The Talking Stick

The talking stick has been used for centuries by many American Indian tribes as a means of just and impartial hearing. The talking stick was commonly used in council circles to designate who had the right to speak. When matters of great concern came before the council, the leading elder would hold the talking stick and begin the discussion. When he finished what he had to say he would hold out the talking stick, and whoever wished to speak after him would take it. In this manner the stick was passed from one individual to another until all who wished to speak had done so. The stick was then passed back to the leading elder for safe keeping. 

Some tribes used a talking feather instead of a talking stick. Other tribes might have a peace pipe, a wampum belt, a sacred shell, or some other object by which they designate the right to speak.

Whatever the object, it carries respect for free speech and assures the speaker he has the freedom and power to say what is in his heart without fear of reprisal or humiliation.

Whoever holds the talking stick has within his hands the sacred power of words. Only he can speak while he holds the stick; the other council members must remain silent. 

When a friend of mine offered me this stick, I immediately said, “Wow!  A Talking Stick!!”  I remember hearing about such a stick or object used in other “Conversation Circles”, but the only time I saw its use was in a demonstration at an American Indian Pipe Ceremony. I had no idea how to introduce it to our gathering of neighbors, or even if I should, but one Tuesday evening, when we had an unusually large group show up, I spontaneously suggested we use it in order to allow everyone to speak and not take too long.  I noticed that when the stick was held, the person speaking seemed to be more relaxed and free to speak—and others seemed to pay more attention and listen better.  I did a Google search and found, among many, the article above.

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