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CIA Observes Native American Heritage Month

In November, members of CIA’s Native American Council (NAC) Employee Resource Group presented a traditional talking stick to CIA Director John Brennan in honor of Native American Heritage Month. Deputy Director of the CIA (DD/CIA), Avril Haines and CIA Executive Director Meroe Park joined Director Brennan for the presentation at CIA Headquarters.

During the presentation, the chairman of the NAC explained the significance of the talking stick. The talking stick is a tool used in many Native American traditions when a council meeting is called to discuss matters of importance to the tribe. The elder in charge holds the talking stick as a signal that the meeting is about to begin. Once he finishes speaking, the stick is passed to the next person who wishes to speak. Only the person holding the stick may speak.  This encourages attendees to listen closely to what is being said so that when their turn comes, they do not repeat information or ask irrelevant questions.

“Native Americans believe all present at the meeting deserve an opportunity to speak their sacred point of view,” said the NAC chairman. “Hence, the talking stick was used to ensure each person had a chance to share, without interruption or reprisal from the other members.”

Symbolism in the Talking Stick

Director Brennan's Talking Stick
Director Brennan’s talking stick was handcrafted by members of the NAC. It contains a buffalo tooth representing strength and a bear claw for courage.  Horse hair was also added, representing perseverance and a connection to the earth and spirits of the wind. The stick has four black feathers depicting the CIA’s four directorates, and a red feather representing Director Brennan. The stick itself is made from ash, signifying protection, peace of mind, sacrifice, sensitivity and a higher awareness. It is adorned with rabbit fur to give the owner the ability to listen, as well as black beads, which signify clarity, focus, success and victory.

Director Brennan thanked the members of the NAC, noting how special it was that the talking stick had been specifically handcrafted for him. He expressed appreciation for the tradition of the talking stick and said that it encourages “respect for the views being expressed by others and the obligation on the part of the speaker to ensure that they do speak with integrity and truth and courage.”

About the NAC
The NAC is one of the CIA’s 18 Employee Resource Groups. NAC members meet monthly to discuss various ways to share Native American culture, heritage, and traditions with the CIA workforce. For more information, on CIA’s diversity and inclusion efforts, visit the Diversity & Inclusion page.

Posted: Dec 12, 2013 02:11 PM
Last Updated: Dec 17, 2013 09:03 AM