HOW TO BE A GOOD ANCESTOR

I have struggled writing this ‘year in review/preview of what’s to come’. There are few among us who have not experienced tremendous loss, unexpected changes in our lives or those we hold most dear, or the sadness that comes with all that we’ve collectively witnessed, especially in the last few years.

How do you balance those realities with being in a place of gratitude? With the continued hope that we will find ways, despite our own personal stories, to bring forth the values of generosity and care to each other and our communities? These values are present in Indigenous communities, not just during this season of giving but each and every day.

I think we see these values most vividly when tragedy strikes like the recent tornadoes in the Midwest or during the wildfires this past summer. Our humanity supersedes our belief systems, our politics, our economic abilities. “What can I do?” “How can I be of service?”

These are simple acts of generosity that have lasting impact for the receiver and the giver alike. It reminds us that we all have something to contribute to the world – our actions matter. You matter. 

The work that we are privileged to do is only made possible by you. So much goes on behind the scenes that having this gift of reflection not only allows for us to share what has transpired over the last year but also serves as a reminder to celebrate the incredible grassroots efforts of our Community Partners, the guidance and wisdom the Elders so graciously provide, and how critical their work is for our very survival.

We started 2021 knowing how we interacted with each other and created our programming would likely be changed forever. One of the great lessons of 2020 was to be as flexible as possible.  From an organizational perspective, ‘planning’ was incredibly challenging. But we adapted and with that openness to the unknown, we found new and exciting opportunities.

At the beginning of the year, we were blessed to welcome our Creative Director, John Nabil Handem Piette.  Throughout the year, you’ve seen John’s incredible work (more to come in 2022!) with video messages from the Elders.  John will be expanding his role to our upcoming podcast, Seeds of Wisdom, working to support a new initiative called Indigenous Stories of the Land Project (ISOL), and guiding our Community Partners in their efforts to tell their stories, in their own unique voice.

Paloma Abregu joined us in April as our Director of Community Partnerships and oversees the Protecting the Sacred funding program and our newly launched peer-to-peer mentorship and capacity building program, Seeds of Trust.  Paloma brings a unique perspective as a recipient of funding and an Indigenous woman.

For the first time, our Review Committee was almost entirely Indigenous.  We extend our deepest gratitude to Mary Wilson (Maori) Committee Chair, Hartman Deetz (Mashpee Wampanoag) Lucy Mulenkei (Maasai), Pedro Mosqueira (Quechua), Breidy Quispe (Quechua), Mutahunan Deetz (Mashpee Wampanoag) and Gwen Broz. Gwen serves on the board as secretary and has been a long-standing review committee member. We are grateful for their service.

We’ve just wrapped up our funding cycle (a little later than planned!) and it will be our largest cohort yet! Because of your generosity, along with incredible partners like Serving our Spirits (SOS) and Worldwide Indigenous Science Network (WISN), approximately 30 projects will be funded, totaling $130,000!

Since the program’s inception in 2012, we’ve partnered with 180 communities and organizations! This is possible because of your investment in the revitalization of language, protection of sacred places, preservation of traditional farming and agricultural methods, sacred ceremonies, and lifeways – impacting literally thousands of community members in cultures around the world. You are leaving an enduring legacy for the generations yet to come.

We can’t wait to share the amazing work that is being done across the world! Look for an announcement of our Community Partners in early 2022!

I like to think of organizations much like a living organism.  There is expansion and contraction, growth, and change – even when it looks like nothing is happening, there is always movement. Always transformation.

In May, Vice Chair Alan Kerner stepped down from the board. Alan dedicated many years to the Foundation, and we are grateful for his service and support.

We welcomed Albert Granados to our board as treasurer. Richard Goss served for many years in that role and remains involved with our media team.  Albert brings a wealth (pun intended!) of financial experience with him.  He offers a fresh perspective, humor, and dedication to being in service to the greater good in all he does.  Get to know our Board.

Transformation can take on many forms and for us, that has meant looking at how we as an organization work together and what no longer serves us. We sought the counsel of The Elders and began working with Turtle Island Institute to work in way that is more in alignment with our organizational values.

It is worth taking a moment here to share that Indigenous People make up around 5% of the population around the world. They’re protecting around 80% of our remaining biodiversity. Indigenous stewardship of our most precious resources has been shown time and again to mitigate the effects of not only climate change but keep habitats intact and thriving for those yet to come.

Despite this, from a philanthropic perspective with billions of dollars donated yearly, global giving to Indigenous communities and organizations falls somewhere between .04 and 1.5% of all dollars invested! The reasons for this disparity are many but we are deeply honored that through your investment, our Community Partners and the critical work they do, are strengthened.

We will continue our work to build an organization that reflects that which we value most as we go into 2022.  In some ways, this is always evolving, always adapting to what is happening with our Community Partners and the guidance we receive from the Elders.

This year, the Elders have been a constant source of strength, offering their prayers, wisdom, and perspective.  We are so very humbled to walk this journey with them. Learn who they are.

