Leadership by Asking Compelling Questions – How do you Heal a Community?

Here’s a post from one of our local Community Partners for the 2012 NCDD conference, the Center for Ethical Leadership…

At the Center for Ethical Leadership, we often talk about “Leadership by asking compelling questions.” When we work in communities to bring different people together and build their collective leadership capacity to address critical issues, we often uncover the important questions the community is facing. We know that asking powerful questions is an important aspect of leadership. A question that has relevance and readiness can animate an entire community.

One question, in particular has struck a deep chord. How do you heal a community, especially one that has experienced historical trauma?

Many communities have suffered from the inequities and injustices that were (and in some cases still are) institutionalized and incorporated into government policies. We know of the stories of Native American reservations and boarding schools that imposed cultural assimilation, slavery and Jim Crow laws targeting African Americans, and internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. Stopping the destructive overt policies has not stopped the negative impact. This trauma and pain of the past, continues to ripple through communities today. The trauma can be manifested in poverty, broken families, unemployment, domestic violence, substance abuse, and suicides.

We recently partnered with Salish Kootenai Tribal College in Montana, and other groups across the nation, to host a Community Learning Exchange (CLE) on Healing from Historical Trauma. The CLE gathered teams from tribal communities including: Lummi and Quinault from Washington; Dakota from Minnesota; Laguna and Acoma from New Mexico; and Salish, Kootenai and Pend d’Oreille from Montana. We explored the roots of the traumatic relationship between the Native Americans and western education, and how Indian communities and tribes are now reclaiming education as a tool for healing and leadership within their communities.

Tribes are incorporating their traditional culture into their system of education and each component of culture rebuilds another aspect of the community. Language helps people remember their collective values; games teach respect between men and women; traditional dance connects the community across generations; song, poetry and prayer bring deep connection to spirit and ancestors; and stories teach lessons of how to live together in the world in a good way.

The overall story of this CLE was of remarkable strength and resilience that tribal communities have, not only in surviving, but in finding ways to become healthy. Jackson Olsen captured the heart of this work in his video — Big Sky.

The Center for Ethical Leadership – www.ethicalleadership.org – invites people to reach across boundaries, build trust, and lead from their core values to advance change. By convening diverse perspectives – especially those historically excluded – we are creating healthier, more just and inclusive communities in our local Pacific Northwest and across the country.

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