13 grandmas, 4 continents, 1 mission

HOT SPRINGS, S.D. - Several times a day over three days, 13 women from around the world gathered around an open fire as each led a prayer ceremony of her native tribe.

After each outdoor gathering they moved to an auditorium, where they exchanged ideas and learned about problems that plague the Oglala Lakota on the nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The women share a vision and a mission to spare future generations the problems that vex much of society.

"It's hard to be proud of your cultural heritage and traditions if every day you face extinction," Debra White Plume of Manderson told the women.

The women, formally called the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, come from Africa, Asia and the Americas.

"They're not women of politics. They're women of prayer," said Jeneane Prevatt of The Center for Sacred Studies in Sonora, Calif.

The indigenous grandmothers hope to ease war, pollution and social ills by teaching traditional ways that served their people long before the birth of modern peace and environmental movements.

Roughly every six months, they visit each other's homelands.

"We're praying for peace, which is not only the wars but in our homes and in the schools. We need that peace amongst children," said Beatrice Long Visitor Holy Dance, who believes social problems on the reservation are a direct result of people abandoning traditional ways of life.

The group first met in October 2004 in New York. The next meeting is in October in San Rafael, Calif.

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For a better future

The 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, their tribes, bands and homelands:

*Aama Bombo, Tamang, Nepal

*Margaret Behan, Arapaho-Cheyenne, Montana

*Rita Pitka Blumenstein, Yup'ik, Alaska

*Julieta Casimiro, Mazatec, Huautla de Jimenez, Mexico

*Maria Alice Campos Freire, Amazon rain forest, Brazil

*Flordemayo, Mayan, highlands of Central America and Mexico

*Tsering Dolma Gyaltong, Tibetan Buddhist, Tibet/Canada

*Beatrice Long Visitor Holy Dance, Oglala Lakota, S.D.

*Rita Long Visitor Holy Dance, Oglala Lakota, S.D.

*Agnes Baker Pilgrim, Takelma Siletz, Oregon

*Mona Polacca, Hopi-Havasupai-Tewa, Arizona

*Bernadette Rebienot, Omyene, Gabon

*Clara Shinobu Iura, Amazon rain forest, Brazil