Rod McAfee

Lesson 3 – The Caretaker

Goal:  Realize that the task of achieving personal wellness is a purposeful task that includes taking care of one-self and of others.

Activity: Make a plan!

The Caretaker

Being the Caretaker means placing others (or someone) front and center in your life.  It means caring for someone else’s needs (or safety), oftentimes before considering your own.  Being a caretaker is a selfless act; a caretaker makes the statement, “I care enough about you to place your needs in the forefront.”

Embracing Tradition/Resisting Assimilation

We all have a history, or tradition that tells us what life is like and how we’re supposed to be.  Tradition is based upon our ancestor’s experience, their “trial and error” experiences about life.  Tradition shares with us about how to live our lives.  The knowledge of experience passed down to us by our ancestors is sort of like having an “owner’s manual” on life.

Assimilation is a cultural process that one goes through and it results in “change” to traditional lifestyles.  Boarding school was a forced assimilation strategy of the American government, one designed to break the cultural tradition of American Indian people.  While boarding schools caused a tremendous amount of cultural damage to Indians, the cultural strength of our people was strong enough to resist and endure.

Government mandated boarding schools forced Indian children to change, to step out of their traditional cultural roles and to try to assume the cultural traditions of the new white “America.”  The goal of boarding schools was described as “kill the Indian, but save the man.” In other words, the goal was to kill the “cultural” spirit of the Indian people, but not the person him/herself.  Indian children were taught to be ashamed of being Indian, and the lesson of self-loathing took its toll.

In talking about his boarding school experience, Rod mentions,

I was always talking that I wanted some pinole (traditional Native food).  So my mother sent me a quart jar (of it) and I was so happy.  I took it to the dining room.  They (the other kids) took it, but they were ashamed of it…they hid it.  That really hurt me because it was something priceless to me.”

Change involves putting an end to tradition.  Change by itself is not considered a good or bad thing.  Change in itself is not right or wrong.  But the affect change brings can be good or bad.  Indians were required to endure many “changes” through forced acts of assimilation.  And most of those were not good.

Now, back to tradition…

Knowing is your history leads to understanding your tradition.  Embracing your tradition and passing it along to others is an act of the Caretaker.

Activity:  Make a list, make a plan

As we stated above, achieving personal wellness is a purposeful task.  You must make a plan and follow in order to wellness, and once you have wellness, you are in a good position to be the caretaker of others.

Making a plan can be as simple as writing a list.  Imagine the qualities you will need in order to escape from an addictive behavior and to achieve wellness.  Making lists serves a couple of purposes. First it serves as a reminder of where you are headed, or what you will need to get there.  Second, it helps us to visualize our thoughts and actions in an orderly manner.  Order helps us to feel in control of our lives.  And thirdly, it is a good way for us to consider all the many options, as we brainstorm ideas for achieving our goals.  To get started,

  1. Write a heading on a piece of paper that is action-oriented (like “Becoming Well,” or “Following the Right Path.”).
  2. Next, list all of the possible things you will need to do to achieve the task described by your heading (“like get exercise by walking a mile everyday,” or “Don’t drive home by way of the casino.”).  Call these your action items.  Let your list of action items grow long!
  3. When you’ve completed your list, choose a couple of the action items that you are certain you can achieve and focus on doing those things during the coming weeks.  Each day, take out your list and read it aloud.  This will help to remind you that you are on the right track.  It will also reinforce the idea that you have a goal to leave addictive behaviors behind.


When your life begins to improve, so do the lives of those around you; your family members, co-workers, friends.  In that sense you become a Caretaker.  Reflect on the following:

  • What changes have you noticed or “felt” about yourself since you started your list?
  • How have the changes in your life affected those around you?
  • Describe the feelings you are experiencing.
  • Make a list of the positive effects that have resulted since you started working on your list.
  • Do you feel you have regained an lost “traditions?”  Explain.

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