Chief Salaton Ole Ntutu (Maasai) was our Wisdom Treasure Award (WTA) recipient for 2021.  The ceremony, held at the Brower Center in Berkeley was our first in-person event. It was emotional, beautiful, and I believe, gave all those who attended either in-person or online, a moment to celebrate the work of this great Elder but also, be in gratitude to be together with a common purpose. Watch the ceremony here. Chief Salaton also joined the Elders Council.

We established an incredible Circle of Advisors who support the Protecting the Sacred and Seeds of Trust programs through their expertise and experience. We are grateful for their insight and we’d love for you to get to know who they are. Stay tuned for new additions next year!

Through a generous partnership with SOS, we established Fund for the Ancestors. This fund was named in honor of Donna Augustine (Mikmaq) from New Brunswick, Canada. For over 30 years, Donna has worked tirelessly, sometimes forgoing her own needs, to return Ancestral remains back home to be buried in their traditional homelands. With support from the fund, Donna traveled from New Brunswick to Harvard to receive the Ancestors and bring them home. We were deeply humbled to play a small role in supporting Donna. This fund will support Donna and others like her working to bring the Ancestors home, Elders and Youth attending gatherings or ceremonies, as well as advocating for their community and culture at global events where Indigenous representation is critical.

In the lead up to COP26, the climate conference held in Glasgow this year, we were invited to submit an article for Blue Dot, a publication that is presented in conjunction with the conference.  The theme of the article is – “What is Mother Earth trying to tell us – from an Indigenous perspective?” The article, titled “We Are the Soil That Walks” is being reviewed, as the publication was delayed. It is a powerful read, contributed to by incredible Indigenous leaders. Watch for it on our blog in 2022.

We were deeply honored to partner with like-minded organizations to share the wisdom and teachings of Elders from around the world. We give thanks to Grandmother Flordemayo (Mayan) and Unci Rita Long Visitor Holy Dance (Oglala Lakota) and Grandmother’s organization, The Path, Ilarion (Kuuyux) Merculieff (Unangan) and his organization Wisdom Weavers of the World (WWW) for giving us the opportunity to work together. It is our belief that we are stronger together.  As Yael Seligman, Kuuyux’s wife and partner in WWW says – “completion, not competition”.

As we look ahead to 2022, there is much to share and even more still being created!

  • We’ll hold monthly gatherings where you can learn about our Community Partners, hear messages from the Elders, and participate in dialogue.
  • We’ll host online trainings for our partners to strengthen and support their work.
  • Our long-awaited podcast will launch in late January.
  • The Seeds of Wisdom video series will continue to grow, with access available on our social and video channels. We invite you to share how these teachings resonate with you in your own life.
  • A new website is coming!
  • We are deeply humbled to be in partnership with a historical gathering that will take place later this summer (Creator willing!). Details soon!
  • With our partners at Native-Land.ca, Terrastories.io, and The Tribal Trust, Indigenous Stories of the Land (ISOL) Project will launch in early 2022.  ISOL received some initial funds from the Tech Innovation Award to “elevate the voices of Indigenous peoples and support Indigenous data sovereignty and community engagement.” It is vital, now more than ever, “to protect Indigenous oral histories and cultural geographies, while also encouraging non-Indigenous audiences to better understand Indigenous people, territories, and history.”
  • Our next funding cycle for Protecting the Sacred will open in late spring.
  • In the summer, we’ll share our Wisdom Treasure Award recipient for 2022!

We offer our sincere gratitude to the following:

  • The Elders and Wisdom Keepers who have so graciously offered their teachings.
  • Reweaving the Web for their incredible partnership and the work you do around the world.
  • Toby McLeod for your wisdom, insight and guidance in support of SOS and our partnership.
  • DAZA – our awesome development team.
  • Firefly Strategies Global – our amazing communications and marketing team.
  • Sherry Morgan and Wendy Brittain who take such wonderful care of our donors!

And… each and every one of you that is part of our community and family. Thank you!

In closing, I’ve been thinking a lot about being a Good Ancestor. A friend recently shared that after finding his ancestral roots, it moved him to be present on how he was reflecting back to those who came before him. Every time he showed up for a meeting, participated in a ceremony, or just walked down the street and encountering strangers along the way, his Ancestors come with him.

Pahan Pte San Win (Metis, Cree, Lakota) reminds us that our Ancestors are always present, waiting for us to ask for their help.

Elders speak of our Ancestors dreaming us into existence just as we are dreaming of our future Ancestors.

How do we show up for them?  What actions can we take today, to be a Good Ancestor?

Perhaps by practicing generosity and kindness, being aware of the long line of Ancestors we bring with us everywhere we go, we can begin to move away from the chaos, consumerism, and hyper-individualism that seems to dominate our world.  We can offer grace to one another in realizing our common humanity.  As Tiokasin Ghosthorse – Cheyenne River Lakota (Sioux) says, “Humanity must shift from living ‘on’ the earth, to living with her”.

On behalf of the Elders, Volunteers, Staff, Community Partners, Circle of Advisors, and Board –

Thank you for being a part of our family and for traveling with us on this journey of transformation.

Many blessings to you and yours this holiday season.  May the new year bring joy, peace and hope.

With gratitude,

Kim Langbecker, Executive Director

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