Equity & Access Teaching Writing

Writing from the Feather Circle


In this resource, a writing teacher from Arizona applies the Native American feather circle to the teaching of writing and describes her work teaching sections of first-year composition exclusively for Native American students. The feather circle focuses on speaking from the heart; in the classroom this approach involves writing honestly and openly first and worrying about form later. The author shares the writing experiences of her students using a culturally responsive stance, and describes how an emerging group, "Native Images," has shared their writings and art in community-based settings and at conferences across the country. This resource would be useful in teacher discussions of culturally relevant pedagogies for writing.



Not long thereafter, I was introduced to the feather circle. Now, many variations of the feather circle or talking circle exist among Native American tribes, and I do not pretend to know about them nor to be here a spokesman for them. But I have personally experienced one powerful common denominator, whether the circle is in the hogan or the tipi or the sweatlodge or the condominium or the writing classroom: When it is your turn to speak, when you hold the feather in your hand, you are encouraged to speak from your heart. Speak from your heart. That is all. Yet that simple dictum sends the blood of life pumping through empty skeletons of words and lives and, when used in my writing classes, restores the possibility of a “language of a far greater yield” than the more orthodox approaches of my academic training.