Lesson 3 – Caretaker: Transformation and Healing Others
Goal: Understand Relationships and Transformation
Activity: Watch Dean Azule’s interview on Video 2
Dean talks of the short term relationship he made while he was hitch hiking and staying in California, he mentions the people who helped with a place to live, a job, and support while he was still deciding what it was he was searching for or needing in his life, especially at a young age, so he decided he needed to make a change and do something else with his life.
Dean realized he was living in the Bay area for the wrong reasons, he was drinking more and that is when he decided he would try to go to college, although it was to be near a girl he knew at the time, he eventually developed a long term relationship that resulted in a marriage that is still strong today.
We meet many people from all walks of life, cultures, and identities throughout our life’s journey that are willing to show compassion and provide support, sometimes we don’t see them as being a positive influence in our lives at the time, many people care about others, we just need to allow the caring people to be a part of our lives, even for short periods of time.
Relationships are like anything else they go through changes, as we change so do the types of relationships we have. There is no perfect relationship, long term relationships are dependent upon our understanding of our own needs and the needs of those around us, within a family unit we learn to change and make adjustments as our families grow and change. Our elders were taught through stories told by their elders that have been passed throughout our existence and the philosophy of being one with nature has so many meanings for each of at the same time while we are in different places in our lives. Having a connection with one person can make a difference in our lives but having a connection to many things of our culture, family, and community can help us with leading a healthy and balanced life.
Dean shares his story that demonstrates the different relationships he had with his mother who was dealing with alcoholism and her own problems of divorce, finances and being a single parent. He is sent to live with his grand-parents where he had to adjust to life on the reservation and a new way of living, his role in the family, and the relationship with his Native peers who treated him differently. He also shares his experience with his relationships at the Catholic boarding school until he graduated and hitch hiked in search of something better. All these various relationships are a part of life journey that somehow influenced his direction to meet someone who would be a part of a solid relationship that has endured.
At the time I eventually met my wife to be, then, who is my wife now, Luella Spino, Yakama, I end up marrying. And that’s how I ended up in Oregon. We moved up here and thought we both would go to work during the summer and eventually go back to Fort Louis that fall. We never did, we ended up staying here and working, and eventually we decided we were going to reenroll up here and finish school, and that was forty-one years ago. We’re still together, still married today. And I ended up here at Portland State.
During Dean’s personal life accounts he goes through the phases of his life that are meaningful to him personally and during these stages of life he also experiences transformations. His starts with his childhood when he leaves the city life with his mother to the reservation where there are no amenities of the home like, electricity, running water, indoor plumbing, and television, even the perspective of what a red wagon represents in the two separate worlds. His role as the oldest male places more responsibility on him in his family. He wasn’t taught his Native language which created some problems with the other Native children and eventually he began to get into trouble which leads to more changes to his life.
Dean has shared so many kinds of transitions and transformations that many of us have experienced as well but he continued searching for something better and eventually he met his wife which appears to be the relationship he had been searching for as he shares the years they have been married. Like all relationships there are ups and downs just as we experience in our daily lives but Dean and his wife managed to understand one another enough to change with the years to ensure their relationship lasted.
We may not all find this kind of relationship but we all go through various stages of changes and develop many relationships whether we recognize them at the time both good and bad, but what we must take from this is that relationships are important in healing and finding balance.
Dean is an elder who has been diagnosed with diabetes but he is also doing the right things to help himself along with the support of his wife and those he shares his life with. A support system that helps him care for himself and for others he works with in his community and place of employment as the American Indian Student Advisor at Portland State University.
Caring for self allows us the strength and ability to care for others that may need our support and as we transition in life and are able to find a certain amount of balance in our lives we can help others by sharing in order to help them find their own strengths and connections or help them find answers to their own questions of life, heal wounds, or create a new and lasting relationship.
Activity: Read the following paragraphs found at the (American Indian Policy Center website 2002)
Draw a picture of how Traditional Ways of your Tribe demonstrate relationships and being a Caretaker in your community
The Way it Was; Reflections on Traditional American Indian Ways
American Indian traditional ways of life are learned through experience. Mike states, “It wasn’t anything I studied. It was how I was raised because those before me were stingy and clung to the culture. They had an intrinsic resistance against assimilation. The people hung onto the beliefs in the face of adversity.” Deb relates, “I didn’t learn about the traditional ways, I was raised that way.” Even those who were not raised in a traditional home relate that they returned to the traditions by learning about them as a way of life. As Frank, an elder who returned to the traditions in his thirties, says, “Practicing the culture and the traditional ways is a way of life rather than something that you carry around as knowledge.”
American Indian learning occurs through observation, listening and doing. American Indian culture is taught through practice. Nancy states, “Our parents taught us by example. They taught us that you always feed guests and practice hospitality, share and respect elders. They taught us the importance of the family.” American Indians learned not just from their parents, but from their entire family. In thinking about how she learned the traditional ways, Nancy relates, “There was no distinction between extended and nuclear family, everyone was family. One of the most important persons in my life was my Aunt Susan. These are relationships of the heart.”
Dan also explains: American Indian elders are teachers for the younger generations. Dan states, “The old people were what you’d call a ‘blueprint in life.’ You never learn those things in school.” Older American Indians have a distinct way of looking at and living in the world. Dan indicates: The old Indians have a different type of thinking. They have an appreciation for what you’ve been given. They have a connection to the spirit. We live with things we don’t know anything about. Elders carry some of that stuff from the generation before. Older American Indians understand all life as connected to the spiritual and natural worlds.
Dan further relates: One thing I liked about the old people is that they had Indian thinking. For example, my mother and I were driving down the highway and saw a stand of dying birch trees. She asked me if I knew why they were dying. I probably would have explained it as pollution or some other technical explanation. She said the birch trees are dying because no one is using them anymore. They are sad because they no longer have a use. Now that I think about it, this is kind of like the elders – no one is using them anymore. That’s what I call Indian thinking. They would relate themselves with the connection in nature.
Group discussion: Discuss the reflections in a group setting; Culture and Relationships
Reflection: Write your personal thoughts of relationships and the role of a caretaker