Reflections from the 2018 Chinook Institute

Reflections from the 2018 Chinook Institute

Sandy Belson is an ELGL member and the Comprehensive Planning Manager for the City of Springfield and she attended the Chinook Institute on a scholarship where she’s sharing her experiences from Chinook with the ELGL membership.


What’s the relationship between eagle feathers, INTP, self-portraits, and strings tied on a ring?  

Each item has contributed to lessons in leadership for the 13 of us who committed a week to live and learn with each other at the Chinook Institute of Civic Leadership.  

In just passing the mid-point, I take this opportunity to reflect back on (blog about) what I have learned and how that’s affected me thus far. At the end of the week, I will look forward to taking all this back to my work as a mid-level manager for the City of Springfield and to life in general.

So, first, the eagle feathers.  Don Coyhis of the Mohican Nation collected these feathers after receiving a vision of how he they could help heal the generational trauma that has coursed through generations of Native Americans.  

Through video and stories, he transported us back through layers of dysfunction to the core of the core of the issues affecting the Native American population. We learned how with 15 years of experience as a corporate trainer, his good intentions helping Native peoples did not move the mark on alcoholism, domestic violence, sexual assault, etc. . . .until he was able to understand that all were just symptoms of deeper problems.  

The collection of the 100 eagle feathers over nine months that he assembled into a ceremonial hoop set him on a path of healing wherever the hoop was called to serve. All trainees had the opportunity to sprinkle the tobacco-laced prayers into the hoop of healing.

One of the many things that has stayed with me is the recognition that to solve problems, we need to look to the core of the core (much deeper than we are accustomed to looking) or we will only be putting band-aids on disease.   

Prior to arriving, we all completed our Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessments.  I had done this assessment a couple times previously and was surprised to learn that I have continued to shift.  In high school, I was an INFJ. After working as a city planner and writing and applying code language to development applications, my Thinking side edged out my Feeling side and I become an INTJ.  

This week, the assessment categorized me as an INTP. Upon reflection of this change, I realize that recently living and working as a volunteer in West Africa required more openness and flexibility in approaching the outside world and becoming more Perceptive instead of Judging.  

Taking the assessments beyond self, we learned more about how to communicate with others of different types and to understand when let the less comfortable personality traits dominate.

To start our next session, Dr. Sheinberg asked each of us to draw a self-portrait.  Obviously, the artistically inclined embraced this exercise while others grumbled their way through the crayons.  But in our small groups, we began to learn about the essence of each other and how stories about ourselves communicated in unforgettable ways, provided opportunities to find commonalities on which to build connections.

Amidst the lectures and discussions, the organizers got us energized by giving us an exercise with a ring to which were attached long strings. Having taken previously taken the Extreme Leadership course with John Morgan and Shelli Honeywell, I had done this exercise previously, but my group had struggled and struggled to find the technique necessary to transport the ball without dropping it.  

This time, my teammates grasped the technique and we were able to perform the task reasonably well. Thus, I’m building confidence and ready to take on the next group challenge, Harvard’s Pepulator Pricing Exercise.