12th Holy Practice: Inventing Identity by Kaze Gadway


CImageherokee Billie “Remember no matter what your age or circumstances you can still have dreams and goals. It is never too late to begin again. Until we breathe our last breath there’s always time to change.”

     “That’s ghetto,” says a Native youth about a broken down car on the street.

     “Yeah,” replies another. “But it sure is Rez.”

     The first teen speaks again. “I wish that being Native didn’t always mean being ghetto or Rez.”

     We were silent for a while. Then one of the youth says, “I’m torn between what I mainly think about myself and what I sort of believe I have become.”

     Everyone laughs and then falls silent.

     He continues, “I don’t want to be tied down to being Ghetto but I want to learn from our old ways on the Rez at the same time.”

     One of the teens says, “Remember that exercise we learned about how we see ourselves? Choose a symbol that is about you. Maybe one that is about you that is not complete but it is in the right direction.”

     “Yeah,” he says. “Kaze put a lot of animal and human figures on the table and each of us chose one that had our qualities. We went around the room and everyone else said how we were like that animal. I chose a horse because it had so much energy.”

     The teen laughs with the rest of us. “I would choose differently now. I would choose a river rock. I remember when the priest gave us all a polished stone to symbolize our decision to work with street people. So much that has gone on in my life has been rough or ugly. I like thinking of a stone that has been tumbled over and over with an angry river and turning out smooth and beautiful with all the colors showing.”

     I don’t know how many times we have had a symbol workshop to understand how we have changed and how we see ourselves. I come up with something different for myself each time.

      This Holy Practice is a lifelong discipline of reaching deep within ourselves and using a symbol to hold the dissimilar dimensions together.

     We have used objects, painting, graff art, sculpture and poetry to either create our metaphor or choose a symbol. Each time we get reconnected to our deeper selves and to all those connections that hold us in being.

     It’s a Holy Practice that takes courage. It’s not easy to look within yourself or to examine what you have become. It requires a trust that you are a gift and that what is given is good.

In faith,



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