Foster Kona Kalama

Lesson 1 – The Orphan: Hurt and Alone

Goal:  Learn about historical trauma, separation, feeling hurt, and alone.  Learn how this contributes to the cycle of anger, angry behavior, and domestic violence.

Activity: Listen to Kona Kalama’s story in Video #1 and review the information and questions presented in this Lesson for self-reflection.  Use these links to access the available resources with this lesson:  Kona Kalama’s Biography, History of the Tribes of Warm Springs, Anger Information Sheet, Feelings Resource Sheet, and the Historical Trauma Resource Sheet.

The Sacred Hoop: We are always connected

All tribal people have Teachings of a Truth that we are all connected.
Many know this as the Medicine Wheel and the Sacred Hoop.
These Teachings share that Life consists of relationships with our families,
with nature, with spirits, and all of creation.

Native cultures were colonized by an invading culture.  There was a great loss of values, beliefs, and practices.  Significant to Indian people was the loss of traditional foods, introduction of alcohol, and movement to a society where individuality took precedence to living in balance with the natural world.  This historical trauma exists in all Indian people.  Beyond the historical trauma Indian people often experience personal trauma that further isolates and separates them from their culture.

In the Hero’s Journey, the Orphan is one who feels alone, separate, different, and misunderstood.  Kona Kalama tells a powerful story of historical trauma and an environment of abuse.  The effects of this could be felt and created his sense of becoming an orphan.

Kona:  “Our people were already getting broken from the wars and the boarding schools; the war just turned our people into a lot of hurt and anger and hate.”

Kona Kalama’s childhood was one of hardship.  Both of his parents were taken to boarding schools.  His father was a Korean War veteran.  In addition, his father was severely abused by his own father.   The separation and trauma experienced within his lineage created great anger and abuse.  Kona is now able to tell his story with love and compassion for his parents’ struggles as he has learned of the effects of the removal of Indian people to boarding schools as well as the results of war trauma. He shares about his mother and father’s experiences.

She went to boarding schools. She said that they would line the kids up, pick and choose who they would bring to the school, and a week before or two weeks before they would come in make it all good; take them out and have a picnic and have lots of fun and all of a sudden came the same bus and they were lied to;  they were loaded up and found themselves in a boarding school.  She shared about how they whipped on them and did things to them. And then she would turn to me and say, “You think we had it rough, my grandma had it rough.”  She talked about marching and all the things they did to them.  They did something very small: they would have to sit on their fingers on the concrete for hours at a time.

Because of my mom’s bitterness, she never got help; you know back then they didn’t have help, they didn’t have counselors, they didn’t really have anyone to turn to, and our people were already getting broken from the wars and the boarding schools by then, so, who could you turn to. I had it tough, I got whipped on pretty hard, it was really sad. My dad turned to alcoholism, he was hardly ever home, so it left us fending for ourselves a lot, and we did whatever we could to make ends meet. I know how it feels to go without food for three days, so that’s how tough it was.

My dad never hit on us; he never whipped us because he was whipped with garden hoses and was shot at by his own dad.  He wanted to be different. He told me that. My mom did all of the whipping on us.  Today you would look at it as real heavy physical abuse, but you know what, she taught me a lot.  She taught me to be a good man.”  Kona Kalama

Kona:  “There was a lot of abuse.”

Kona explains the environment in which he grew up.  Through his story, it helps us to understand how hurt and anger negatively affect traditional ways.  Traditional ways are ones of relations and helping each other.  These ways are taught as the base of a healthy society supporting and watching over the children; providing good role models.  Abuse can overshadow these teachings.  Although we attempt to hold the values of our people, the hurt and anger of abuse creates behaviors that step on traditional values.

“Back then, I guess as long as you were a grown up back in our day when I was a kid, anybody could whip on you. You can even say anything to somebody, you were smarting off: “Quit talking back.” We would be answering a question, simple questions, and next thing you know we’re being whipped on because we were getting smart.  The abuse was pretty bad because some of these people would hit on us pretty hard when no one was around. Sometimes we get left with people that they trusted but were very brutal when nobody was around. I guess back then everybody trusted each other, pretty much.  There was a lot of abuse everywhere, a lot of physical abuse mainly. There were times that really got to me when somebody would come crying and saying what had  happened to them but wouldn’t say who did this or who did that.  So we would all gather together as kids.

