As Native American Indians gathered, a Talking Stick was used to pass around to the person speaking. Only the person that held the talking stick was able to speak, and so everyone was respected and able to have their say.
TALKING STICKS What is a talking stick? The talking stick, which can be used as a prayer stick, was used by the Native Americans to manage the conversation in formal and informal meetings. The leader of the meeting, say the Chief, would hold the stick and begin talking. The idea was that no one could talk, unless they held the stick. When he was finished with what he had to say it was passed to the next person, either to his right/left or by rank. That person could then speak as the others had to remain silent. Speakers generally didn't speak longer than necessary, for fear of upsetting the spirits in the stick. Sometimes members would bring their own talking sticks.
The talking stick is a wood stick about a foot long, decorated with symbolic items of nature that have meaning to the owner. Some tribes believe that the animal selected the person and not that the person selects the animal. Some tribes also believe that the name of the child, when it is born, is based on the first thing the baby actually sees. Hence the wide variation in sacred animals. The decorations can be feathers, images, leather, beads, fur, bone, shells, etc. Some folks would put the talking stick out in the full moon light to allow the spirits to enter. Regardless the yucca/sotol wood was once a physical living thing and is now a spiritual tool used for many spiritual reasons.
Today the talking sticks can be used as intended and also make a nice wall decoration and converstaion piece. Some people also use it as a prayer stick and give them to folks who are ill or recovering from an illness as a "get well" gift.. It may not be a bad way to teach kids to listen, by using it.
The hand crafted talking sticks that I make are from the Spiritual Yucca or Sotol wood and use decorations as they originally were, however I also wood burn images into the talking stick of a spiritual or petroglyphic nature. Kokopelli is a favorite image to have woodburned into a "lucky" talking stick.