Healing Circles writer Roger Fernandes (University of Washington) is from the Lower Elwah S'Klallam reservation located on the Olympic Peninsula. An educator for 30 years, Fernandes has developed the structural model for our curriculum project which is using Hero's Journey stories to teach people health and wellness. He especially acknowledges elders as that primary source of guidance saying, "It's a very important aspect of the journey."

"You need an elder to guide you - to help you to figure things out. In the story, Elder appears to help you. "And so that's the hero's journey of transformation - of transforming from one person who's alone, confused and wandering into a person who has a place in their culture and has an understanding of who they are."


Life is full of traps, situations where we are in jeopardy or danger that we can’t seem to escape from. Sometimes we find ourselves trapped in a circumstance or situation and don’t know how we got there. Other times we recognize the trap, but walk into it anyway. And sometimes when we find ourselves trapped we don’t know how to get out.

How often do we find ourselves in a trapped situation and wonder how we got there or slapped ourselves on the forehead because we saw the trap and blundered into it anyway? Homer Simpson said it best, “Doh! Why do things that happen to stupid people always happen to me?” Is it human nature to miss seeing the trap because something blinded us to it or even if we see it to believe it won’t get us?

Metaphorically a trap in a story could be an unequal relationship with another person. It could be a huge financial debt. It could be an addiction to drugs or alcohol or gambling or cigarettes. It could even be a belief that does not allow us to grow or transform; what we believe about ourselves and our lack of abilities or options limits the choices we feel we can make.

There are two interesting aspects to the idea of traps that bear investigation in assessing one’s circumstances. As we examine the stories that follow see if these observations are evident.

One: the trap does not come to you; you go to the trap. A trap is set and we on our journey, come across it. It doesn’t move or hunt us, we go to it.

For example, drugs or alcohol don’t appear on their own at your doorstep. Someone brings them to you or you go seek them.

Two: The trap only works if there is bait that attracts and compels you. A trap is based on a hunger you have that the bait fulfills. For a fish it is a worm; for a person with self-esteem issues, it could be the drug that allows him or her to fit into a social group or to be seen as hip or cool.

Sometimes the bait is so powerful we feel we can’t resist and we override what we know intellectually (cigarettes can cause lung cancer or meth is highly addictive, etc.) with the urge or desire to do it.

The following is a joke that was told by a talented Blackfeet storyteller/actor, Raven Heavy Runner. Remember, a joke is a story and all stories teach us something. What can we learn from this joke/story?

A long time ago, my husband was working out in the garden in front of the house.  A car pulls up on the road in front of the house and stops.  The door opens, a man gets out, with a gun.  He is a hunter and he points his gun into the air and shoots.  He shoots a duck and the duck falls out of the air and lands in our garden.

The hunter starts climbing over the fence and my husband says “Hey, what are you doing climbing over my fence?”  the hunter says, “I am coming to get my duck.”  My husband says, “That’s not your duck it is my duck, it is in my yard.  My yard, my duck.”  The hunter replies, “No way, I shot it, it is my duck and I am coming to get it.”  My husband says, “Get off my fence it is my duck, it is in my yard.”

They begin to argue back and forth.  The hunter says, “Look old man, I am a lawyer in the big city, and I could sue you and take your whole farm because of this.  Now let me get that duck.”

My husband says, “Alright, we are here on the Blackfeet reservation.  We got a way of settling things here called the three punch rule.  You know what that is?”  The hunter says, “No, what is it?” My husband says, “First I punch you three times hard as I can.  Then you punch me as hard as you can.  Then I punch you again.  We keep punching each other as hard as we can until one of us is so tired we give up. Whoever gives up, the other one gets the duck.  Does that sound fair to you?”

The hunter, he is a big strong young man.  He looks at my husband, scrawny little old Indian man and he say, “Sure old man, lets do it.”

So my husband says, “Alright, we are here on the Blackfeet reservation, so I go first, okay?”  The hunter say, “Alright.”  So my husband go up to him, punch him in the jaw, knocks him down.  Kicked him in the ribs and stomp him on the chest.

The hunter get up coughing, wiping the blood off his mouth.  He says, “Alright old man, my turn.”

My husband say, “Oh, you can have the duck.”

Story Questions

  1. The old man laid a trap for the young hunter.  Why didn’t the young hunter see the trap?  Why did he walk right into it?
  2. Why did the hunter accept the challenge?
  3. How did the old man know what trap would work with this young hunter?
  4. How might this story be a metaphor for how people get trapped by drugs or alcohol?

Possible Responses

  1. The hunter wanted the duck badly; he was competitive; he was arrogant and overconfident.
  2. He was young and strong and the old man would be no problem to beat.
  3. He recognized all of the above; he was experienced and wise; maybe he was once the young hunter.
  4. We might be arrogant and overconfident; drugs and alcohol can’t trap us, we’re too strong