The Blackfoot Framework
The goal for the Blackfoot framework is to use the holistic approach of the medicine wheel with the 7 sacred Blackfoot teachings that reflect the Blackfoot ways of knowing. The descriptions of the medicine wheel and the 7 Blackfoot teachings come from Kainai’s Late Elder, Andy Black Water Sr., and members of the Awo Taan’s Healing Lodge society. It is important to note that the description of the medicine wheel has been slightly altered to fit the curriculum of the Supporting Father Involvement program. The Medicine Wheel focuses on balancing the spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental aspects of an individual’s wellbeing. The 7 sacred Blackfoot Teachings promote harmony within ourselves and in our relationships with others close to us and how to behave in our relationships as we move in and out of the different phases of our lives. The teachings of both the medicine wheel and the 7 sacred Blackfoot teachings will be infused throughout the program by Blackfoot Elders making the program more culturally relevant and more suitable for the unique challenges Blackfoot families face today. The Blackfoot framework will be the moving factor in which the program and curriculum is delivered focusing on the 5 domains and true intent of the Supporting Father Involvement Program.
The medicine wheel starts in the East with the Spirit and this is where the program begins, with the introduction on our identity. It is also here we announce our Blackfoot name that carries us through our life journey. We begin the curriculum on the individual in the East. It is the beginning place of our identity here in the physical world, it is the place where we begin to discover our gifts as an individual, and it is a place where we begin to bond with others, develop relationships, and become aware that we are part of the larger Creation. The East is the birthing place, a place of new beginnings, and a place of celebrations and ceremony for the spiritual gift the Creator has given to the family to which we are born. We will learn the parent-child relationship and that we are born into a family, a clan, a tribe, and a community. These people become our caregivers and our teachers with responsibilities. They teach us our cultural ways of being and knowing. They teach us how to begin nurturing the four aspects of our being – the spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental.
As we begin on our journey around the circle of life, we enter into the South which focuses on our emotions & we begin to grow in our responsibilities. In the curriculum this is where the females and males break out into their own individual groups. The direction of the South teaches us that by the time we reach adolescence we have grown in the knowledge about ourselves, our families, and our people. It is a time of celebration and ceremony to acknowledge our life transition to the stage of adolescence where we learn about self-respect and relationships with others. It is also a place where we learn about our gifts and how we might be able to use them. It is here where those gifts are nurtured and strengthened and it is here we begin to develop our leadership skills. It is a place when we begin to seek our mentors who will help prepare us for the responsibilities as a woman/man, and who will expand our thinking and help prepare us for our growing independence.
As we continue on our journey around the circle of life we enter into the West which focuses on the physical aspect of our wellbeing. This is where we will start to learn on the couple relationship and learn about wisdom and love. The west teaches us about adult responsibilities. It is here we begin to learn how to provide for ourselves and our partners. It is here we learn about partner responsibilities, about family responsibilities, and about our nation’s responsibilities. The west is also a place where we begin to assume leadership responsibilities that can eventually grow to leadership positions. It is a place our relationships with our mentors deepen and grow to include others who will influence us in our thinking, feeling, spiritual, and physical wellbeing. It is a time of great independence and freedom for self, when all that we have learned thus far about life can influence our paths. It is a place where we determine the extent of our responsibilities and come to embrace our gifts and others.
As we continue on our journey we enter into the North, into our mental wellbeing, and into the final 2 weeks of the curriculum. In the North we learn about aging and eldership in the medicine wheel, the ones whom we seek for as mentors and teachers, as they move closer to returning to the spiritual world. It is a time when we begin to recognize our Elders for their specialized knowledge, skills, and life experiences. We honor them for the good life they have lived and the love and care they have and continue to demonstrate for their family, community, clan, and nation. We look up to them as role models and seek their guidance and wisdom before they eventually come to rest. It is self-discovery in the curriculum where we dig deeper into the four generations and the community in which we come from. It is also here we learn about respect and bravery. We wrap up all we have learned and gained from the medicine wheel, the 7 sacred teachings, and the 5 domains of the Supporting Father Involvement Curriculum.
The 7 Sacred Blackfoot Teachings
Honesty – Each morning upon rising, and each evening before sleeping, give thanks for the life within you and for all life, for the good things the Creator has given us and for the opportunity to grow a little more each day. In order to grow, we must take a good honest look at ourselves, recognize who and what we are (our strengths and our challenges) and change what we don’t like. When we can be honest with ourselves, we can be honest with others also. Seek always for the things that will benefit everyone.
