Striving for peace and harmony
By Curt Nettinga
June, 2007

HOT SPRINGS, South Dakota: In An effort on the part of 13 women from around the globe to renew the rituals and ceremonies of past generations has become a major happening and has touch numerous lives.

These things were evident in Hot Springs last week as the 5th International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers was held at the Mueller Civic Center.

More than 250 people, from all walks of life and from throughout the world, congregated in the Black Hills for the council n titled “We are again One People” - to pray for peace and for all cultures to live together in harmony.

“The 13 Grandmothers met for the first time in the fall of 2004,” said Sandy Emerson, who said she is from the bay area of California. “They feel that will the way that the indigenous cultures are threatened in the world, that there needed to be a forum to preserve the traditional healing ways; that the ancient ways needed to be passed on to the following generations.”

The Grandmothers’ Council convenes every six months since its first meeting in upstate New York in the fall of 2004. “There were 13 women who answered the vision call,” said Emerson. “The number has just stayed at 13 since then.”

Spring of 2005 found the group at the home of Mazatec Grandmother Juliet Saimiro in Mexico and last year’s spring council was held in Dharamsala, India, which is the exiled home of Tibetan Grandmother Tsering Dolma Gyaltong.

“At the council in India, the Grandmothers were granted a private audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” said Emerson.

This spring the Grandmothers are being hosted by two of their own, Rita and Beatrice Long-Visitor Holy Dance from Pine Ridge.

The council began on Wednesday with prayers and a day spent honoring the elders. Thursday honored medicine people with a special prayer ceremony remembering and honoring the veterans. Beatrice Long-Visitor Holy Dance recalled the loss of her son, who had been in the service, on his return home due to an auto accident.

Following closing ceremonies on Friday, the council was to carry the sacred fire, which was part of the opening ceremony, to the Sundance grounds for a traditional Sundance, which concluded the council.

This fall the Grandmothers Council will visit the Bioneers Conference this fall in San Rafael, Calif. Bioneers Web site states,”is a forum for connecting the environment, health, social justice, and spirit within a broad progressive framework.”

After the Bioneers Conference, the next scheduled council is at the home of Grandmother Bernadette Rebienot in Gabor, Africa next June.

One man attending this year’s council said he was in India during the 2006 meeting, but did not participate. “I was aware of it through friends,” he said. “I am a sage, which means that I practice many theologies and spiritual faiths.” He said he had done so for the past 45 years and had become familiar with the rituals and endeavors of the Native American Church.

While many of the council’s attendees are over the age of 50, a large number of people under the age of 35 were in attendance as well, including a young man from British Columbia.

“I am very concerned about the situation in which we find ourselves,” the young man said. “I feel that important changes are needed globally; that there is much knowledge that is soon to be gone, unless we find a way to pass it on.”

He said he sees the council as an opportunity to be around a variety of people who see similar truths.

“I feel that much of the heritage is being ignored,” he said, citing that land that is considered sacred to the Native American people is endangered with uranium mining. “This is my first time in the Black Hills; I have heard about it but never visited. I see many things that once they are gone, they’ll never be seen again.”

Emerson said she was unsure whether she would make the trip to Africa for next spring’s council, but that she was very glad she had made the trip to this year’s event.

“This is such a multi-cultural event,” she said over lunch on Thursday, with the fragrant aroma of the food of many nations in the air.

“The Grandmothers are right when they said, ‘Each of us is a different jewel; and all of the jewels are in the same basket.’ That really is true, don’t you think?”