INITIAL DRAFT OF GRANDMOTHERS COUNCIL PROPOSAL
By Lisa Caswell
On October 11, 2004, 13 Indigenous Grandmothers from all over the world--the Arctic Circle, North, South and Central America, Africa, and Asia, arrived in the Tibet House mountain retreat in upstate New York. They were responding to prophecy handed down through generations of their own people that spoke of a time when they would be called together for the sake of Mother Earth and all of her children. These grandmothers are both women of prayer and women of action. Their traditional ways link them with the forces of the earth. Their solidarity with one another creates a web that serves to balance the impact of injustices wrought from an imbalanced world; a world disconnected from the fundamental laws of nature and the original teachings based on a respect for all life.
This first council gathering was a time of hope and inspiration. The grandmothers agreed to form a global alliance organized around their common goals and specific local concerns; the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers. They made a decision to come under the umbrella of the non-profit organization, the Center for Sacred Studies (CSS). The Center for Sacred Studies is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to sustaining indigenous ways of life through cross-cultural spiritual practices, ministry and education, and a commitment to peace and unity for all peoples. By the end of their first week together, they had created a mission statement and made a commitment to convene regularly, traveling the world to each other’s homelands while cultivating their unified prayer for peace.
Their second gathering took place in Santa Fe, New Mexico in May of 2005. They were hosted by one of their members and shared sacred ceremonies with local tribes. In conference they further clarified their agenda and made the decision to focus their efforts in four directions; the establishment of alliances with spiritual leaders of the great faiths, continuing support for the documentary film that will carry their message to the world, a children’s educational initiative that will preserve their way of life for the next seven generations, and pilot projects in their homelands that will build bridges between indigenous communities and the global sustainability movement.
Over the last six months much progress has been made. A specific time line for future gatherings has been established. The third Council which is scheduled to take place in May of 2006 in Oaxaca, Mexico will provide the Grandmothers with an opportunity to further solidify their agenda. The fourth Council meeting will convene in Dharamsala, India in October of 2006 during which an audience with the Dalai Lama has been confirmed. Work is being done to bring a live broadcast of this even to those attending the Bioneers conference, the largest annual gathering of sustainability activists in North America with the assistance of Linktv. A letter has also been sent from the Grandmothers Council to the Pope requesting that the Papal Bull of 1493 be retracted. This ancient edict laid the foundation for the subjugation of all indigenous peoples and their lands by the Catholic Church and those allied with it. The letter has been received and is being given serious consideration.
Several initiatives are moving forward concurrently that support the Grandmothers commitment to the education of current and future generations. The film sponsored by the Hartley Film Foundation entitled the “For the Next Seven Generations: The Grandmothers Speak” has been tracking their progress from the beginning, resulting in a 13 minute trailer and over 200 hours of filming towards the completion of a full feature. This work has gained the support of several individual donors and recently received half of a $50,000 grant made to the Grandmothers Councl from Ann Rockefeller Robert’s Fund for Abundance. A book entitled Grandmothers Counsel the World: Indigenous Women offer their Wisdom has been completed by Carol Schaeffer and published by Shambala Press. Finally, the Grandmothers Council website is being designed to inspire and support ongoing networking with interested parties from the global community of activists focused on bringing peace, harmony and balance to the planet.
Towards this end, a web-based children’s educational initiative is in process with the support of Gina Boltz, the Director of Native Village Publications, a 501©(3) heritage foundation with a mission of promoting awareness, acceptance, and the preservation of North American and indigenous cultures. The website will create opportunities for cross-cultural audio-visual communication through music, artwork, stories, and live conversation. Its purpose is to generate support for the Grandmothers work, support the development of local Councils working to achieve the same agenda, and the sharing of information between indigenous communities and the greater community of activists striving to achieve peace, economic justice, and sustainability.
In the area of sustainable community development, the Grandmothers have decided to initially prioritize water issues, which may lead to a subsequent focus on the three other basic elements of fire (energy), air, and earth, which directly parallels the global environmental agenda. The Council has given its support to a pilot project underway in the homelands of Grandmother Margaret’s people, the Northern Cheyenne in Montana. This community is struggling with high levels of addiction, unemployment, and family abuse within a politically conflicted community. In an effort to strengthen the people’s voice, three community leaders have been meeting regularly with Grandmother Margaret. One works with the tribal economic development office, another is a Sundance Chief, and the third person works with Grandmother Margaret in the tribal substance abuse program. They have started to run local “talking circles” as a vehicle for community self assessment, cohesion, and goal setting. These talking circles are being run in conjunction with sweat lodges, the traditional healing ceremony that supports the individual’s spiritual reconnection to themselves, the community, the Earth, and the Great Spirit. This effort has gained the support of the Tribal Council and the Native American Church.
