Talking Circle: A Time and Place to Share



“Talking Circle”
A Time and Place To Share

Verenda Dosela


Sometimes, the need to feel truly safe and to be able to speak freely without fear of being opposed is like a warm blanket on a cold winter’s night.

SANTA FE ”“ It is a Thursday night at 6 p.m. I am in the west wing of the Library and Technology Center, sitting with several other IAIA students. We are here to eat a meal together and attend the Talking Circle gathering. During one day of my week I can draw uninterrupted attention from an average of a dozen listeners, who listen closely to one another’s words. In turn I listen to the most astounding recounts of the students in attendance. My heart fills with great respect for them.

If we did something interesting that week, like speaking with a loved one back home, it is cause for rejoicing and people to rejoice with. If we are missing our families, we have shoulders upon which to place our concerns. The weekly Talking Circle gathering gives IAIA students the opportunity to voice their thoughts and inner concerns, thereby restoring harmony to our spirits, minds, and bodies. It is done with good food, good company, good words and a strong, prayerful approach to the Maker to begin the gathering.

Sacredness of the Circle

Diane Reyna, First Year Experience coordinator for Native Circle, puts it this way: “We enjoy a meal together which has most recently been prepared by the students themselves. The dinner dishes and table are cleared and the eagle feather is brought to the table. I usually begin with a welcome and a restating of the purpose and protocol of the Talking Circle.

“The group is reminded of the sacredness of the circle and the power of confidentiality to insure safety to speak. Those in attendance are asked to speak about how their particular week went. The person is handed the eagle feather and begins to speak,” says Reyna.

Those of us in attendance feel a gentle and caring atmosphere. Everyone is comforted by Reyna’s explanation about an important part of the Talking Circle: “The eagle feather gives the speaker the protection from interruption by others in the group.”
A Warm Blanket on A Cold Night

Sometimes, the need to feel truly safe and to be able to speak freely without fear of being opposed is like a warm blanket on a cold winter’s night. “Talking Circle is important for those who attend because it is a safe place to share what is on the person’s heart and mind.” Reyna says.

The students on campus are in full force, actively attending classes and working on class art projects.
Contemplative and quiet times are usually pushed out of the way. Reyna is aware of this, “In the busy life of a student, such times are rare. Talking Circle provides that time.”

Good Attendance

Talking Circle started in Fall 2002 with a suggestion made by John Eagle Day, an instructor of Native Games, to provide a meal and a Talking Circle every Thursday night of the semester.

Talking Circle is now held around 6 p.m. for a meal together and 7 p.m. for the Talking Circle at the Learning Support Center in the west wing of the LTC building, which is equipped with a complete kitchen and meeting area. Talking Circle is supported by IAIA Student Life program and the Title III/Native Circle Retention program.

Many who attend bring a food item as a contribution. However, students are encouraged to attend even if they are unable to contribute a food item. Attendance this semester has been very good with up to twelve students taking advantage of this unique opportunity, Reyna said.

Left In Balance

This night, when the last person is finished talking and the eagle feather returns to Reyna, who had begun the Talking Circle activity, I know the end has arrived. My heart is lightened, my spirit enriched. The words spoken drift out the door. They return to our Mother who sweeps it away and we are left in balance with all nature and each other.

My thoughts clear while my gratitude overflows for Diane Reyna and the Native Circle program. I am saddened for the time is over. I bid everyone farewell and a good night as I walk down the hall and out into the cold night air. The wind feels good on my face. I experience a quiet walk upon Mother Earth.

I return to my truck and begin my drive home. As I drive westward at the intersection of Avan Nu Po Road, my eyes swell with tears and I swallow the lump in my throat. I thank the Maker for all that had happened and I take a slow deep breath. Where else but at IAIA would this happen? I know I will return again on another Thursday evening to the Talking Circle.



“The eagle feather gives the speaker the protection from interruption by others in the group.”

””Diane Reyna,



My heart is lightened, my spirit enriched”¦We are left in balance with all nature and each other.
Copyright © IAIA CHRONICLE 2004

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2 Responses
  1. I no longer have contact info for Verenda but I will pass on your condolences if I see here again. I’m sorry to hear her husband passed away.

  2. gordie

    To whomever reads this: I noticed this posting from a Verenda Dosela Rainer. If she is the correct Verenda whom I an referring to, she is an Apache gal, who was married to a Taos flutemaker named John Rainer, Jr. She also had a sister, Marvell, whom I met back in Rapid City in 1971. John was instrumental in getting me a scholarship at Brigham Young University. We lost touch over the years, and when I tried to re-connect, I noticed his obituary. Please send my sincere condolences to Verenda for her and her children’s loss of a husband and father. John touched my life, and I am forever grateful. Thanks.

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