Myself, a trusted neighbor man, an old man who was trusted throughout the neighborhood, took my virginity, and I have been around and shared this story in many, many places, talked at conferences; it still hurts the same as the first time I told it. It will never go away.  It is always going to be there. I think there are so many kids out there and people my age that have gone through the same thing that don’t talk. And what does that lead into?  It leads into hatred and anger. We have a lot of sick people out here in this world and in the reservations because of the fact that they’re not going to say what happened to them, and the facts are there, because of the domestic violence the domestic abuse.

Everyone that has so much hate and anger turn around and beat on their children or sexually abuse their children or are out there right now gang banging right now like the kids today. It’s because of the facts that the abuse has been a chain reaction through generation after generation.  And so no matter where you go it is going to be there.  It is up to us, people like yourself and myself, to set the example and talk about it and share that there can be a way out.  My way out was release.  I’m talking about it now. I didn’t talk about it until I was thirty years old. I suffered twenty years of my life.”  Kona Kalama

Examine Kona’s story using the following questions:

  1. What are two sources of historical trauma that existed in Kona’s family?
  2. What are two sources of personal trauma that Kona experienced?
  3. What do you think Kona means when he says, “the abuse has been a chain reaction through generation after generation”?
  4. Kona offers a way out of this chain reaction.  What is it?
  5. Can you identify for yourself historical trauma that may be influencing your life?
  6. Do you know anyone or have you experienced any of the personal trauma that Kona shares?

When a person has experiences of loss or injustice, there can be many emotions such as fear, sadness, aloneness, and pain.  These emotions are difficult to experience and often do not surface.  Anger is a valuable emotion in helping us to identify those feelings and the experiences we or our ancestors have had.  It motivates us to question.  When we don’t question the situation and choose to justify or ignore feelings or experiences, the anger grows.  Silence and disconnection also grows.  It is in silence that anger can become a destructive force.

In the Hero’s journey, the orphan begins to question why something in life happens the way it does.  These questions start in silence.  They may be in the form of poetry or music.  They may be in a journal.  They may be in a prayer in a ceremony.  Often, the questions can be shared with an Elder who offers support.

If you have experienced the anger and abuses and have ever felt alone, allow yourself to begin asking questions.  Sometimes the questions come because of an experience.  Here are three experiences that lead Kona to question:

  1. “One day I went to a longhouse and I heard an elder interpret a song and I said, “Wow.”
  2. It was because I hit this guy so hard I put him in a hospital for ten days, and I thought I killed him.  I was really grateful he lived. From there on I started thinking, “I have to stop.”
  3. My healing has always been there, as I was sharing earlier, fishing is a big part of my life, same with hunting, and being in touch with nature is the most important thing to our people.  Most of our people do heal because of the facts that they go out hunting and fishing and do the things that our ancestors did, still go to the longhouse

Kona heard an Elder interpret a Song.  Kona thought he had killed a man.  Kona loved to hunt and fish. These experiences created space to question the hurt, anger, and abuse.  Answer the following questions with someone you love.

  1. What is it that you love to do?
  2. Have you ever heard a story or song from your culture that gives you a good feeling?
  3. Did you ever do anything that could have had very bad effects and that scared you?
  4. Is anger and abuse worth “giving up” the things you love and the experiences that help you have good feelings?
  5. Do experiences with negative outcomes ever give you the courage to face the anger and question yourself and your behavior with an Elder or someone you trust?

Try it out:

1.     WRITE – journal, poetry, songs, scraps of paper

Scribble the things you love OR the things that are hard because of anger, abuse, and violence.

2.     TALK – Elder, friend, family, counselor, crisis line

Share what you think; dare to ask questions about the isolation and feelings of hurt, anger, and abuse.

When a hoop is broken, when it deteriorates, it happens very quickly.  In just a matter of time the understanding that you once had, the values that were very vital to you, the justice that you sought out in other people and for other people, the generosity that you experienced from your life, the forgiveness that you gave other people, the honor, the respect, the wisdom that you gave other people; once you start breaking those values, laws, traditions and principles, it gets to a place you begin isolating yourself, no longer able to trust; you maintain a vigil…  You doubt…  You can’t trust other people…  You blame others.” Larry Salway, Lakota Elder

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