The Talking Circle is a ceremony as well. Chairs are arranged in a circle with an opening in the east. People enter the eastern opening and walk in a clockwise direction to the place they want to sit. When everyone has been seated, the opening is closed to join the circle of people together. In this ceremony, once the people have settled in, the leader explains what is to take place. Usually a Talking Stick (pictured above), a feather, a stone or some item that is special to someone in the circle or to the leader is passed around in a clockwise direction from one person to the next beginning with the leader who is now holding the sacred symbol as he explains. Only the person who is holding the talking stick is permitted to speak, everyone else listens attentively. In this way we show respect for the person who is speaking and we eliminate the chaos that is created by everyone trying to speak at the same time.
When each person is finished speaking, he/she says “nugumah” (spelled by sound) and passes the Talking Stick on to the next person (in a clockwise direction) until the symbol has gone all around the circle. This process is then repeated three more times for a total of four. In the circle everyone is treated as an equal. The circle also teaches respect for others. No one is allowed to talk or disturb the person who is holding the symbol. People learn how to listen and be patient because they have to wait their turn. They also learn to have a good memory because if someone wants to respond to something that someone else has said, they must remember the idea until it is their turn to talk.
A good thing to remember as well is that there is no pressure put on anyone to have to speak. If someone doesn’t feel like saying anything, they just pass the symbol on to the next person or they can say “Nugumah”, and then pass the symbol on to the next person. Remember to always pass on the symbol in a clockwise direction. We always do sacred things in a clockwise direction, the direction of the sun.
The circle is a form of social or societal healing or uncluttering of the system whereby the participant is able to speak frankly about subjects that he/she would normally “keep” privately to themselves. In other words, this activity could be called an ancient form of traditional therapy or community healing process.
The word “Nugumah” translates to “All My Relations”. I believe it to be one of the most powerful words in the Mi’kmaq language as it refers to everything in this world and the next. So when you utter that word, you are acknowledging the interconnectedness of all things, you are acknowledging a belief in the concept of ONE. Oneness with everything in Creation. “All My Relations”. Nugumah.