We had the good fortune of connecting with Violet Duncan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Violet, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Surprisingly, this is a question I am asked a lot. How do you balance everything? How do you make time for work, family and yourself? My answer is very simple, I use what my people have used for thousands of years, the Medicine Wheel. Also, no I do not balance it all, at the very core of the Medicine Wheel is self and that is where you will find peace. The Medicine Wheel can be used as teaching tool by our elders and educators. There are many, many ways to use the Medicine Wheel, you could explain the seasons, lifecycles, and/or to restore balance and healing. I use this tool with my children and myself. The Medicine Wheel drawing begins by making a circle, then there are 2 lines drawn in either an X or a + design to show 4 quadrants. I prefer to use the Medicine Wheel for balance, so in each quadrant I write: Mental, Spiritual, Physical, and Emotional. I then write what I am doing for myself in under each heading. My Medicine Wheel can look like: Mental: learning about traditional medicines, reading a book, visiting with an elder, Spiritual: ceremony, gardening, keeping my home clean, Physical: dancing, getting good sleep, eating properly, and Emotional: going to pow-wows, taking care of my children. I feel that if I feel good in all of these areas it than spills over into my work and I can be productive and efficient with my time.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
All of my life I have been surrounded by artists and innovators all working towards making the world an educated, beautiful and equitable place for all. It was set in motion at a very young age that, I too, would want to change the world. I didn’t know it at the time, but my children would be my greatest pull to create this change in the world. Throughout my childhood my parents worked tirelessly to have me and my four siblings accurately represented in the education system. After becoming a mother and seeing the need for representation was still resounding I took it upon myself to assist educators find educational material that accurately represents us as Indigenous Peoples. I published three children’s books￼￼￼ When We Dance, Let’s Hoop Dance! and I am Native. When We Dance is about a mother handing down the tradition of dance to her daughter￼. Let’s Hoop Dance! Celebrates Indigenous fatherhood and I am Native shares a glimpse into a multigenerational native family. My next step is to create an online resource that will incorporate not only my three children’s books and their lesson plans, but links for caregivers and educators to access culturally literate material to educate and inspire our youth our young Warriors. I intend to create up that brings together not only the resources and materials I have developed￼, but pool together outside resources that are already available. I currently have 50 educators on board and excited for only my lesson plans, imagine they’re surprised when they see they can easily access culturally literate apps, games￼, art, and music lessons that can be used in their classrooms or learning spaces.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
Welcome to the Valley of the Sun! First stop, well let’s eat! I highly recommend driving through Salt River Indian Community and stopping by any of the homes selling breakfast wraps *drool* nothing better than scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes and spicy green chilli! yum! Next up we can cruise and walk off all that fatty (but so yummy) food with a beautiful hike up Red Mountain, don’t forget your water! OK were probably looking for an air conditioned location, so next up the Heard Museum. The Heard Museum is “Dedicated to the advancement of American Indian art, the Heard successfully presents the stories of American Indian people from a first-person perspective, as well as exhibitions that showcase the beauty and vitality of traditional and contemporary art.” Cool! Let’s see what fabulous exhibit they are showcasing. They just finished up Henri Matisse, I believe the current exhibit is “Larger than Memory”, ya that’s begging for a walk through! Let’s end the evening with a walk through old downtown Mesa with a coffee and sweet from Jarrods Coffee and peak in to see what Pamela Slim is up to with K’E Main Street Learning Lab, they are always having an inspiring event, or gathering there! Then let’s tuck in, and lets face it, if you’re visiting me you’re probably staying over so I’ll set up our pullout mattress and get ready for another action packed day tomorrow.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have so many shoutouts. I’ll start with my inner circle and move outwards because it truly does take a community (or a village however you say it). Shoutout to my husband, Tony Duncan, for always supporting whatever idea I have and giving me space to feel brilliant about it. Shoutout to my children, Manaya, Naiche, Nitanis and Mia for constantly inspiring me to keep going no matter how busy, or how tired, there is always time for play! Shoutout to my mom and dad, Rosa and Melvin John, for showing what real leadership looks and sounds like. They are always at the forefront of the social justice movement and they have always given the youth the right to have a voice and an opinion in these discussions. Everything I have done is inspired by their amazing life and I am so grateful to witness it! Shoutout to my siblings, Monique, Jody and Beany for always making me push harder and never making our work a competition but a collaboration of love. I love what they do in their personal and professional lives and am always so excited to say “I am related to them!” Shoutout to my aunties and uncles for keeping updated on the latest news from the Rez aka keeping me grounded. Last Shoutout to awesome community members like Pat and Ian Perry for their never-ending support and offering their platforms so that my voice may go farther.
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