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Canku Ota
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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Spirit Aligned Leadership Program Announces Its First Circle Legacy Leaders

The Spirit Aligned Leadership Program is pleased to announce the selection of its first circle of eight Legacy Leaders
The Rise of The Grey Haired Women was created by Gayle Patricia Sinclair of Norway House Cree Nation. Gayle's work focuses primarily on affirming the importance of the strength of women in the Aboriginal culture and celebrating the family unit.

The eight Indigenous women Elders are acknowledged and celebrated for being vessels of their traditional ways and for leading in sustaining and creating legacies of strength and resilience for their own people, for all Native peoples and for all of humanity. We honor their gift of ancestral knowledge that they have so courageously and unassumingly spent a lifetime nurturing. The Legacy Leaders selected interweave indigenous knowledge, at times with western science, and embody integrity at its highest form.

Katsi Cook, director, shares: "We feel that the life knowledge of traditional Native women, particularly those who have stepped out courageously to create healthy paths for their generations, deserved to be celebrated. Our purpose as the Spirit Aligned Leadership Program now begins to unfold through the eyes of a circle of women brought together to think and act on how to heal, strengthen and restore the balance of Indigenous communities."

The Spirit Aligned Leadership Program is an ongoing creation; the inaugural Legacy Leader circle is invited to reimagine their relationship with themselves, their peers and what's possible. The cultural knowledge, experience and sharing of wisdom of these connected knowers will set the path for future circles of Legacy Leadership. Their legacies will be shared in self-determined ways for the sake of those worlds that they hold up. The Inaugural Circle is empowered to interact and impact Indigenous cultural expression, Violence against girls, women and the earth, Leadership of Indigenous girls and women, Healing from historic trauma and oppression and Indigenous education.

With over 100 applications from across the United States and Canada, we are honored to introduce the following Elders selected to our Inaugural Circle:

  • Antonia Loretta Afraid of Bear Cook, Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe, South Dakota
  • Barbara Poley, Hopi Tribe, Arizona
  • Henrietta Mann, Cheyenne, Oklahoma
  • Jan Kahehti:io Longboat, Six Nations of the Grand River, Ontario
  • Lenora Naranjo Morse, Kha po Tewa, New Mexico
  • Louise Wakerakatse:te Herne, Mohawks of Akwesasne, New York
  • Sarah Agnes James, Neetsa'ii Gwich'in, Alaska
  • Yvonne Annette DuPuis Peterson, Chehalis, Washington

Vo Foundation inspired. Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors sponsored. The Spirit Aligned Leadership program has its origins and continuity in the many thoughtful conversations among these organizations and a broad range of Indigenous Elder women.... "so that what lives deep within our Indigenous girls and women and Mother Earth can connect and come forth now in these extremely critical times."

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Proud to present Legacy Leader Antonia Loretta Afraid of Bear Cook
Starting now on Indigenous People's Day, we bring forward Grandmother Wisdom and Mother Law to overturn the genocidal era that Columbus's invasion unleashed over 500 years ago today. Over the next eight days we are proud to more fully introduce each of the Legacy Leaders forming our inaugural circle, the standard bearers of the Spirit Aligned Leadership Program.Here is the brave hearted woman who spoke the voice of generations to demand the repeal of the Doctrine of Discovery, wrongly legalized through the 1493 Papal Bull Inter Caetera, directly to the Vatican authorities - for all of us.Antonia Loretta Afraid of Bear Cook (Oglala Lakota) strives to live by her women teachers’ sacred instructions – wahwoptetusni (to be uniquely steadfast), shakica (to be physically strong and beautiful), and wagluhtapi (to offer sacred food in ceremony). Realizing her leadership in Sun Dance throughout her world, Loretta moves community towards regeneration of health and restoration of sacred space. She cultivates healthy food ways through gardens at Pine Ridge. Loretta carries on the intergenerational struggle to restore the holy Black Hills to indigenous care through the He Sapa Black Hills Initiative. She actively contains and infuses peace, walking her tiospaye (family’s) ceremonial values across internal and external boundaries. Loretta keeps her mother’s spirit alive, remembering that “we have to have the courage to make changes and pull each other up.”
Proudly Presenting Legacy Leader, Barbara Poley

Barbara Poley (Laguna/Hopi) has seeded the Hopi way of life over decades of community minded dedication. She instills the ancestral values formed on the mesas through ceremonial cycles, clan relationships, and dry farming into daily contemporary life so that culture remains vibrant and central. Dry farming corn teaches that living in a traditional way may be difficult, “but with patience, care, and tending to the needs of these plants, we receive the abundance of new life with our corn which can be grown over and over for many years to come.” Indeed, the next generation of leaders is rising throughout Hopi, growing and strong with Barbara’s guidance. Barbara’s 18 year long leadership at the Hopi Foundation brings forward the educational ethics of her ancestor, Chief Loloma. She now seeks to move into the next phase of her eldership and expand the fundamental idea of caring for one another across generations.

Proudly presenting Legacy Leader, Dr. Henrietta Mann

Dr. Henrietta Mann, Southern Cheyenne, has brilliantly and energetically bridged Western educational settings with traditional, spiritual ways of being. She extends the roots of who she is and where she comes from no matter where she is in the world, creating loving and encouraging spaces of strength for people around her. Henri points out, in her reflection on elders’ Spirit Aligned Leadership: “we still possess our abilities to lead, to love humankind, to yet carry out our peoples’ wealth of traditional knowledge, to have a respect for all life, to maintain a compassionate view of the world, and to be concerned about the desecration of Mother Earth, all of which did not stop at the door to the spare bedroom or forgotten wings of the assisted care facility.” Dr. Henri relates to White Buffalo Woman and is strong in Sun Dance – she served as the spiritual compass during the formation of NMAI, as she did as a professor in Montana and centering work in the academy, in government, in tribal affairs. She views her legacy as a giveaway to the next generation.

