"Smoke Signals"

with Evan Adams

Viewed March 10, 2001

When a movie starts with dozens of people dying in a house fire, I don't expect it to capture my heart. This one did. A compassionate, upbeat look at life on Indian (Native American) reservations, this movie probes a son's need for his father and a father's connection with his son, as well as how feelings of guilt can interfere with those family connections.

Since we had a small group we had a chance to delve deeply into most of the questions we developed from the video. We spent a lot of time tackling guilt (Questions 1, 3, 4 and 5). All of us shared stories about how guilt has affected us in the past. We decided that we've picked up guilt from families, friends, our culture and our religion. ("Catholics rule!" said one participant, meaning that Catholicism set the ground rules for guilt for much of our society and for the Protestant religions that grew out of it.) Guilt also grows out of our feeling of worthlessness, and some of our religions have cultivated that feeling by reminding us that we're "lower than worm spit."

One participant described childhood experiences that convinced her that the role of females was to serve the sexual drives of men, and that women seemed to have no other value. That led her to build walls around her heart (Question 7) to protect her from a dismal world, and she decided that, in general, "men rot." Particularly irritating are SHAMs (Scientific, Hormonally-driven American Males).

We also noted that we are reluctant to let go of emotions like anger, resentment, and guilt from the past (Question 2), and that anger is one very effective wall that we sometimes try to protect our hearts with (Question 7).

Here are the questions:


  1. What do I have left to forgive my father for?
  2. What emotions from my past do I refuse to let go of?
  3. What do I feel guilty for?
  4. How long should I feel guilty?
  5. What haven't I forgiven myself for?
  6. What do I take for granted in my relationships that I desperately need?
  7. How do I build walls around my heart to keep people out?
  8. How have I healed old wounds?