A Native Leader Talks About Screening

How do you handle screening, and drugs?

One person I know smokes pot (marijuana, a mind-altering drug), but not before classes or sessions, and this person is going for longer times between smoking than has ever been possible for this person before.

I know of three people in my constituency who are on prescription drugs. One went off them when told this would stop any movement toward a leadership position. Another asked a doctor for medication but quit it when feeling better. The other person continues taking meds, having sessions, and is in a Community that hangs in there with1 this person.

In screening people to teach I look for people who are recognized as leaders by their Native communities. Who do people listen to? Show up for? While Indian people are notoriously hard on our leaders (internalized oppression), there is also some way that we are more understanding of the difference between patterns and people. For example, just because someone spent fifteen years in prison does not automatically make him or her a “scary” person.

Have you been able to give your RC Community a hand in dealing successfully with the patterns of the people whom you have brought into the Community?

Minneapolis/St. Paul has the largest RC Native constituency outside of the Maine Region, so I must have done something right. However, I don’t think I have “given the RC Community a hand in dealing successfully with the patterns of the people.” I would like to improve in this area.

What I have done is be forceful. I have been persistent, and I have told my constituency there are some things you are just not going to be able to show these people or get a good session on from these people, so don’t try. Instead, figure out how to be a good counselor for them.

I have also told my constituency to show up,2 no matter what—to just show up is sometimes all we can do.

I have been clear with my constituency that other tools can also be useful. Alcoholics Anonymous, therapy, wide-world support groups and programs (for example, domestic abuse groups), their spiritual community—all are options to help them get the kind of lives they want.

How do you judge your own resources?

In my immediate Community, I teach one-on-one a lot, just because I have much more resource for many of my constituency’s issues than the larger RC Community. I don’t push people toward the larger RC Community for up to two years. When I have done it sooner than that, the reaction from the Community is, “We aren’t ready for this type of distress.” I think we do have the resource; we just haven’t figured out how to apply the tool. United to End Racism (UER)3, listening projects, taking on ending racism—these have shown what is possible when we get out in the world. Strategizing how to use resource effectively might be an answer to this dilemma.

How do we take what we know about organizing people (for example, how Harvey organized a worldwide Community) and apply it?

Harvey Jackins was one man with a vision (talk about someone having the right to feel like there wasn’t enough resource to do what he wanted to do!). We are all proof that it’s amazing what you can do without resource. With a good plan, flexible intelligence, and the determination to follow it through, much can be done. Rather than, “We do not have the resource,” it would be more accurate to say, “This is not something we are going to take on at this time,” or, “This is not where we are putting our resource right now.” For example, I am not going to deal with someone who physically threatens people in the group, if for no other reason than that is not how I want to spend my time.

As we learn how to be non-permissive counselors—and I think we are getting better at this—this idea of “no resource” will start to fall away. I think working on greed patterns will also make a difference in how we assess available resource.

How do you screen so that classes and support groups and counseling relationships between people go well?

How do we define “go well”? Unfortunately, this can often mean that people feel comfortable with each other, particularly those in oppressor roles. Rather than this, I look for increased use of intelligence and awareness and people’s lives going better. I don’t care if people “don’t like” each other—the question is, are they getting good sessions and are they moving forward?

I try to teach people how to use attention, whatever attention is available. I tell them that any discharge is good, is useful.

Have you made mistakes?

Yes, many. I think my biggest mistake is not stopping/intervening/being forceful as soon as I recognize a problem developing. My pattern says, “Wait and see what happens; maybe it will work out.” It never has. Have my mistakes stopped me? No. What have I done differently? I’ve developed a long-term vision—like building a wall one brick at a time, instead of trying to put the wall up overnight.

Marcie Rendon
International Liberation Reference Person for Native Americans
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of working-class people, 
and Working for a Living No. 8 

1 Hangs in there with means doesn’t give up on.
2 Show up means attend.
3 United to End Racism, an RC project in which the theory and practice of RC are made available to wide-world anti-racism activists.

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00