Honored to introduce Legacy Leader Jan Kahehti:io Longboat

Jan Kahehti:io Longboat (Turtle Clan, Mohawk) draws in the love of Mother Earth to heal trauma. She inherited a deep sense of peace and cultured skills from her grandmother that form her philosophy that “the circle (Tekaneren) just keeps going round and round, tying all our words, actions, expressions, purposes, and stages of life together.” Kahehti:io works with plant medicine, story, language, and song to encourage women – especially those who carry suffering from generations of residential school abuse - to take their rightful place as the center pole of the home. Through teaching and gathering community at health centers, universities and at her Earth Healing Herb Gardens and Retreat Centre at Six Nations, she guides indigenous individuals, families, and nations back to sharing in the spirit of unity.

Proudly Presenting Legacy Leader Lenora Naranjo-Morse

Lenora Naranjo-Morse, Kha Po Tewa [Santa Clara Pueblo], was deeply influenced by her mother, Rose, in the Tewa view of life that brings a sense of wholeness. She has been immersed in the spiritual practices that bring life through the womb into being a complete human being. Nora is a contemporary artist who energizes an ancestral sensibility into her art. She uses many earth based materials such as glittering micaceous clay and adobe - in addition to other media, especially “trash” that can be worked into art. Nora is literally a hands on learner and educator. Her public art piece at the National Museum of the American Indian, Always Becoming, in many ways exemplifies Nora’s leadership. Always Becoming is interactive, collaborative, and needs yearly, collective tending. She involves public and brings in artists from Sonora, Mexico to work with her. She widens the circle, sends her art into other hands for caretaking and renewal. Her art and life process, contemporary but with deep grounding in her homeland, exemplifies Spirit Alignment and the standard bearing of a Legacy Leader.

Proudly Presenting Legacy Leader, Louise Wakerakats:te Herne
Louise Wakerakats:te Herne illuminates the journey for many to regenerate love for themselves, their children, and their people. A condoled Mohawk Bear Clan Mother, she pulls the threads of ancient matrilineal knowledge from Sky Woman’s origins to the present. Louise activates ceremony as a way of being and knowing over the life course – truly as a pathway away from violence, abuse, and illness to health. She leads youth and their relations through the Ohero:kon Rites of Passage during a four year process to steadily incorporate Haudenosaunee values that will guide them as adults. Louise opens sacred space linked to natural cycles for girls and women in the Moon Lodge, a place where prophetic dreams are shared and made real. As part of the Konon:kwe women’s circle, she brings back the institution of Mother Law to develop a responsible future. Always starting from a place of “perpetual gratitude,” Louise has co-created a renewed Haudenosaunee narrative for resilience and resistance. Louise embodies the head Corn mothers “to keep her hand on the pulse of her people and her stewardship is guided by knowing the land and the greater universe it is connected to.”
Proud to present Legacy Leader Sarah James

Sarah Agnes James, Neetsa’ii Gwich’in, sings a caribou welcome song to educate the world. She encourages all of us to “learn from each other and go forward for the Earth, so we can live.” Sarah is inseparable from the far northern world of interior Alaska. Her mother, father, and grandparents lovingly taught her to protect the “Sacred Place Where All Life Begins”, Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodiit. The land is her teacher, her medicine, her sustainer and her way to the Creator. She grew up living off the land and knows the hardships of surviving in the cold northcountry. Sarah dedicates herself to protecting necessary lifeways, amplifying the voices of her people and beings – especially the caribou. A strong spokesperson and powerful activist, Sarah travels globally to mobilize many into empathy to protect the Porcupine Caribou herd and, defend their calving grounds from oil development and climate catastrophe. She educates and learns from diverse people, bringing her teachings and also receiving theirs. Sarah works from her village and remains devoted to passing on the ancestral teaching to younger generations. She celebrates her opportunity as a Legacy Leader as a time to take care of herself and others as she works on a biography to contain her story. Her life exemplifies all that a Legacy Leader is.

Presenting Yvonne Dupuis Peterson, Legacy Leader
Yvonne Annette DuPuis Peterson Toon Nee Mu Sh (Chehalis), invites us all to “sit beside” each other and learn – the way her mother showed her to live a caring life. Growing up rich in salmon, berries, and much natural bounty, Yvonne was taught to work hard for family, community and self in the prairie and river lands of her people. Her ancestors are woven into her consciousness and actions, she breathes their same breath and walks the paths they created for her generations ago. It is weaving, in fact, that founds the basis of her culture understandings. Weaving baskets connects her to the Chehalis’s cultured natural world, strands of plants and memories coming together in a beautiful contained wholeness to carry into the next generation. Expressing her prayers as poems, Yvonne seeks to “transform the past into the future through a prism of caring.” Yvonne is a political scientist, educator, and intergenerational cultural awakener who weaves together traditional and academic methods at home and at the Evergreen State University. She is excited to sit beside her sister Legacy Leaders and learn about their diverse contributions. As Yvonne says, “You don’t teach everyone the same weave because then they won’t need each other.” Yvonne assures those around her to trust their own thinking, persevere, and show their faces to the ancestors.

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Spirit Aligned Leadership Program
The Spirit Aligned Leadership Program exists to elevate the lives, voices and dreams of Indigenous elder women who are working to heal, strengthen and restore the balance of Indigenous communities.

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