RETREAT SERIES

Retreat No. 1

Study & Practice Series No. 1: The Paradox of Social Justice Practice and Self-Care

The first seminar in this series took place May 23, 2014 at Fresno State. Tools for Peace, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to strengthening and supporting emotional and social intelligence as well as academic and professional success, participated.

 

The focus of this retreat was on developing trust and understanding the impact of stress on our bodies and minds. We worked on building concrete skills to develop positive connections to enhance our capacity for kindness, compassion and collaboration. The seminar offered a special session on neurodecolonization with Dr. Michael Yellow Bird of North Dakota State University to better understand the ways that external and internal colonization has impacted our minds. 

Our guest speakers at the retreat were:

 

Loren Witcher, BFA, RISD, is Program Manager, Camp Director, and Lead Facilitator of Tools for Peace, a 501 (c)(3) organization that aims to inspire people of all ages to develop kindness and compassion in everyday life. Loren has over ten years of experience leading Tools for Peace inservice programs teaching mindfulness and meditation techniques to youth and adults. He has studied and practiced meditation under the guidance of Lama Chodak Gyatso Nubpa since 1998.

 

Dr. Michael Yellow Bird is a citizen of the Three Affiliated Tribes, the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara. He joined the North Dakota State University faculty in the fall of 2014 and is Professor and Director of the Tribal Indigenous Studies program. His teaching, writing, research, and community work focus on Indigenous Peoples’ health, leadership, and cultural rights; the effects of colonization and methods of decolonization; decolonizing social work approaches; decolonizing war and military service; neurodecolonization and mind body approaches; neuroscience and Indigenous Peoples; traditional mindfulness and contemplative practices; ancestral and paleo eating and lifestyle; and the Rights of Mother Earth.  See Dr. Yellow Bird's NDSU Faculty page here.

Retreat No. 2

Study & Practice Series No. 2: Integrative Healing through Memory Work

and Decolonization

The second retreat in this series took place November 7-8, 2014 at Ari Bhöd in Tehachapi, California. Tools for Peace, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to strengthening and supporting emotional and social intelligence as well as academic and professional success, participated this time as well. 

 

The aim of this retreat was to go deeper into complexities of self-destructive emotions and behaviors driven by trauma and social injustice and to find integrative ways of healing through decolonization. In this retreat, the group considered the historic role of injustice and how decolonizing memory work can be used as a means of integrative healing. This retreat aimed to give participants tools to reconsider dominant ways of understanding self-destructive behaviors as well as integrative approaches to working with people dealing with historic trauma.

Facilitators for this retreat were:

 

Kris Clarke has been active in issues regarding cultural diversity and social and health care. She is Associate Professor of Social Work Education at California State University.

 

Quynh-Tram Nguyen is interested in examining the post-war memory of Vietnamese communities and its relationship with community formation and development in the US. Her teaching/research focuses on critical consciousness in Social (Theater) Work that intersects Action Research, Performance Studies, Social Pedagogy, Critical Race Theory, postcoloniality, diaspora, critical practice, and decolonizing community work. She has been involved in a project investigating the role of spiritual capital in influencing Vietnamese and Mexican integration into a small-scale city. Ms. Nguyen has also worked with several community-based collaborative projects examining identity, memory, and history through theatrical traditions of Southeast Asia. She is an artivist (an arts- & practice-based community engager and co-founder at VietSoul:21). 

 

Loren Witcher, BFA, RISD, is Program Manager, Camp Director, and Lead Facilitator of Tools for Peace, a 501 (c)(3) organization that aims to inspire people of all ages to develop kindness and compassion in everyday life. Loren has over ten years of experience leading Tools for Peace inservice programs teaching mindfulness and meditation techniques to youth and adults. He has studied and practiced meditation under the guidance of Lama Chodak Gyatso Nubpa since 1998.

 

Dr. Michael Yellow Bird is a citizen of the Three Affiliated Tribes, the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara. He joined the North Dakota State University faculty in the fall of 2014 and is Professor and Director of the Tribal Indigenous Studies program. His teaching, writing, research, and community work focus on Indigenous Peoples’ health, leadership, and cultural rights; the effects of colonization and methods of decolonization; decolonizing social work approaches; decolonizing war and military service; neurodecolonization and mind body approaches; neuroscience and Indigenous Peoples; traditional mindfulness and contemplative practices; ancestral and paleo eating and lifestyle; and the Rights of Mother Earth. See Dr. Yellow Bird's NDSU Faculty page here.

Watch the videos below to see participants reflect on the impact of the decolonization retreat

at Ari Bhod, Tehachapi, California

Retreat No. 3

Study & Practice Series No. 3: Tending the Wild: An Eco-psychological/

De-colonizing Retreat for Graduate Social Work Students

The third retreat in this series took place in Arcata, California on August 20-23, 2015. The aim of this retreat was to explore the connection between the self and nature. Led by Thanatologist Virgina Subia Belton, participants were introduced to “sensing, listening, and looking practice.” Ms. Belton also discussed the “Four-Fold Way” developed by Dr. Angeles Arrien, which looks at how a better understanding of archetypes can transform individual consciousness and shape human behavior. Participants visited the ITEPP (Indian Tribal & Educational Personnel Program), Potowot Village, and the Yurok Salmon Festival.

 

Virginia (Gina) Subia Belton, MA, PhD candidate, is an emerging scholar, thanatologist and end of life community educator. Her research deeply examines the complex and myriad expressions of end of life relationships cross culturally and across the continuum of care. Her practice arises from a depth of experience as an educator in both the academic and community settings, along with more than 25 years of experience tending to end of life relationships across the continuum of care in clinical environments. See Virginia Belton's website here.

Retreat No. 4

Study & Practice Series No. 4: Assembling futures from collective stories

of the Invisibles

The fourth decolonizing retreat explored how past experiences and struggles can inform visions of decolonizing social change. We seeked to bring together a multigenerational group of people to consider how history, memory, and lived experience have played a role in our stories of our communities, our vulnerabilities, our resilience, and our possibilities. To decolonize ourselves, we must decolonize our stories. The retreat used small group discussions, music and meditation, and theatre for awareness. It took place at the Holistic Cultural and Education Wellness Center in Fresno, California on May 12-13, 2016.

This retreat was organized by Kris Clarke and Devoya Mayo. It featured talks on memory, wellness and resilience by Indigenous scholar Dr. Michael Yellow Bird, an exercise on theatre for awareness by community activist Quynh-Tram Nguyen, and music and meditation by Jim Santi Owen.

The aim of this retreat was to consider how history, memory, and lived experience have played a role in our stories of our communities, our vulnerabilities, our resilience, and our possibilities. We focused especially on stories of elders who have lived through struggle to better understand how they have developed resilience in the face of often impossible odds. Following Audre Lorde’s statement: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare,” hence we ask our elders how they have managed adversity and the occasional sense of hopelessness and burnout when social change seemed so distant. In learning from the stories of our elders, we seek a multigenerational conversation on hope, resilience, and struggle.

Watch the videos below to see participants reflect on the impact of the decolonization retreat at the Holistic Cultural and Education Wellness Center, Fresno, California

 

Kris Clarke, Ph.D

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