Grandmothers council shares message

By Liz Lawyer • Journal Staff • October 6, 2008

ITHACA — The Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers began its week-long visit to the Finger Lakes area Sunday with a presentation at Cornell.

The Grandmothers are a group of women from indigenous groups around the world, many of them within the U.S., who consider it their spiritual mission to spread the word about protecting the earth for future generations — “for the next seven generations,” as they say in their mission statement.

Eight Grandmothers are here for the gathering in Groton. They opened the session of prayer and meetings with members of the community by lighting a ceremonial fire at the Benn Conger Inn in Groton.

The Council meets every six months for a week of prayer and teaching. They travel to each other's homes, traveled to Europe to try to meet the Pope, and to India, where they met the Dalai Lama.

Dressed in the traditional clothing of their various cultures, the Grandmothers spoke Sunday of the need to preserve the health of the Earth's water and greenery to an audience of about 500. They condemned violence and told about spiritual experiences they had that led them to form the Council.

Many of them told stories that sounded like they came out of myths shared around campfires centuries ago. Grandmother Flordemayo, who goes by only one name, said she is the “seed keeper” for the area where she lives in New Mexico. She is of Mayan heritage.

“It is our job to honor and protect our babies,” Flordemayo said. “Both our physical children, and all of nature that is around us.”

Another Grandmother, who could not attend, Maria Alice Campos Freire, is from the Amazon. The group's spiritual director, Jyoti, said Freire went into the forest one day and the flowers began to speak to her, telling her the illnesses they could be used to cure.

The group itself was formed due to a vision, Jyoti said. In her vision, she was given a basket full of precious gems and told to care for them.

“When it came, we were not ready for it, but we felt it was profound,” Jyoti said. With the help of others who said they felt spiritual influences guiding them, she organized the group of 13 women from around the world, who formed the Council in October 2004.

“I knew something much bigger than all of us was moving,” Jyoti said.

The group's spokeswoman, Grandmother Agnes Baker Pilgrim, of the Takelma Indians of Southern Oregon, said the group wants to usher in a “new history of love and peace.”

Pilgrim said, “The blood has run long enough. We have to care about the little people. It is not adults that own this world — it is the children.”

Grandmother Rita Pitka Blumenstein, of the Yup'ik tribe in northern Alaska, said, “We're not going to fix the world — we're not fixer-uppers. Each one of you must fix yourselves.”

The Grandmothers will have separate gatherings especially for children, women and men this week. They will also be airing the first portion of a documentary-in-progress on the Council. They said “we cannot be overwhelmed,” and all are welcome to attend the events.