Money is needed to provide for food, firewood, transportation for those who are isolated, and child care during the talking circles and sweat lodges. Stipends are needed to compensate those who are facilitating these ceremonies. The group has also begun to look at what would be needed to rebuild some of the natural springs on the reservation and have been offered a $20,000 grant to this end from the regional natural resources board. Work on the spring system under the land of the participating Sundance Chief will directly support a recent gift to the community of six horses. The group plans to put on a community dance to raise money to feed the horses, and start up funds would help them pay for drummers, space, and food. Although these expenses may seem incidental, they are critical to the success of a fully inclusive grass roots process that is widely recognized as the primary stage of any community development process. These talking circles and sweat lodges will allow the members of the tribe to heal themselves and their families, identify their goals, and develop an infrastructure to address their internal tribal challenges. A second level of support will then be directed to helping them link with appropriate public and private funding resources.
Sustainable community development initiative is also underway in the Oglala Lakota homeland of Grandmothers Rita and Grandmother Beatrice on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. The Oglala Lakota Cultural and Economic Revitalization Initiative (OLCERI) is being sponsored by the California non- profit, 501©(3), Community Self-Sufficiency Initiative. Energy efficient homes are being designed in conjunction with solar, wind and bio-diesel systems. Cooperative economic initiatives are being developed around such industries as a greenhouse/food factory, a machine and welding shop, a butcher shop, and a lumber milling and wood finishing shop. An automotive and earthmoving equipment, maintenance shop, and vehicle pool facility is being organized in conjunction with the construction of a bio-diesel plant. Additional research is ongoing into business options in the areas of glass manufacture, ceramics, refrigeration, and the healing arts. This work is moving forward within the cultural context of an indigenous community system and will serve as a model for future sustainable development organized around indigenous values and principles.
At this time, financial support is needed to pay for Grandmother stipends, airfare, meeting space, accommodations, and food for each of the Council gatherings. The film which chronicles the Council’s development needs support to be completed. Consultant services are needed to set up and maintain the Council’s website as a vehicle for ongoing communication between the Grandmothers and their supporters. Funding is needed to augment the salaries of the three individuals working on the project full time within the Center for Sacred Studies. The pilot in Montana will need infrastructure support to successfully empower and unite the community around its own sustainable development agenda.
Fund raising efforts to date have resulted in $________ from individual donors. These funds have been primarily utilized to offset the expenses incurred in the first two Council gatherings. The Council has gained the attention of such high profile individuals as Princess Constance of Monaco who could be instrumental in the fundraising effort. An immediate goal of $500,000 has been set for May of 2006 with a group of 16 individuals around the world actively involved in the effort. The following foundations are being approached: …..
THE GRANDMOTHERS COUNCIL MISSION STATEMENT
“We, the International Council of Thirteen
Indigenous Grandmothers represent a global alliance of prayer, education and
healing for our Mother Earth, all Her inhabitants, all the children, and for
the next seven generations to come. We are deeply concerned with the
unprecedented destruction of our Mother Earth and the destruction of indigenous
ways of life. We believe the teachings of our ancestors will light our way
through an uncertain future. We look to further our vision through the
realization of projects that protect our diverse cultures: lands, medicines,
language and ceremonial ways of
prayer and through projects that educate and nurture our children."
THE GRANDMOTHERS COUNCIL TIMELINE
2005 Spring—Second Council Gathering, Pojoaque Pueblo, New Mexico
The Grandmother Council convened in May for their second council, hosted by the Mayan Grandmother, Flordemayo. They solidified their alliance and voiced prayers at sacred Pueblo sites and approved projects to further their vision:
2006 Spring--Third Council Gathering, Oaxaca, Mexico
The next step for the council is to continue their mission for global peace in Mexico. Julieta Casimiro, the Mazatec Grandmother, has invited the Council for the fourth council gathering at her homeplace in the Sierra Madres.
2006 Fall-Fourth Council Gathering, Dharamsala, India
In October the Grandmother Council will reunite in the exiled home of the Tibetans, hosted by the Tibetan grandmother Tsering Dolma Gyaltong. They will have a have a private audience with H.H. the Dalai Lama, to strengthen their prayer for global peace and to acknowledge their solidarity with the Tibetan people to reclaim their homeland.
2007 Spring- Fifth Council Gathering, Black Hills, South Dakota
The Grandmothers will gather as a council for the fifth time in the home of the Oglala Lakota grandmothers. At this time the council will be celebrating the 80th Birthday of Beatrice Long Visitor Holy Dance in a Native American prayer service.
2007 Fall- Sixth Council Gathering, Gabon, Africa
The sixth council gathering will be held in the African rainforest surrounding Libreville, Gabon, at the temple of Bernadette Rebienot.