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Seminar Five of Friday Fellowship 2017-2019 Class Held in Durham County

Friday, March 1, 2019   (0 Comments)
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In the middle of Durham County just west of US Highway 501 is the Avila Retreat Center.  The 2017-2019 Friday Fellowship class returned to this location north of the Eno River for Seminar 5 on the weekend of February 21-24, 2019 after meeting at the same facility for Seminar 2 in February 2018.   To be within 20 minutes of downtown Durham, the center’s setting feels as undeveloped as some rural places in North Carolina. 

Enjoy a few photos from the weekend in this Facebook album here.

The seminar’s theme was Indigenist Leadership.  Recommended reading included:

Braiding Sweetgrass -- a book by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Traditional Native Leadership: The 10 Scrolls – a book by Don Coyhis 

Transcriptions of two lectures from the Schumacher Center for New Economics:

The Ice is Melting” by Oren Lyons

How the Conquest of Indigenous People Parallels the Conquest of Nature” by John Mohawk


When the rain settled in for the weekend on Thursday evening, the full group gathered and reconnected.  Relationship and interrelatedness were already primary themes of the weekend, and the class heartily practiced reconnection long after the formal Thursday evening convening ended.

Friday morning brought a primer on the eight recognized Native American nations around North Carolina today.  It was noted that Native American communities are often ignored in sampling, projection, or planning.  In addition, when included as a distinct group, they are often lumped together when differences across communities can be great.  Just as Wilmington’s planning will be different than Asheville’s planning, planning with the Eastern Band of the Cherokee will be different than planning with the Coharie.


This recognition of difference within relationship is as central as any Friday Fellowship concept or leadership tool.  Faculty member Vivette Jeffries-Logan shared the phrase “We are all related” in the Tutelo language of her people several times during the weekend.  Earlier Vivette welcomed the group to the land of her people (Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation) which is the land on which the seminar was held.  She further discussed how the concept of interrelatedness resists the separation, categorization, or silo mentality that too much of modern western culture attempts to perfect.

Five guests from Indigenous Nations around the state joined the group Friday afternoon and Saturday morning to share what leadership meant to them and how they navigate relating across the cultural, racial, and ethnic differences they encounter daily in their work.  Not only did they share their experiences and expertise with the class, they modeled trust and relationship across difference in how they showed up for someone they were in relationship with.

Saturday afternoon small groups took on the question “What does poverty mean to you?”

It was framed as a quote from the recent book Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance by Edgar Villanueva who is an enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe.

From the Inside Philanthrophy article about the book:

"Villanueva observes that philanthropy, whose Greek roots mean “love for humanity,” is an intrinsic Native American principle. As one of his mentors once told him, “It’s not a Lumbee way, Navajo way, or a Maori way. It’s an Indigenous way that cuts across continents; the original way of being and giving."  For example, for Natives in the Cheyenne River Territory, there is no word for poverty. The closest explanation they have is “to be without family.”


If this question “What does poverty mean to you?” sounds familiar as a Friday Fellows reflection, it should. 

Bill Friday speaks of it here just as he did at the close of the first Friday Fellowship class.


Consider some of the responses on the second sketchnote or graphic recording of the weekend below.  Faculty member Hope Tyson provides these wonderful tools for reflection.  Links to larger versions here and here.





“Ceremony focuses attention, so that attention becomes intention.  If you stand together and profess a thing before your community, it holds you accountable.  Ceremonies transcend the boundaries of the individual and resonate beyond the human realm.  These acts of reverence are powerfully pragmatic.  These are ceremonies that magnify life. “

                                           -from Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer



Wildacres Leadership Initiative is connected with Wildacres Retreat, Little Switzerland, NC.