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Circle of Life

Circle of Life ~ Mapping One's Story

Circle of Life ~ Mapping One’s Story was written in 2010 when I was unemployed. It was presented as a whole brain-body activity book that engaged logic and intuition, imagination, the senses and fine motor skills. The pages were filled in with colored pens or crayons bringing out the creative child in each participant no matter what age, gender or culture. The following images and stories are from the participants at that time.

Please see our page Turtle Book for our revised edition entitled Turtle's Circle of Life. New stories and images will be forthcoming.

Turtle’s Circle of Life is an enchanting creation story: Baby Turtle is lost in space. Father Sun carries Turtle to Earth on a light beam. Turtle swims East, South, West and North discovering the wonders of Earth, her innate relationship with Father Sun and her transformation into Turtle Island.

Circle of Life ~ Mapping One’s Story class supports the student in identifying their story threads in the East of childhood, South of adolescence, West of adulthood and North of elderhood or one’s current age. Through images and words these story threads create an artistic mandala of one’s personal journey around the circle of life.

To schedule a class and order activity books contact

Anna Haala-Tlingit/Kaasoot; Elder Jack Cagey-Lummi;
Alice Tu-Aluet/Jewish/Muslim; Trish-Swiss/French
Circle of Life mapping class at the Lummi Tribe

Native/Indigenous Elders have many gifts to give their communities. One of these gifts is their personal journey around the circle of life that can be mapped from the East of childhood to the South of adolescence to the West of adulthood and to the North of elderhood. These circular threads weave a rich basket that makes each elder unique and valuable. Circle of Life ~ A Storytelling Basket is a framework that supports Elders in giving their gifts of stories.

Junior Slim John, Chippewa Cree; Trish, Global Citizen;
Benjamin Yadao, Yakama; Dianna Kanine Scott, Yakama
Circle of Life mapping class at the Yakama Tribe

Yakama Nation

Janine, Yakama/Nez Perce

Pauline Miller, Colville/Yakama and Great Grandchild of Chief Joseph

Elder Mike Evans
Chair, Snohomish Tribe
Skipper, Blue Heron Canoe
Leader, Singing Feet, Youth Cultural Dance Group
Teacher, Lushootseed Language

Elder Alma Chastain, Lummi and Yakama Nation

Alma Chastain was born July 27, 1927 on the Lummi Indian Reservation. She has five children: Billie Alcayaga/retired vet, Seattle Police; Michael Alcayaga/Seattle Times; Chris Chastain/Seattle Indian Health Board, Elders Program Manager; Theresa Chastain Moore/nurse; Venice Chastain/Seattle Indian Health Board, Perinatal Outreach Specialist. Alma has 11 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren. Indian activism has been a major part of Alma’s life following in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother.

Alma worked as an outreach worker at Seattle Indian Health Board; attended nurse training at Chemawa Indian Hospital in Tacoma; took cosmetology classes to have a beauty shop in her home until she learned about the chemical hazards; waitressed and worked in a nursing home.

Alma retired from the Seattle Indian Health Board in 1977. She and her husband then travelled with their CJ Silversmith business selling silver and turquoise jewelry at powwows and Indian organizations. Alma also attended church, supported PTA, was a charter member of the American Women’s Service League and liked to dance with the Northwest Indian Tribal Dance Club.

In 1970 Alma participated in the planning and action of the takeover of Fort Lawton. She and her children climbed over the fence, were put in the stockade and were part of the Indian invasion that reclaimed a small part of their land according to the Pt. Elliott Treaty. At that time the principal organizer Bernie Whitebear stated, “We, the Native Americans, reclaim the land known as Fort Lawton in the name of all American Indians by right of discovery.” United Indians of All Tribes is celebrating this 40 anniversary in March 2010.

In 2008 Alma received the Inspire Positive Aging award through Senior Services. She has a glass candy dish with a dragonfly and the words, “You Inspire Us.” Alma’s inspiration comes from talking to God every day of her life.

Alma, Storytellers Campfire radio program and Circle of Life series thank you for sharing your story with us!

The Path of a Peace Elder
By Anna Haala, Tlingit/Kaasoot Elder

I lived in 38 foster homes. At the approximate age of six I was in yet another abusive home. I was struck in the head with a hammer by the foster parent. I ran off into the woods and ended up at a creek. After laying on the edge of the creek an elderly person spoke to me. She saw that I was injured and told me that she would be right back.

Upon her return she had plants in her hand and she spoke what I thought were prayers because I didn’t understand her language. She then placed the plants on my forehead where I had been struck. She continued with her prayers for a while and when she removed the leaves from my forehead there was the piece from the hammer. She placed that in the creek and bathed my forehead with creek water. She then said more prayers.

Then she started asking me questions in English and I answered them. She asked me what it was that was troubling my heart. I told her about my dream of squares and half circles. I didn’t understand why I had to have the same dream night after night after night. She suggested that I go home and pray with intention to understand the dream. I did so.

The next morning I awoke but I still had that same dream and no answer. I then made my way down to the creek once again and sat watching the fish. Within a short time she appeared once again. I told her that I didn’t get an answer to my dream. Once again she told me to pray; this time with more intention.

That evening I prayed with as much intention as I could bring forth and repeated that prayer until I fell asleep. I awoke one happy girl because that answer did come! My square and half circles joined. The answer was “I am to see with my heart, I am to hear with my heart, I am to feel with my heart, I am to speak with my heart.” And in that way I will be able to live in the two worlds.

The squares represent the dominant society. You go to a square school, sit at a square desk, have a square book, and after a few years you get a square piece of paper. The Sacred Hoop teachings were outlawed by the dominant society thus breaking the hoop in half. Uniting the half circles and the square brings understanding one to another.

Singing Feet Youth, Duwamish Longhouse

Trish taught Circle of Life ~ Mapping One's Story to the Singing Feet group at the Duwamish Longhouse. Mapping one's story requires listening to story threads that speak in the East of childhood, the South of adolescence, the West of adulthood and the North of Elderhood or the age of the student. Mapping is inspired from the inside out and can be done many times since each one has many story threads that shape their lives.