Alignment Between Traditional Lakota Conversation Practices and Art of Hosting

Recently I (Jerry) co-hosted an Art of Hosting (AoH) training at Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa with LeMoine LaPointe. LeMoine is an elder from the Lakota Nation at Rosebud. Turtle Mountain Nation residents are mainly Ojibwa or Meti.

LeMoine is a good friend and wise leader. He is an active practitioner of the Art of Hosting Conversations That Matter. LeMoine, Kathy and I have worked together many times and we always learn something new during our times together. A few years ago, during a co-host check-in at the end of an Art of Hosting training LeMoine explained to us that use of the word ‘container’, even though intended in a good way, is a reminder to Native Americans of the policy of containment. A deep reminder that language matters and worldviews influence interpretation.

Lemoine said he often uses the word ‘wahóȟpi’, which in Lakota means ‘nest’. Since then neither Kathy nor I use container in our work. Instead we describe the work and value of creating welcoming or safe enough spaces or places. We often reference what LeMoine shared with us as an invitation to take care with language.

When we began the AoH at Turtle Mountain, following a blessing, LeMoine opened with a welcome and framed our day. He offered a heartfelt explanation of how Art of Hosting connects to traditional ways that Lakota (and many Native nations) engage in conversation. He spoke to the circle we were sitting in and to the importance of the center to the circle we had established. He described how, before the genocide, Lakota people structured their villages in ways that supported conversation. Tipis were organized in concentric circles around a center and people could easily talk to each other or come to the center to be part of larger conversations. He said he sees this same spirit in Art of Hosting.

During the AoH, I offered a teaching about the Chaordic Stepping Stones. When I finished several participants said they felt they had approached projects or programs they had been involved with in a similar (but not exactly the same) way. They remarked at how intuitive the Chaordic Stepping Stones felt to them. LeMoine suggested that this approach to projects, planning and thinking also connect well to traditional Native approaches. This is due to its intuitiveness and in the importance of clarity of need and purpose, people and principles, and in asking ourselves what beliefs we hold that might limit us from other ways of thinking about actions to take.

Following an Open Space Technology (OST) activity, we offered tips and hints for hosting an Open Space. LeMoine again connected OST to traditional approaches to conversation practices. He noted that the practice of inviting the community into conversations that were of importance to all or parts of the community was a typical practice among Lakota communities. He spoke to the spirit of Open Space in inviting people to host conversations of importance to them.

During our two days together LeMoine and I had many chats about many things – being grandfathers, why we as humans feel such a connection to rocks, the Lakota creation story, his work with Native youth, an upcoming Sun Dance ceremony and how he believes that bringing Art of Hosting to Native communities can be a way for them to reconnect to traditional ways of being in conversations.