Bryan Assinewe. Grade 8 teacher at Biidaaban School in Sagamok with Dr. Brokenleg.
SAGAMOK ANISHNAWBEK – World-renowned speaker Dr. Martin Brokenleg spoke to a packed room of educators and citizens in Sagamok on Nov. 10 at the Intergenerational Trauma Conference put on by the Sagamok Community Wellness Department and the Community Justice Program.
Dr. Brokenleg is a co-developer of the “Circle of Courage” model as well a co-author of the book “Reclaiming Youth at Risk: Our Hope for the Future” published 25 years ago and printed in several languages world-wide. The book is used around the world by educators and others working with youth as a handbook for assisting youth in crisis.
A Welcoming address was given by Alan Ozawanimke, Chief Executive Officer of Sagamok Anishnawbek in Chief Paul Eshkakogan’s absence. Prior to visiting Sagamok, Brokenleg gave a talk at Serpent River First Nation (SRFN) earlier in the week. Earlier this year in March, Dr. Brokenleg was the Keynote speaker at a one-day conference in Sudbury on the topic of ‘Igniting the Spirit-Recovery-Oriented Practices and the Journey to Reconciliation’ put on by Health Groups in the North East region with help from the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
During his visit to Sagamok, Dr. Brokenleg stressed the importance of not only teaching a child’s mind, but, perhaps more importantly, teaching a person’s heart. Telling those gathered it has long been accepted that teaching a person’s mind can be done “by just talking to them;” whereas, “you teach a person’s heart by giving certain experiences.” He told educators and others in the room “how a person is treated” is most important, as well as the person feeling a strong sense of belonging.
Dr. Brokenleg used the illustration of how a teenager who does not conform to what is acceptable behavior in school and how he or she is treated in most schools today. He called this giving the student a sense of “un-belonging”.
According to Dr. Brokenleg, the student not conforming is given a sense of “un-belonging” by giving them a ‘time out, suspension”, or, not conforming with “zero-tolerance” policies in the school. He suggested the opposite is the better path to follow by making the student feel he or she does belong. Dr. Brokenleg assured everyone ancestors raised children with a strong sense of belonging, independence, mastery and were encouraged to live a life of generosity. “It was not a system of control, [but rather] a system of empowerment.”
Educators were told punishment “never works,” but only leads to obedience when the educator is within sight…it’s only temporary. Accordingly, he said, “the purpose of discipline is to be educational leading to responsibility and empowerment. Dr. Brokenleg held how you make a person feel is most important. Making a person feel they are significant, competent, have power and virtue “are the building blocks for wholeness,” all resulting in resilience and responsibility, he said.
Throughout the day workshops were held on “The Circle of Courage”, “Reaching Deeper” and “Growing Your Own Kids”. When speaking of “Mindfulness Meditation”, Dr. Brokenleg suggested “Turtle Time” or ten minutes of sitting to still the brain is a positive activity for children and adults allowing for breath awareness, body awareness and emotion awareness.
Throughout the day, there was no shortage of inspirational human-interest stories; most coming from personal experiences from Dr. Brokenleg’s diverse background including: consulting and leading training programs throughout North America, New Zealand, Europe, South America and South Africa, holding a position of chaplain in a correctional facility, a university professor and an Anglican Priest, and, most recently Director of Native Ministries and Professor of First Nations Theology at the Vancouver School of Theology. Dr. Brokenleg is the father of three children and a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Following his talk in Sagamok, he will do two speaking engagements in Calgary before heading home to Vancouver.