By Cindy Fogle
The Maasai youth, whose people reside and travel along the border between Kenya and Tanzania, sit in the crosshairs of modernization. Like many Indigenous youth they face immense pressure by outside forces attempting to instill in them that their ways are backwards, irrelevant and something for which they should be ashamed.
The Sacred Fire Foundation was approached by Il’laramatak to help dream a brighter future for their youth and their people. The SFF was asked to fund an extraordinary project with a profound vision to gather 60 youth for a life-changing journey to remember who they are and return to their families, friends and villages charged with revitalizing their traditions.
Imagine traveling a great distance and being able to sit in the presence of the Oloiboni, or most esteemed spiritual elder of your people. Imagine being able to hear the creation story of your people for the first time and other sacred stories. Imagine being able to hear the prophecies, passed down through the Oloiboni’s lineage, all of which have come to pass. Imagine being able to walk in ‘Entime Naimina Enkiyo’ (the Loita forest), the last sacred forest protected by your people. To see the sacred plants and learn of their vast healing properties. And to appreciate for the first time how sacred stories, sacred sites, plant medicine, ceremony, elders and tradition converge to create a beautiful, meaningful and joy-filled life.
Then imagine stepping into the role of emissary… sharing your epic journey with other youth for the sake of your people and their very survival. For the first time, you would begin to embody your tradition with dignity and pride. It would reside deep in your bones… an immunization of sorts for your spirit to stand strong against the attempted inroads of assimilation and cultural degradation. And in this way, you would feel the all the power of your ancestors behind you, at your side, showing you the way.
Not only will these 60 youth become effective emissaries in their schools through cultural clubs, this project provides for capturing their experience on video to bring to governmental agencies to promote cultural preservation, preservation of traditional medicine and sacred sites. The videos will also be used for fundraising to allow other youth to have this experience and in turn, inspire more emissaries for this important work.
This project showcases the interconnectedness of culture, spirituality, environment and survival. By funding this project our donors have put a stake in the ground showing how Indigenous peoples serve as a beacon, and a guidepost for people worldwide to reorient to this worldview of interconnectedness. This worldview inspires us to focus on our youth and families, and to honor the sacredness of all life. It invites us to turn toward the blessings of community rather than the isolation of the individual. Ultimately, reminds us that living in right relationship produces a meaningful life filled with purpose and steeped in abundance and generosity.