By Sarah Sense-Wilson, Tulalip Tribes Family Services
On July 28 Tuesday evening, community members and Family Services staff gathered for a workshop presentation titled ‘Tree of Life’. Guest presenters Arlene Red Elk (James Town S’klallam) and Norine Hill, (Onieda) facilitated the interactive educational activity designed to engage all generations for purpose of exploring how to improve our well- being as individuals, family and community. Elder Arlene Red Elk and Norine Hill are members of the 501c3 non-profit organization Native Women In Need. NWIN provides workshops, trainings and presentations for supporting health, wellness through culture based values and traditions.
The ‘Tree of Life’ workshop was kicked off with customary introductions, blessing of our dinner feast, followed by an in depth explanation of the ‘Tree of Life’ metaphor. The ‘Tree of Life represents our personhood. The roots of the tree represent our ancestors, our lifeline connection with the earth, tradition, and our foundation for growth. The tree trunk symbolically represents our body, our core, our being. Tree branches are a reflection of how we represent ourselves, our values, how we reach out and engage in the world. The Leaves represent both the dichotomy of life problems and solutions; personal, family and societal issues/concern.
Attendees young and elderly participated in identifying issues and concerns, writing on ‘leaves’ and placing the leaves on the tree. The problem leaves were shared with the entire group, followed by the solution leaves. A large group discussion followed in a talking circle format.
Participants reflected on the exercise as a valuable experience for recognizing how many personal, family and community problems can be remedied and addressed by first and foremost seeking personal healing. Participants took ownership of the issues which is a powerfully motivating factor in making change happen within a community.
The example set by one participant was especially empowering when they shared about this exercise Tree of Life as an enlightening experience to share in a process engaging three generations of community members for purpose of striving for balance, health and wellness. One member of the group identified ‘have a voice’ as the single most inspirational message.
The ‘Tree of Life’ workshop evoked thoughtful reflection, positive engagement and courageous conversation among tribal members. The workshop facilitators effectively created a safe forum for productive inter- generational interactions which underscores the pronounced strengths, assets and traditional cultural values of Tulalip community.
A special recognition and in memory of Mikki Fink –Custer (Youth CD Counselor), we honor her commitment to supporting Family and Youth seeking healing from the wreckage, pain and losses due to alcohol, drug and gambling addiction.
Family Night is a once a month event, last Tuesday of the month, open to the Tulalip Tribes community. Each month we have different topics, speakers and presentations, in addition we provide dinner for everyone, all ages welcome and invited.