A council circle is a distinctive feature at the center of some tribal communities in North America. The historical function of the council circles is debated. Some[who?] suggest that the talking circles are ceremonial, and others support a hypothesis that they were places for political discussion that suggest aboriginal democracy.
In current use, the council circle is often synonymous with the talking circle, and is a means of group communication that promotes input from all the members. A talking stick, or other significant or impromptu object, is passed around the circle, and only the circle member holding the stick is allowed to speak, though he or she may allow others to interject.
Talking sticks in the context of the council circle may have been used pre-historically by indigenous peoples to create egalitarian forums. From photographs, we know that some talking sticks were very tall, suggesting that circle participants would have stood when speaking.
Present-day talking circles
As described in many web sites, a talking circle is used as a way to organize group discussions in an egalitarian manner. Group members typically sit in a circle and discuss issues with simple rules: the talking stick, or other object, is passed around the circle, and the person holding the talking stick may speak though the "holder" may allow interjection.
- Talking Circles by Mark Umbreit, 2003, source
- A guide to facilitating Ojibwe and Lakota talking circle traditions much like group therapy.
- Modern applications to group work by Kevin A. Fall and Justin E. Levitov, 2000, source
- Application of the Cherokee Do-ne-la-we-ga or "coming together" to children's group therapy.
- Cultural anthropology: the human challenge, William A. Haviland, Harald E. L. Prins, and Dana Walrath, 2007, source
- The restoration of the traditional council circle to replace the modern justice system.
- Researching the culture in agri-culture by Michael M. Cernea, and Amir H. Kassam, 2005, source
- Talking circle and stick in an Indonesian native forest project.