ALL OUR RELATIONS: A learning experience


Overview: A learning experience meant to increase understanding of culture, collective human rights, and indigenous rights and demonstrate how humans and the earth are interconnected.

Time: About 20 to 30 minutes.

Materials: A ball of multicolored yarn, masking tape, paper or index cards, and marker.


1. While the storyteller labeled "Oral Tradition" tells a story, participants stand in a circle and create a web of interdependence. The storytelling component should utilize, if at all possible, local indigenous or community human resources. One participant throws the ball of colored yarn, holding on to the end, randomly to another participant. The yarn should be pulled tight before throwing to the next person.

2. Participants are then "labeled" as a part of the story (e.g., oral tradition, water, river, four-legged, buffalo, wind, robin, human man, woman, elder, snake, etc.) either by themselves or another participant assigned the role of putting the label on the front of each participant.

3. Participants go around the circle and talk about "themselves" (in relation to their labels) and their connection to other parts of the web. If time is limited, limit the number of participants responding.

4. Those participants who are labeled human (woman, child, man, elder) will then be asked to share about their relation to one of the labels and how that is being threatened. It can be one of the four elements (air, water, fire, and earth) or any other relation that is important to the community. Participants should find that their relationship to the "other" is being threatened. The element that is being threatened then loosens its grip on the yarn, but does not let go. As the element does this, she or he should express their feelings. As an example, when the human says, "The air is polluted, I can no longer breathe," then the element "air" might respond, "I am ill." This part of the learning experience is meant to engage all participants in thinking deeply about their relations. Eventually the element lets go of the yarn and participants are able to see the distortion of the web of life.

5. "Oral Tradition" then asks, "Who else is threatened?" and as others realize they are affected, they drop or loosen their hold on the web. The strength of the web graphically collapses, illustrating the fragility of all our relations.

Source: Demonstration by Elizabeth Clifford, Sicangu/Oglala/Lap, Charmaine Crockett, Pacific Islander, Lisa Garrett, Cherokee/Shawnee/Hawaiian/Philipina, and Leland Littledog, Sicangu/Oglala/Cheyenne, at the National Training of Trainers for Human Rights Education, August 2000.