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Outdoor Ministry gathering hears 'Sacred Stories, Sacred Spaces'

Robbie Paul of Deer Park shared the history of unresolved grief and ongoing healing of people in the Native American cultures of the region at the recent national Outdoor Ministry Consult held Nov. 4 to 9 at N-Sid-Sen.

Robbie Paul
Robbie Paul and her husband Phil Wise at N-Sid-Sen

She led the more than 50 gathered from throughout the United States and around the conference in a presentation on the theme, “Sacred Spaces Sacred Stories.” She helped outdoor ministry resource leaders gain sensitivity to the need to listen to stories, not just individual stories but the underlying historical traumas that may be part of different lives and spaces.

As a psychologist, I have heard many stories,” she said.  “I haveprayed, sweat in sweatlodges, laid on the ground and let the stories go, to be able to hear stories and honor each person.”

Robbie, director of Native American health studies at Washington State University at Riverpoint Campus in Spokane, suggested that camp counselors and directors become natural listeners, and take care before they hear the stories of others.

As an example of the deep listening needed, she told her story of generations of losses and post traumatic stress transmitted to her and part of her personal narrative of self discovery and healing.

 “We need to listen to learn, and learn to listen—being connected to all things mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically,” she said.  “We know we are connected if we have learned to listen by being able to hear a bird take a drink of water on the other side of the mountain.”

Her self discovery began when she read about Nez Perce history and then heard stories of her great grandparents and grandparents—stories lost because they were too painful for the family to tell. 

 “I realized after reading and hearing stories that I needed to go to places where the stories happened,” she said.  “I needed to know protocols of the Seven-Drum, Longhouse and Christian religions.”

After recounting details of that family history from her great grandfather’s first encounter with another culture when Lewis and Clark came to Weippe Plains, through battles, slaughters, treaties made and broken, boarding schools and indignities previous generations suffered, she said that she needed to pass on the stories to her children and their children, the seventh generation.

 “We are to obey the Creator to do good to all.  God can heal wounds,”  said Robbie who works to recruit more Native Americans into medical care and health policy work.

“We gain understanding of the other so we understand that we all have humanity,” she said, telling of her dream to form a Truth and Reconciliation Council for Native Americans, similar to the model developed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa to begin the healing process his country faced after the system of apartheid was abolished.

Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © December 2009


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