Foster Kona Kalama

Lesson 5 – The Changer: Making a Difference

Goal: Learn about helping others and giving back and recognize the benefit to self, others, family, and the community.

Activity: Listen to Kona’s story in Video #2 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.

The Hero, having met the challenge, returns to where he started. He returns a new person, transformed. He does two things in this final stage; first he realizes he knew the answers to his questions that set off the journey all along. Somewhere inside he understands he always had the answer. And second, he brings back a gift to his people. It could be a treasure or an enemy flag, or the baby saved from death, or a teaching.

Kona Kalama, the Changer

Kona Kalama’s journey of life has been on the lands in which he grew up and in the rivers that he fished.  His life roots in the land hunting and in the rivers fishing offered him a strong foundation in the culture of his people.  Being around the Washat Religion and the ceremonies of his people offered him some understandings of an old and rich culture.  All of this was born with and in him, yet the face of anger, abuse, and addictions overshadowed his life.  As he grew into a young man he used his ability to fight and his use of alcohol to protect himself from the pain and suffering of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.

With courage and strength he chose to find the way to speak the truth about what had happened to him.  With these words, he empowered himself to cry.  This act of bravery changed his life to one of honesty and openness creating opportunity to reconnect with his family and people.  This is a story of great healing; a true hero’s journey.

The answer was there all of the time

In the Hero’s Journey, an important realization is that the answers being sought on the journey were always within the orphan and available.  Kona’s story reflects several moments and characteristics revealing his strength and these answers yet the pain and suffering, the addictions, and the fighting camouflaged these from his awareness.

Fishing and Hunting

“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

Long House Songs sooth me over

“I used to go to longhouses around here a lot.  I kind of felt like, I don’t know how to explain it, 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.” Kona Kalama

Feeling the sensation of the 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

Questioning hurting people

Then I would hurt somebody. It was tough. One day I sat and I thought about it and I cried and I said, “Why, why am I the way I am?” Kona Kalama

Being the best

“So 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


“I’d let the other guy hit me. Just deliberately just let him hit me. I would lose fights in front of my dad and mom just to show them.” Kona Kalama

Remorse for domestic violence

“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.” Kona Kalama

Speaking the Truth

“My healing had always been there. It was a matter of letting it out. Again, it’s called release. You have to release the pain by talking about it in detail until you’re feeling better. 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 was wanting to start a new life.” Kona Kalama

A Gift to my People

A second aspect of the Changer in the Hero’s Journey is completing the journey by bringing a gift home to the people.  Kona Kalama offers the people of Warm Springs and the youth he works with great gifts.   He is a spiritual teacher, a counselor, and brings healing to the people through his beliefs and practices.

Singing & Drumming

“The Creator knows who is in need of prayer, especially through our drums.  Before we even sing the song it is already there with that person that needs that prayer.  People are always asking for a prayer. When we start singing the song, the song immediately carries over to them. If a man like yourself or any other man wanted to pick up these instruments and start working with them in a good way, then let it be that, because we don’t own the songs, we don’t own the drums or the flutes.  They are only with us on borrowed time, just like our kids, they are with us on borrowed time.” Kona Kalama

Playing the Flute

“The flute has always been there. This is one of many of my flutes; I probably have gone through a couple hundred flutes, due to the facts, given them to kids and to veterans, working in healing circles, what we call circling circles.  We have the flute circle inside the healing circle; we have been doing that for over twenty years.  We have the healing fire, we have the sweat lodge circle, and we have all kinds of different circles, the drum circle. Basically, our lives are based on circles also in our healing process.” Kona Kalama

Teachings of how to stay healthy

“Other than that, when I do feel a little bit more overwhelmed with my anger, I use the sweat lodge.  I play the flute or I pick up my drum. I’m also an artist, I do carvings, I do flat art, I do a lot of different things. I go hiking, I go hunting, I go fishing.  And still today I go out, and even when I don’t have to I’ll go up to a big cedar tree and put my hand up on it and have a prayer.  So everything I do is spiritual. Everything that I think is going to help the matter is only going to be by prayer. It is a waste of time and energy to get angry.  I’ll be angry for a little while, but it’s not worth holding onto because I have been taught since I was a kid that anger makes you sick. Anger and hatred and anything negative makes you sick.” Kona Kalama

Pipe Carrier

“I became a pipe carrier a while back. Several Sundancers tried to gift me pipes and I kept refusing and one day I was at the museum down here in Warm Springs and I saw my grandfather’s pipe, Kup-Kup. And I said “Oh wow.” So I decided I was going to be a pipe carrier since it keeps coming back to me over and over.  It is one of the most powerful medicines I have in my life because I pray with that pipe.  We’re all different tribes. You would see pipe carriers doing different traditional things with their pipes.  I just believe that we take it in a circle with each other here, that it’s all returning anyway.” Kona Kalama

Self empowerment & beliefs

There are several different ways a person can be lost, and first they have to find themselves in order to feel, and know that there is a Greater out there, and there is only one that we can rely on. I think about old sayings like “He who angers you controls you.” I think of all kinds of different things that will make me feel better about who I am.  And so I’m not going to let anyone control me. The only one that can control me is myself.  The people who get mad, get angry, hurt, sad, it’s because they actually let someone else control them and their anger has built up to where they don’t want to believe.  Their hurt, their pains they grow into they don’t want to believe.” Kona Kalama

Taking care of number one

You have a spirit. You have to take care of your soul.  If you don’t take care of your soul, who is?  Like Gandhi said you have to fight your own demons before you can fight anybody else’s or help anybody else with theirs.  And yeah, we do, we definitely have to battle in our own.  I have to be healthy and take care of myself the best I can in order to help these kids, because I can’t help these kids unless I’m taking care of number one. I always get kids to own up to who is number one in their life. You take care of that soul, man.  That’s the way it has to be.  Only way you can take care of your soul is through prayer and eating good food; drinking your water every day.  Without that water you’re going to get sick.” Kona Kalama

Kona reflects through his story several aspects of himself that may help us in learning about our own internal gifts.  He also shares his wisdom with the youth and people of his community.  Reflect on your own journey and how you see yourself in relation to these gifts from Kona.

The answer was there

all of the time.

Please mark for yourself if you have experienced or are interested in the
characteristics, abilities, and gifts as presented by Kona.
Please write a one or two word description or feelings about the areas that you marked in how they may assist you in being able to help yourself, your family, and your community.
Fishing and Hunting

Longhouse songs sooth me over
Feeling the sensation of culture

Questioning Hurting People

Being the best


Remorse for domestic violence

Speaking the Truth

A Gift to my People

Singing & Drumming

Playing the Flute

Teaching how to stay healthy

Pipe Carrier for the People

Self Empowerment & Beliefs

Taking care of number one

To walk the Hero’s Journey takes time and patience.  Find an Elder, counselor, or a friend to talk about those areas you have identified.  It is in doing this that we begin to take the first step away from isolation and into safe vulnerability.  This is the way we strengthen health and happiness.