Talking Stick

Birgitt Bolton birgitt at
Mon Feb 1 14:05:19 PST 1999

As I understand the tradition of the Six Nations Native People in North
America, all that has been said about the talking stick so far is so.
However, there is more, and this we don't do well in Open Space---at least
the longest talking stick ritual that I'm aware that any of us has done is
about 3 hours. In native tradition, often the circle with the talking stick
goes on for days, until everything that needs to be said is said. And long,
long periods of silence are most welcome. I would like to underline a word
that Harrison used and that is the word of respect. Respectful speaking,
respectful silence, respectful listening, and respect shown to the talking
stick. I think it is important to speak about this. Too often the talking
stick, when someone is done, gets plunked on the ground instead of being
respectfully placed.

Warmest regards,

Birgitt Bolton of Dalar Associates
55 Ravina Cres., Ancaster, Ontario, Canada
 L9G 2E8
phone: 905-648-5775  fax: 905-648-2262

    -----Original Message-----
    From: OSLIST [mailto:OSLIST at LISTSERV.BOISESTATE.EDU]On Behalf Of owen
    Sent: Monday, February 01, 1999 2:20 PM
    Subject: Re: Talking Stick

    At 01:29 PM 1/31/99 -0800, you wrote:
    >A conversation for anyone interested in responding.  I would appreciate
    >What is the origin of the "talking stick?" How have people used it in a
    >Space meetings?
    >Don Ferretti
    >______________________________ Reply Separator
    Never having done the field anthropology I can't swear that the Talking
stick originated with Native Americans, but I am sure that every tribal
group I have even encountered on the North American Continent seems to have
some varient of the tradition. I don't recall the Eskimos in Alaska using a
talking stick, but the Inuits in Canada clearly do, and if I remember
correctly, there is a relationship. Although as I think about it, that
relationship may be with the Athabascans and the Eskimos are their own
thing. However, when you get into the SouthWest (Hoppi, Navaho, Utes, etc.)
lots of talking sticks. It seems also to be true with the southern tribes
like Seminoles, but I can't say that from personel experieince.. I have a
truly fine one made by a Southern Ute lady after we had done an Open Space
with their tribal council and some Anglos. It was truly fun watching the
Chiefs smile while the Anglos squirmed when we started in the circle. The
rules are real simple in any area I have been in. If you hold, the stick you
talk with respect. If you don't hold the stick, you listen with respect. The
role of the chief is to hold the space while it all goes on. The use in Open
Space pretty much follows the tradition. I find it particularly useful at
Evening News, and certainly at the close.

    Harrison Owen
    7808 River Falls Drive
    Potomac, MD 20854
    301-469-9269 (phone)
    301-983-9314 (fax)
    email owen at
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