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American Indian Institute

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Social Development

Accreditation to: Indigenous Forum
Affiliation with other organizations: All areas of Indian country in North America The Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth is a spiritual circle open to all Indian people. It constitutes the continuation of an ancient practice of joint council among the most respected leaders of Indian nations. Its purpose is to nurture a grassroots renewal of traditional values and worldviews among Indian peoples, to ensure the continuity of Native wisdom, and to bring that wisdom to bear on important issues facing all peoples of the earth. The values inherent in the traditional Native worldview - faith, thankfulness, love, and respect for all Creation - are essential for living well on this Earth. These values are the foundation of life. Discussions of education, economics, environment, and other issues are secondary to this basic understanding of Creation and one's place and function in it. Projects and annual gatherings of the Traditional Circle reinforce and strengthen traditional values within participating delegations and extend them to Indian communities as well as across cultures. The Circle is organized in the traditional Indian way. There are no signatures, no hierarchy of officers, and no membership restrictions or limitations. Those who come to Circle gatherings on a regular basis represent grassroots communities and are empowered by consensus to speak on behalf of their people. They have the respect, trust, and support of those whom they represent. Their guiding principles are moral, not legal in origin. Actions of the Circle are based on consensus. All dimensions of issues are discussed. Consensus is formed by the persuasiveness of the positions presented and their consonance with traditional perspectives. A core group of Elders who participate in nearly all activities of the Circle are its respected leaders. This group represents most areas of Indian Country in North America. The Circle gathers for six days each year at an encampment hosted by an Indian Nation. Every Circle gathering includes: Elders who, because of their experience and commitment, speak on behalf of their people from the perspective of a traditional, spiritual worldview; "Runners" who have not yet achieved "Elder" status but whose commitment to the Circle is unquestioned, and who do "leg work" for the Elders; Young people who may sit with the Elders in the councils as observers, and who also help maintain the camps. Youth also meet separately during the gathering to discuss common issues. They are invited to present their perspectives to the Elders' Circle where they are respectfully considered. Family members and children of all ages who participate to the extent of their capacities and interests. Inclusiveness is an ancient Indian tradition that insures the cultural and spiritual continuum of Indian people.