Foster Kona Kalama

Lesson 2 – The Wanderer: Teachers come along the way

Goal: Learn about behaviors of protecting ourselves from hurt such as fighting, drinking alcohol, and running from the problem.  Learn also about positive ways to walk through the hurt.

Activity: Listen to Kona’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.

Wandering provides us the answers to our questions.

Domestic Violence and abuses occur as we give into aloneness, angry behavior, and despair.  As seen in Kona’s life, the experiences of his childhood created isolation and powerlessness in the abuses.  He learned of abuse and became abusive.

In Lesson #1 we learned about historical trauma and the importance of asking the question why. Lesson #2 further helps us understand how behaviors of fighting, drinking alcohol, and running are protective yet do not help cope with the pain and suffering.  Example of behaviors involving our culture, Elders, and the Earth are also explored as ways to cope with the pain and suffering.  As Kona wandered, he became open to information that helped him answer questions that lead him to healing and health.

Fighting, Drinking alcohol, and Running

The effects of abuse can attack the very sense of who we are.  For men, it is difficult to live in the value of being a strong man.  For women, it is difficult to live in the value of being strong woman.  Our confidence and ability to be strong people in who we are is very important for life success.  When we do not feel confident and have struggles in accepting ourselves, we learn how to protect ourselves.

Drinking alcohol

Alcohol is known to “numb” the emotions so that one cannot or does not feel the emotions of shame, confusion, sadness, loneliness, and anger.  This numbing effect protects us from feeling the hurt of these emotions.

Did I care if I died or not? I didn’t care, because I couldn’t feel anything, it hurt too much.  So it is important that you always cover yourself in the best way you can when you are trying to hide something. Most people cover themselves with alcohol and drugs even when they are young. I’ve learned to cover up my pain. I never really started drinking until I was nineteen.”  Kona Kalama


Fighting is a behavior that allows one to exercise power over the situation.  Not only can one protect from attack but learning how to keep people at a distance keeps people from seeing the person as vulnerable.

“I was a brutal man.  People feared me. I was mean; when I drank I was mean, but I was the nicest guy you could be around when I was sober. But you know, when somebody crossed me, I would use the same things, like “Don’t be smarting of; why you looking at me like that?” I did the things that adults did to me when I was growing up.  Anybody who looked at me the wrong way I would get mad. I drank really hard.  I drank stuff like Bacardi rum, 151, and I would be so drunk nobody wanted to be around me.  I was mellow when I used to drink beer, but when it came to hard stuff people would leave because I would be a brutal person.  I would break jaws. I fought all the time, every weekend. Four, five, ten fights a weekend.”  Kona Kalama


Running is getting away from the threat.  It is common to find people whom have been abused learn and know about the behaviors of running to always escape possible threat.

“Growing up on a reservation, having to run from the older boys, it’s not easy; it made me a damn good fast runner. That’s for sure.  I could beat all the top state runners.”  Kona Kalama

The protective behaviors of fighting, drinking alcohol, and running create confusion and often conflict.  They result in torment, loss of relationships, increased pain, sickness, and loss of life. 

Traditional Values help us through the pain

Traditional values teach us a way of living that empowers us to be strong people without fighting, alcohol, or running away.  Kona offers us several examples of traditional values and choices.

Hunting and Fishing

“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 Kalama

Art and Creativity

“It takes me into a different world.  I was taught a long time ago to get close to nature when you do art.  And you can see some of it right there. That’s getting close to nature. Everything you do you get close to nature, wherever you’re at.  That is what life is about. These kids, they feel I, they see it.”  Kona Kalama

The Long House

“I used to go to longhouses around here a lot.  Still it’s there, the songs sooth me over, make me feel good.  The most part of it is the healing the songs from the drum are based on, almost like the scriptures in the bible. But our songs have been there time immemorial. It was even before anybody could read a bible or know anything about a bible that the scriptures were already in our songs. It’s one of the most amazing things that I’ve learned as the healing part of my life. I went to the Baptist church for ten years. One day I went to a longhouse and I heard an elder interpret a song and I said, “Wow.” It brought me back.”  Kona Kalama

Understanding culture

When you are in touch with the culture and the heritage, you can feel it, and you will feel that sensation come over your heart and your mind, your whole body, just as in the sweat lodge.”  Kona Kalama

Dancing and Singing

The Washat religion is dancing. We dance for ourselves. We get up there and if we are dancing for a loved one out there that’s passed on. We dance to help them uplift.  Out people believe that spirits exist on the other side. We’re helping them to move, go on their trail.  When we first hear that somebody’s died, we usually sing a song. If I’m driving down the road or I go to work, I sing a song.  Those songs are uplifting.”  Kona Kalama

The Essence of the Flute

“Our songs are borne from the heavens, the flutes and the drums. That’s what we truly believe. They don’t belong to us, these songs belong to the heavens, they belong to the creator. There are people out there that are going beyond that. They are into wanting to make money and wanting to make recognition in our flutes. They don’t take any time out to think. There are very few people out there who have the love and gift of the spirit of the flute. That’s what I teach these kids.”  Kona Kalama

In reviewing the Hero’s Journey, Kona had become an orphan through the experiences of anger and abuse.  Kona did what many do.  He wandered living on the same lands and fishing in the same rivers he grew up on.  His wandering was marked with daring experiences, fights, alcohol abuse, and denial of the truth.  It was also marked with experiences of his culture through fishing, hunting, the long house, the songs, and dances.  These were the Teachers of his wandering.

Listed below are statements made by Kona as observed in Video #1.  For each statement, identify what information may have helped Kona in learning about his life to help him become healthy and leave the anger and abuse behind.



Kona Kalama

Does Kona’s statement indicate Protective Behavior? Does Kona’s statement indicate Traditional Value? Does Kona’s statement indicate healing?  If so, how? Please describe what you believe about this statement.
When you are in touch with the culture and the heritage, you can feel it, and you will feel that sensation come over your heart and your mind, your whole body, just as in the sweat lodge.”
“When I left him he was lying in a pool of blood and that haunted me because of the fact that I have hurt so many men in my life.
“My mom told me, “You don’t hit a woman.  I wouldn’t do anything when I was sober but when I got drunk I would get crazy and it would just sink into my mind. I would wake up ashamed the next day.  I finally just up and left. I didn’t want to be like that.  I was taught not to hit a woman. .”
I thought, “Wow, how brave could somebody be to tell their story.”  And that’s when it came to me.  They waited till the next day, and I tossed and turned all night. I was going to jump out of the fifth story floor at the Hilton hotel. I cried myself to sleep; I heard my kids’ voices. The next day I went and told, it was the first time I told anybody I was sexually abused. I took it from there, I felt like a new man.  I felt like the world was lifted off my chest. Back then I wanted to start a new life.
I stood by many bedsides watching aunts and uncles die of alcoholism.  Cousins, best friends, watching them die from drugs, it’s really sad.”
“There are the nine songs for the nine months a woman carries a child. Then you have the other three moths that cover the whole year.  But every song has something to do with life. A lot of people don’t believe our ways of life because they don’t walk our life. Our way of life is a very, very unique way and if everybody knew this way and everybody started walking back this way again then we would have no troubles.”
“…the lady was messing around and I couldn’t get over it, and I tried to make her leave and she wouldn’t leave. I would get drunk, I wouldn’t do anything when I was sober but when I got drunk I would get crazy.”
“I spent over half my time on the river.  I grew up out here on these creeks, gaffing, trapping, hook-and-lining, I did everything you could imagine to catch a fish.”

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