Experiment on…..CONSENSUAL DECISION MAKING EXERCISE

MNN. March 27, 2005.┬áIn the middle of my sleep Wednesday night, I got a call from Tiokasin of WBAI Radio, New York City. He wanted me to come on his show early the next morning. He was having a discussion on the Red Lake Reservation school shooting. Apparently I agreed to do it.When I woke up Thursday morning, I did not remember a thing about it. At 9:55 am. I received a call, “It’s WBAI Radio from New York. Are you ready to go on the air in 5 minutes”? They reminded me that I had agreed to go on. “What am I suppose to talk about”? I asked. He said, “About the Red Lake school shooting in Northern Minnesota”. I had to quickly gather my thoughts and went on the air.

The first question was who to blame for it. I answered, “George Bush!” I explained how our youth are being conditioned by video games and movies to kill people without thinking. Just like they see on TV in Iraq every day! “Isn’t that what George W. Bush and his team of megalomaniacs need so he can become king of the whole wide world and head honcho of the entire corporate-military-industrial complex? They need thoughtless killers and they’re creating them.”

My heart goes out to this child. He was slashing his wrists. So the authorities put him on Prozac. What did life have to offer him? His father had already
committed suicide and his mother is permanently hospitalized following a car accident. His culture is under constant attack. What choices did American
society offer him? He could be a vegetable or he could be a killer. I remember the last question I was asked was, “What do the Indians want?” I answered, “We want to be free like we once were before the first European put his foot on our continent”.

Then I had to head out to Concordia University in Montreal to teach my class on “History of Indigenous Women”. All the students are white, except for one
Japanese.

We were doing an exercise on how to resolve an issue using our Indigenous consensual decision making process. I divided the class into three clans, Wolf,
Turtle and Bear. I explained the basic criteria that must be followed: peace, righteousness and power. They were to be people of an Indian reservation where there had been a shooting at the school. Ten people were killed. This community was going to be besieged by the FBI, social workers, an army of media, grief counselors, helpers, curious people and authorities of all sorts. They needed time to get themselves together before the spotlight of the world was put on them.

The Wolf Clan deliberated first. After discussing the many facets of the horrendous event, they come up with three good ideas. The first was to ask neutral observers to deal with the outsiders. The second was to ask the American Indian Movement to be on the front lines to be a buffer for them. The third was for the clans to deal with the victims, families and community. They wanted peace.

Their decisions were passed over to the Turtle Clan who then discussed them. They agreed with the three ideas and expanded on the third one. Then it was passed over to the Bear Clan who had to discuss it and sanction the decisions of the other two clans.

One member of the Bear Clan was noticeably upset. She expressed how she could not put herself in the place of these native people. It was too painful. This was the first time in her life that she had heard of the oppression of Indigenous people. The other students understood her feelings.

I explained that I was teaching them another way of resolving issues, a traditional Indigenous way. It requires the full participation of each person. This way the level of knowledge of each is raised. A resolution is reached which is in the best interests of all. It is essential that they come to one mind.

Looking around the classroom, I noticed that some of the students were crying because they felt attacked and blamed. I apologized and told them this was not my intent. This structure of decision making came from our constitution, the Kaianereh’ko:wa/Great Law of Peace. We feel the whole world could benefit from
using this system. The U.S. Constitution was based on our philosophy of equality and our relationship to the natural world. However, the U.S. maintained their
hierarchical system within it. The Charter of the United Nations is based on the U.S. Constitution. From our philosophy came the Rule of Law and international law. The Kanion’ke:haka/Mohawk feel that we must save the rule of law for our People and for the world.

When the class was over, I left. Many stayed behind. I could still hear some of them crying. It greatly upset me. The decision making process had given each of
them a voice, something they are not use to having. Even though they were role playing, they had little experience in having their thoughts and feelings validated. It touched a well of pent up emotions.

One of the students sent me an email that night. She said, “I do feel attacked in class, but not by you. I feel attacked by my own ignorance. I consider myself
smart and well-educated. But then why did I have all these preconceived ideas about Indigenous people? Why did I not realize what they had been subjected to? Naturally I have never been educated in indigenous history or even in the REAL history of Canada. I feel this is no longer an excuse. As I age I realize that it really is up to me to seek the truth in issues, not hope it is provided to me. Fortunately, on rare occasions, I meet someone like yourself who can provide it. Anyway, I think when most people say they feel attacked, they mean it the way I do, not in terms of you pointing a finger saying “this is your fault”. Realizing the depths of my non-knowing is the best thing about your class. Overwhelming sometimes, but necessary and welcome.”

Kahentinetha Horn
MNN Mohawk Nation News

poster: Thahoketoteh