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Spoken Word Workshop

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Participants in the Spoken Word Workshop in Missoula, MT

Last week I had the honor of working with Native youth from the Missoula & Helena, MT area. Ten youth between the ages 13 – 16 years old chose to participate in the Conscious Alliance Spoken Word Workshop on a Saturday! I was so impressed with this group of young people. The day started off with a bang! The moment I walked in the door, one of the young women wanted to share a poem with me that she had created for this specific day. The youth had so much energy that it rubbed off on me and facilitator, Lily Gladstone. Lily guided them through several writing prompts and activities. They were extremely receptive and began to write much more than we had anticipated.

One of the writing prompts was to visualize a loved one, relative, or someone important in our lives and describe how we felt about them. One of the young men in the group thought of his older brother, who was recently placed in a youth/juvenile detention center. Each participant shared the person they were thinking about, and when it was this young man’s turn he began to cry.

Lily visited with this young man and asked him to write out everything he was feeling. Eventually he began to calm down and seemed to feel better for the moment. Later I was able to visit with this young man about his brother and what exactly it was that made him feel sad. He was worried about his brother, but mostly just missed him. This young man continued to participate in the workshop and, in the end, wrote a powerful poem about himself and his strengths. To see this young man – only a teenager – process all these emotions in a healthy, positive way was very humbling.

In my experience and education as an adult sharing knowledge with youth, it sometimes seems that our words go unheard and our actions go unseen. It seems as though we are speaking to deaf ears. In reality, our youth are often more connected to the Creator than we are as adults, even with all our knowledge and experience. This was so evident and present in the Spoken Word Workshop participants and their writing. One of the young men shared with us:

Life That Grows

There are a lot

Of things that grow

With life plants, humans, and animals

All life needs is energy

Without energy is like taking water

And light away from a plant

So giving energy to a plant is

Giving you knowledge

Knowledge is good for you, so you

Need to share with others

Then they will pass it down for


Our ancestors passed down a lot

Of knowledge, like culture.

Just writing this poem out brings tears to my eyes again. I go into every youth program open to learn from them, as much as I hope they learn from the facilitator and me. During this Spoken Word Workshop, I learned that our youth do in fact hear what we say. They do see our actions. They are more connected to the Creator than we give them credit for. We – as adults, as a community, as a society, as a relative – just have to learn how to communicate with them and listen to them.

Blog by: Krystal Two Bulls – Conscious Alliance Project Coordinator


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