Dr. Polly Walker addresses local Rotarians June 13 during their weekly meeting. Photo by Linda Hull
BY LINDA HULL
Dr. Polly Walker, chair of the Indigenous Education Institute (IEI), spoke at the Rotary Club of Los Alamos on June 13 at Cottonwood on the Greens. Walker, who is a Cherokee descendant and a member of the Cherokee Southwest Township in Albuquerque, is an associate professor emeritus of Peace and Conflict Studies at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. Her “research and focus lie on Indigenous/non-Indigenous conflict transformation, Indigenous approaches to peace, and the role of arts and culture work in transforming conflict.”
During 1995, Walker studied at the University of Queensland (UQ), Australia as a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar sponsored by the Rotary Club of White Sands, New Mexico. She returned to UQ as a doctoral student in 1996, and after being awarded a PhD, held positions at UQ in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Unit and the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (ACPACS). In January 2005 Walker was part of a team from ACPACS invited to the island of Tulagi in the Solomon Islands “to conduct Solomon Islands Style Mediation training workshops for the National Council of Chiefs.” In other collaborative peace-building endeavors, Walker has worked with the Malvatumauri Council of Chiefs in Vanuatu, an island nation in the south-western Pacific Ocean, and in Australia where she co-facilitated conflict transformation workshops with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organizations. Her experience led her to facilitate workshops for other peace-building organizations and for refugee and migrant populations.
Walker’s commitment to conflict transformation and peace-building between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people was strengthened during her tenure as a school administrator in southern New Mexico where the needs of Apache Mescalero children were not addressed in ways that were aligned with their culture, history, and lived experience. Upon being accepted into Rotary International’s Ambassadorial Scholar Program, she pursued her studies in Australia where the University of Queensland and Rotary International partner in peace-building and conflict resolution studies.
Significant aspects of conflict transformation, Walker shared, are “focusing on just and equitable relationships, engaging culturally appropriate and effective processes, and bringing respect to every interaction.” The biggest challenge? “Addressing differences in world view in ways that disrupt power imbalances and engage marginalized communities in appropriate and respectful ways.”
Walker lives near Corrales now with her husband, Kit, who accompanied her to the Rotary meeting.
If you have been a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar, a Rotary Peace Fellow, or a Rotary Youth Exchange Student, the Rotary Club of Los Alamos would love to hear from you! We are compiling a list of friends and neighbors who have participated in Rotary’s opportunities abroad. Please contact Linda Hull, co-director, International Service, Rotary Club of Los Alamos, 505-662-7950.