Humility – Be humble and recognize that no matter how much you think you know; you really know very little of the entire universe. To serve others, to be of some use to family, community, nation or the world is one of the main purposes for which human beings have been created. “Do not fill yourself with your own affairs and forget your most important task. Rather have reverence for every part of creation, and do your part to help maintain life’s balance.”
Truth – Be truthful at all times, and under all conditions. Learn what truth is, speak your truth, and walk your truth. We are role models for everyone around us. It is your choice as to the kind of role model you wish to be. When you live your truth, you become a positive role model for others to follow.
Wisdom – Respect the wisdom of the people in council. Council means anyone who you make decisions with and who you may share responsibilities with. Once you give an idea to a council or a meeting it no longer belongs to you. It belongs to the people. Respect demands that you listen intently to the ideas of others in council and that you do not insist that your idea prevail. Indeed, you should freely support the ideas of others if they are true and good, even if those ideas are quite different from the ones you have contributed. The clash of ideas brings forth the spark of truth. Once a council had decided something in unity, respect demands that no one speak secretly against what has been decided. If the council has made an error, that error will become apparent to everyone in its own time.
Love – Always practice unconditional love. When people are weak they need your love most, and they need to know that your love is given freely with no conditions or expectations placed on others. Always receive others and outsiders with a loving heart and as members of the human family. All races and tribes in the world are like the different colored flowers of one meadow. All are beautiful and as children of the Creator must all be respected.
Respect – Respect teaches us to treat every person from the tiniest child to the oldest elder with respect at all times. Special respect should be given to elders, parents, teachers, and community leaders. Touch nothing that belongs to someone else (especially sacred objects) without permission. Respect the privacy of every person. Never walk between people or interrupt people who are conversing. Speak in a soft voice, especially when you are in the presence of elders, strangers, or others to whom special respect is due. Do not speak unless invited to do so at gatherings where elders are present (except to what is expected of you). Never speak about others in a negative way, whether they are present or not. Treat the Earth and all of her aspects as your mother. Show deep respect for the mineral world, the plant world, and the animal world. Do nothing to pollute the air or the soil. If others would destroy our mother, rise up with wisdom to defend her. Show deep respect for the beliefs and religions of others. Listen with courtesy and with your heart.
Bravery – Courage was a virtue greatly honored and valued by our ancestors. The purpose of life was to learn to remain calm, fearless and efficient in every possible stressful situation and under all circumstances, since one’s life depended on clear thinking. Consider your thoughts and actions of the past day and seek the courage and strength to be a better person.
The 5 Domains of the Supporting Father Involvement
- The Individual
- The Parent – Child Relationship
- The Couple Relationship
- Four Generations
- The Community
Tying together the medicine wheel, the 7 Blackfoot teachings, and the 5 domains
The medicine wheel starts in the East with the Spirit, this is where we start the introduction to the program and focus on Blackfoot identity. In weeks 2 & 3 we start the curriculum and focus on the individual domain. This is where we will promote the first Blackfoot teaching on Honesty. Weeks 4 & 5 in the curriculum are based on the parent – child relationship, and this is where the second Blackfoot teaching on Humility will be introduced.
Week 6 in the curriculum is where the men and women break out into their own groups, and this is also where we have moved into the South of the medicine wheel which focuses on the emotional aspect of our wellbeing. The Blackfoot teaching that will accompany this session and section of the medicine wheel is on Truth.
As we continue on within the program and the medicine wheel, we now enter into weeks 7 and 8 in the curriculum which focuses on the couple relationship. This is also where we have moved into the West of the medicine wheel which is focused on the physical aspect of self. The Blackfoot teaching that will be taught in this area is on Wisdom.
As we make our way North which focuses on the mind, we will now be in weeks 9 and 10. Week 9 in the curriculum is where we focus on the four generations in which we come from; the Blackfoot teaching that accompanies that week’s session is on Love. Week 10 in the curriculum is the Community and the Blackfoot teaching that accompanies that section is on Respect. Week 11 is the conclusion and tying together the 5 domains, the 7 Blackfoot teachings, and the Medicine Wheel. The last Blackfoot teaching is on Bravery. The conclusion is a time to celebrate the completion of the program and to reflect on how far we’ve come in our journeys as we look ahead to a brighter future, equipped with tools and personal growth. It is also a time for an optional naming ceremony for participants & their children who do not own names to receive a Blackfoot name from the Elders.