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Woodrow Morrison, Jr.

As we strive to end violence against all people, we especially focus on those most vulnerable; women, children, and elders within our Native communities. The story and lessons addressing anger help us to understand the need for balancing emotions. They also help us to know that all of our emotions are valuable, and that we must learn to listen to the messages delivered by each one.

In the following lessons, writer Numpa Foxes Singing presents teachings designed to help us re-establish respect and harmony throughout all generations of Native families and communities. These teachings include the integration of positive identity development with building healthy relationships, encouraging appropriate conduct and skills development, and the restoring of traditional cultural values back into our family relationships.

Lesson 3 – The Wanderer: Traveling Through Institutions

Goal

Learn about three aspects of Anger:  (1) Emotions that precede anger, (2) the effects of isolation and aloneness, and (3) the effects of historical trauma.

Activity

Listen to Woody’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:  Woody Morrison’s BiographyHistory of the Haida TribeAnger Information SheetFeelings 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.

In Lesson #1 we learned about separation, isolation, and silence.    Lesson #2 further helps us understand three aspects of Anger that take us deeper into angry behavior.  Domestic Violence and many other harmful conditions occur as we give into the aloneness, angry behavior, and despair.  As seen in Woody’s life, the separation from his own culture, the indoctrination into teachings he did not believe, his sadness from being alone, and the struggles of understanding was a recipe for despair.

“When you’re away from home… they indoctrinate you, well people call it brainwashing, but brainwashing implies removing impure thoughts, so maybe that’s what they were doing. But when we got home, after spending a year of being told that everything we did at home as bad, wrong, dirty, evil, sick, whatever…

Well, when you grow up in a tribal society the non-verbal communication is paramount. So we would get home and they’d see this rejection, and they would reject us. So once you get this dialectic, this tension between two worlds, once it starts, you go back to school, you come back, the gap gets wider and wider until finally you’re in a state of normlessness.”

– Woody Morrison, Jr.6

In reviewing the Hero’s Journey, Woody had become an orphan when he was sent away.  His wandering occurred through the institutions that he was sent to.  These institutions represented the historical trauma of his grandparents and the aloneness of being sent away from his family. Beginning with a sense of helplessness in honoring the Elders wishes for an education, Woody did not feel he had a choice.  The subsequent years were spent fighting for the right to be heard and to be understood.

“With me, when I got out of school, I went right into the military, and I didn’t get out until I was 25 years old. Well I started kindergarten when I was 4. So for 21 years, I was institutionalized.”

– Woody Morrison, Jr. 6

In the years he was away from the tribe, he wandered as an orphan through these institutions.  He offers us the ability to look at his words and behavior as clues to what was really going on.  As a young man, Woody was unable to see what was underneath the anger.  Let’s explore the years of Woody’s education.

Listed below are seven (7) statements made by Woody as observed in Video #1.  For each statement, discuss possible feelings that Woody may have had, to what degree he felt isolated or alone, and what types of historical trauma may have affected his experience.

Statement

Woody Morrison, Jr. 6

[Found in Video #1]

Feelings

List  possible feelings other than anger associated with the comment

[Use Feelings Resource Sheet]

Alone

Rate how alone Woody may have felt when making the comment.

[Scale:  1= completely alone & isolated; 5 = never alone]

Historical Trauma

List possible historical trauma associated with the comment.

[Review  Historical Trauma Resource Sheet]

I was sent to a Presbyterian school in Sitka, Alaska. I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to be a fisherman; I wanted to go on the trap line with my dad, hunting.
Well, things didn’t change much there. I had already been labeled, so, I couldn’t change.”
“New Year’s Eve, 1958, I spent locked in a linen room because I punched the head advisor.”
“If you didn’t know Jesus Christ you were going to Hell. I said, “Well what about my great grandparents? They never heard about Jesus.” And she said, “They all probably went to Hell.”
I started throwing desks and chairs around…”
“I was put on tranquilizers and I didn’t know what those pills were.  I’m walking around in a fog, and everything’s just weird.
I mean there was a rage going on in there. I would lash out and I nearly killed people. I didn’t kill them, but it wasn’t because I wasn’t trying.

In the Hero’s Journey, this was a time of Wandering.   Each of us wanders before answers come.  Woody’s story helps us to understand that anger is a clue to something greater that is going on.

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