By Rachel Galan, Caddo Mounds Educator/Interpreter
"Think of a really great conversation that you've had. One that left you feeling fulfilled like a really great meal." That was one of the first things asked of participants during our first Caddo Mounds Teachers Workshop. When asked about the attributes of these great conversations, our group of educators responded:
- meeting of minds/understanding
- dawning of perspective
- being heard/valued
- “a-ha” moment/confirmation/validation
I can say that at the end of our time together, I experienced all of these things.
We kicked off our two-day workshop with presentations from Dr. George Sabo III, archeologist and ethnographer from the University of Arkansas and the Arkansas Archeological Survey, and Kricket Rhoads-Connywerdy, Caddo/Kiowa dancer and storyteller. We examined the importance of traditional stories in learning about history and culture, learned a five-step process to help get to the deeper meanings and metaphors in traditional stories, and then were privileged to experience Kricket's telling of Caddo and Kiowa stories.
Kricket's storytelling opened the group’s eyes to the power of a "native perspective," Caddo language, Indian sign language, and personal relevance for breathing life into the written version of Caddo traditional stories. An afternoon of Caddo dance lessons illustrated the rich tapestry of media used to tell the stories of Caddo history and culture.
The themes at Caddo Mounds State Historic Site span from the early Caddo (800 A.D.) to the missions and travels of the Spanish, French, Early Americans, and beyond. On day two of the workshop, participant Jeff Williams shared the rich history of El Camino Real de los Tejas:
Did you know that Caddo Mounds has a portion of the Camino Real that is part of the Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail? There are 2,600 miles of this trail and ours is one of only three segments that are protected, interpreted, and open for the public to visit.
Did you know that El Camino Real de los Tejas is the only one of the National Historic Trails still in use as a road (Hwy. 21) following some of its original corridors?
Woven through the two-day workshop were Carol Blaney’s sessions and lessons on facilitated dialogue. In these sessions, we learned the tools and techniques for addressing "wicked problems," those problems that defy resolution.
What distinguishes dialogue from other forms of communication? According to the Arts and Civic Engagement Tool Kit, dialogue is the sharing of ideas, experiences, and assumptions for the purpose of personal and collective learning.
These facilitated dialogue sessions took 12 disparate educators and presenters, and created trust and community. A safe space was created to talk about some of the difficulties of teaching about American Indian history and culture, and teaching about this history while respecting the variety of ethnic, religious, and political backgrounds of an increasingly diverse student population.
One workshop participant commented, “I have to say, I’ve been to several workshops. At this one, I really feel like everyone is so approachable. I would not normally go and call someone by their [first] name. I don’t know, I felt very at home. It felt very calming, safe.”
We learned, shared, and "broke bread" as a group, and it made for a powerful, meaningful experience.
Another workshop participant said, "Teachers are usually the worst audience I find. We all like to talk about ourselves. We are the experts on what we know, what we do. And I know I've been guilty of this. If you are in a workshop at your region service center, you're sitting with a big group of people, but you're having your own conversation [with the person next to you] and you kind of stick with your own, who you came with. You go out to lunch on your own. There is no breaking of the bread together. I don't know; I thoroughly enjoyed it."
Hungry for more information? Four of our workshop participants are creating lesson plans and other materials based on this workshop. Stay tuned to the Caddo Mounds website, where we will be publishing these new resources for teachers.
Thanks to the positive feedback from our participants, we are planning to host another teachers’ workshop at Caddo Mounds next summer.