trained by someone who is comfortable doing circle talks.
  3. The circle must be complete, it shouldn't be a semi-circle, etc. People should not be left out.
  4. An object is passed around. Native people use a feather, rock, or other object that has some significance. If no significant object is available, a common practice is have someone in the group donate something of significance to them, such as a bracelet.
  5. Only the person holding the object is allowed to talk. If a person is talking and is in pain, body language is used to send a supporting message. The people beside the person may want to touch the hurting person's arm. In some circles, there may be a pause while a friend hugs the person. Variations of how circles operate occur. All do so in a respectful manner.
  6. Some circles have a person who is "responsible for conducting the circle", others don't. This person may, or may not, smudge, or do some other ceremonial activities. They may want to only use a feather, or other object that has been blessed.
  7. To "get out of the circle talk" to ask a question, some people put the stick down and so can ask questions which allows anyone to answer. This is a sensitive issue because others say it's breaking the spirit of a circle talk.
  8. Circle talks are powerful as they usually focus on emotional issues and so go directly to the heart.
  9. The underlying concept is to be respectful. Circle talks are conducted in different ways. The "simplest form of a circle talk" {outlined on the previous page is a good starting point}.
  10. Remember, it's a good idea to learn how to do circle talks from someone who is experienced, and there are many variations.

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