Native Lessons on Connection and Community

Written by Carol McGinnis, Ph.D, SIP, BC-TMH, LCPC, NCC

Filed under: News

Surrounded by the beautiful network of a vast estuary that is connected to the Pacific Ocean, the Puget Sound is comprised of many tributaries and rivers.  These have unique native names such as the Elwha, Nisqually, Nooksack, Puyallup, and Skakit similar to the names of the meeting rooms at the hotel.  My presentation was held in the Squi-Aitl room that is situated between others named Sa-Heh-Wa-Mish and Steh-Chass so I am reminded that I am in Native land with beliefs and values that are closely tied to nature and water.  

I am here to present on the topic of “Anger and Spirituality in the Virtual World of the XBOX Videogamer” at the Four Directions conference at the Little Creek Casino Resort in Shelton, WA for the Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling.  This conference is sponsored by the Squaxin Island Tribe who are the “descendants of the maritime people who lived and prospered along the shores of the southernmost inlets of the Salish Sea for untold centuries.” Also known as the People of the Water, these natives identify as “a returning people, returning to our land, returning to our culture” with a history that not only ties them to the land but also tradition that is expressed through their “art, singing, ceremonies, fishing, vocations and traditional medicine” (

The connecting network of the waterways in this geographic area mirrors the commitment to connection and community that I have come to understand as a common thread among the many Native American tribes that are an important part of our national identity.  Oddly, this lesson matches what I am sharing with participants of this conference about the virtual environment for videogaming clients.  The draw toward connection and community is a universal spiritual theme that drives human behavior that includes online XBOX videogaming which can be a surprising discovery for mental health practitioners.  


Native lessons on the power of connection and community that, similar to the movement of water, can bring about unexpected tensions as well as moments of indescribable peace.  When our heart is oriented toward “going with the flow” when the currents are strong we might find ourselves in new territory that is perfect for fishing, meditation, or the harvesting of wild rice. Metaphorically, our clients may also be struggling against these types of tidal forces.  


My heart is full today with hope and optimism for the future.  I invite you to paddle along with me in this river of unknowns that are sure to lead us into a new tomorrow.