Red Deer author Theresa “Corky” Larsen-Jonasson writes children’s book, The Sharing Circle

Red Deer author Theresa “Corky” Larsen-Jonasson writes children’s book, The Sharing Circle

Red Deer author Theresa “Corky” Larsen-Jonasson wrote a children’s book, The Sharing Circle.

Theresa “Corky” Larsen-Jonasson has helped schoolyard bullies empathize with their victims by bringing both parties into a sharing circle.

This age-old form of conflict resolution, traditionally used by the First Nations and some other cultures, is now the theme of Larsen-Jonasson’s first children’s book, appropriately called The Sharing Circle.

The Red Deer author hopes her story, which was written after consultation with First Nations elders and other community members, will help adults and children learn to deal with disagreements in a more constructive way.

In the picture book, published by Medicine Wheel Education in Victoria, two little foxes get into a fight after one blames the other for shoving him into the river. Soon their squabble grows. “Everyone picks sides and it disrupts the whole community,” said Larsen-Jonasson.

With the help of woodpecker, buffalo and owl, the two foxes are brought into a sharing circle to try to resolve their issue. Larsen-Jonasson said this concept hangs on respect: “The power of the circle means you get respect for your opinion and there’s also respect for another person’s opinion and voice.”

Each individual who holds a rock, or braid of sweetgrass, gets to speak. As long as the person is still holding the object, he/she becomes the sole focus of everybody’s attention. There’s no interrupting, debating or snickering by others in the circle.

When the person is done speaking, the rock gets passed to the next person. Once again, everybody has to listen to this individual’s viewpoint until the rock is passed again.

“It instills confidence in young people if they all have to sit together and work on these things,” knowing each will be respected in turn, said Larsen-Jonasson, a Métis of Cree and Danish heritage.

She feels there’s time for anger to die down and another viewpoint to sink in when no one is interrupting.

The author is considered a community elder, who has helped in schools, with the Red Deer Native Friendship Centre, Safe Harbour, and other groups. She knows first hand that the concept works. While it doesn’t solve every problem, Larsen-Jonasson believes sharing circles at least help people gain an understanding of each other’s positions.

She was pleased to be asked by Medicine Wheel Education publisher (former Red Deer resident and aboriginal hoop dancer) Teddy Anderson to write this book.

“There’s a sacredness to these teachings and we have to be very careful (how) we make them public.” But there’s also a need to share old ways, added Larsen-Jonasson. “What worked really well in the past could also work very well today.”

The author, who would love to see her book in schools and libraries, plans to write about other First Nations traditions to help new generations learn from old practices.

The Sharing Circle, colourfully illustrated by Jessika von Innerebner, who has worked as an artist with Pixar and Disney, will soon be available from The Hub on Ross as well as from The book will be launched at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15, at The Hub with Larsen-Jonasson attending. Everybody is welcome.