Death as Ceremony Because the Spirit Lives On: Honoring the Medicine of Dr. Stafford Hood by Nicole Bowman

This week, we honor the life and contributions of the great Dr. Stafford Hood (1952-2023): evaluator, educator, visionary, truth-speaker, and beloved husband, father, and colleague. This week’s authors pay tribute to Dr. Hood by sharing with us the ways in which he touched their personal and professional lives.

-Liz DiLuzio, Lead Curator

There is no death, only a change of worlds. Our dead never forget this beautiful world that gave them being. They ever yearn in tender fond affection over the lonely hearted living and often return from the happy hunting ground [the Spirit World] to visit, guide, console, and comfort.

 – Chief Seattle (Suquamish Chief), 1854.

Author Dr. Nicky Bowman and Dr. Stafford Hood
Author Dr. Nicky Bowman and Dr. Stafford Hood

Anushiik (thank you) Kiisheelumukweengw (Creator) eelu miiluyeengw (for giving us) Kikhay waak Wuliit Eelaangoomaatiit (our Leader/Teacher and Good Relative), Dr. Stafford Hood (African American/Mississippi Choctaw). Wulahkameew wulahlokayaan waak wulakkuniimeew (it is a beautiful day to do good work and to say good things).

Stafford’s Mehmatahkees (Warrior) leadership was always alohkaakan (in service) to others. This was evident when I first met him on a plane to the AEA/CES joint conference in Ontario in 2005. I was reading Indian Country Today. Stafford said politely, “Hi, do you mind me asking you what you are reading?” From there we became fast kin on a journey for culturally responsive, Indigenous, and community-rooted evaluation. With real talk, real issues to tackle, and a real sense of responsibility to live up to the work of our Ancestors, we have shared a full range of experiences and emotions. Moxa zhingalundam (I am so sorry to learn of his Earthly passing). I know as a traditional Indigenous person that we don’t say goodbye. The spirit lives on. Because of the ways he generously taught and modeled service to us, we move his impact and energy through mind, body, heart, and spirit. If we choose, we can carry his spirit on and continue in a Wuliit Wchapikal (Good Medicine) way. It is from this cultural, spiritual, and experiential perspective I offer the field of evaluation ways to honor Dr. Hood’s legacy from the Niishaash Txuwak Eelohhkweengal (Lunaape Seven Directions):

  1. Eastward: Be a good relative in the contexts in which you practice evaluation.
  2. Southward: Bring a healthy mind and thinking to your evaluation work.
  3. Westward: Understand that your evaluation actions are the living roots to your words.
  4. Northward: Know that wisdom in evaluation is a timeless strategy for solving real-world problems through evidence-informed practice.
  5. Earthward: Be humble and grounded in your evaluation practices.
  6. Skyward: Be open to, value, and include the metaphysical in your evaluation practices.
  7. Inward: Know thyself first in evaluation to grow internally to be a more responsive, responsible, ethical, and effective evaluation practitioner in service to others.

To my Elder Stafford, we are from the same source as part of the Sacred Cycle. I consider myself a wave in the same mbuy (river/ocean), alaangweew (star) from the same sky, and living wchapihkxakw (root from the same tree) in the forests of culturally responsive evaluators you have nurtured. We know your name and we will keep it alive in and through our work and oral evaluation history. You gave aaptoonaakan (voice, visibility, opportunity) to Wunjiin Eelaangoomaatiit (Indigenous people, communities, and Nations) and to me, and for that I am forever grateful. For now, laapi uch kneewaltihna (I will see you again someday). Until then, I’ll watch for you in the sunrises, sunsets, in the Awasahkameew (the Great Milky Way), on the water when I am fishing, and through all the other beautiful ways you show up in my life.

Reflective and Actionable Resources:

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2 thoughts on “Death as Ceremony Because the Spirit Lives On: Honoring the Medicine of Dr. Stafford Hood by Nicole Bowman”

    1. Anushiik my evaluation sister. I wrote it with an achy heart, bittersweet tears running down my face, and I didn’t know how folkx would receive it. It means so very much that you shared it is resonating. Peace, Nicky

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