People connected to the sacred engaging directly with Indigenous Elders
Dear Community Wisdom Supporters,
Sacred Fire Foundation was granted non-profit status in 2007, and 2017 marked our tenth anniversary. As I look back to our beginning as a handful of enthusiastic volunteers, and as I see where the dedication and passion have led us, I am humbled.
And, it must be said, none of this would have been possible without the generosity of our donors, and the thousands of hours of love, labor and support from our volunteers, staff, partners and board members.
Some of the highlights of 2017 include the launch of our new website; the refinement of our grant program through the experience gained over the past four years in working with our grantee partners; and the expansion of our Grant Review Committee to include Elvera Konwanhktotha Sargent.
Illarion Merculieff received the Wisdom Treasure Award in a special ceremony held in Berkeley, California. Our Voices of Wisdom events continued in three locations across the US, with an international event planned in early 2018.
I hope you enjoy this report and seeing the fruits of your generosity.
David Wiley, Chairman of the Board
Protecting the Sacred
Through the generosity of our donors, in 2016 we disbursed the largest amount of funds in our history and expanded to cover all 5 continents!
We partnered with projects in 7 focus areas
Australian Aboriginal Elders responded to the rampant suicides among Aboriginal youth using the power of modern technology. Designed by Elders, photographers, technologists, and a leading psychologist, Kurdiji 1.0 is a suicide prevention cell phone app that employs traditional stories, ceremonies and Aboriginal law to foster a sense of belonging and to re-connect Aboriginal youth to their traditions.
In the Northwest Territories of Canada, the Slave River Coalition hosted a water gathering to foster relations among residents, First Nations (IP), government and scientists. The meeting was key to asserting the importance of Indigenous perspectives in all decision-making that affects the future of the watershed and its surrounding communities.
Indigenous children in Peru acquired tools and abilities necessary to sustain their Andean cultural identity through music, dance and respect for the land. Kusi Kawsay school invited Elders and respected community members to teach these courses, empowering and encouraging the children to pass these beautiful traditions along to future generations.
Families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Manitoba, Canada, found much-needed healing support in the Sundance of Women ceremony. Four days of dancing and fasting generated an outpouring of healing medicine, honoring the Spirits of the missing women and girls, and offering peace, healing and harmony to their families and communities.
Food and Healing
An orphanage in Thailand offered Ahka language and culture classes for children, thus reconnecting generations and allowing grandparents and children to communicate again. The revitalization of the Akha language is essential for the dissemination of cultural knowledge and the revival of the spirit of the Akha people.
Language, Art and Culture
In Uganda, over 30,000 Bunyaguru people came together to reinstate the Endyooka ceremony, dedicated to appeasing the spirits for prosperous hunts and harvests, and to alleviating prevailing hunger. This annual ceremony will continue to help unite the Bunyaguru, many of whom have left their fertile homeland, communities and traditions to migrate to the cities.
Ritual and Ceremony
In the Philippines, Higa-onon tribal youth reconnected with their culture, beliefs and traditions through ritual, chanting and dance. In addition to passing on important teachings and rituals, Elders also helped to identify the young people who would become the future bearers of tradition, the future guardians of the sacred rituals, ceremonies and teachings of their people. Thanks to this program, there are now Higa-onon youth actively involved in tribal community activities that contribute directly to their cultural survival.
Interactive Map of 2017 Grants
Tribes / Clans Funded in 2017
USA- Nooksack, Hopi, Kaua’I, Gwich’in
Philippines – Higa-onon
Mexico – Maya, Tseltales & Tsotsiles
Peru – Shipibo, Quechua
Canada – Lakota/ Dakota/ Anishinaabe, Navajo / Snuneymuxw
Thailand – Akha
Australia – Warlpiri
Chichén Itzá is best known as an expanse of Mayan ruins on Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula, a breathtaking testament to a large, complex and powerful civilization. Today, the descendants of those same people are at risk of losing their culture. But thanks to the Asociación Pujulá Liga de Comunidades Mayas, Mayan children are actively learning and reclaiming traditional ceremonies, songs, dance and language.
Early in the program, the teachers noticed that while many of the 50 participating children had arrived claiming not to speak any Mayan, they actually knew the language but were ashamed to use it in public. Over the course of the workshops, however, these same children regained pride in their culture and began speaking proudly and fluently.
After sounding the caracol shell and requesting permission from Mother Earth, the children learned about the guardians of the sacred directions, the ceremonies and legends of their Elders, and they were taught stories and symbols of their culture through art and dance. On rainy days, the children gathered in Casa Maya, a beautiful thatched roof structure made entirely without nails – an architectural honoring of their traditional culture. The children also formed a choir and learned to sing Mayan songs.
Thanks to such programs, Chichén Itzá now stands not only as a monument of the past, but as a place where the embers of a brightening future are glowing.
Weaving Wisdom at Kusi Kawsay
Lucía is a wise, glowing woman from the Amaru community in the Peruvian highlands. She is also the weaving teacher at the Kusi Kawsay School, a place where children strengthen the fabric of their traditions by learning arts that are part of their culture.
She teaches them this sacred art that involves mathematics, deep concentration, creativity and knowledge of the cosmology contained within their patterns. To weave properly the children must learn concepts like Ayni, the word for reciprocity in the Quechua language. To receive you must give. Giving and receiving is a dance, a cycle, and it is one of the keys to living in balance in the world.
We invite you to experience the wisdom of the weaving in this video of Lucia’s class.
VOW Northeast at the Blue Deer Center with Dr. Jody Noé and Gail Whitlow
VOW Southeast in Asheville, North Carolina, with Wanbdi Wakita and Amy Walker
VOW Northwest in Olympia, Washington, with Bill James and Levina Wilkins
“Amidst intermittent squalls that gave way to glorious sunshine, Bill talked about the importance of knowing where we come from, both through our human ancestors and the ‘spirit of place,’ which are interconnected. Bill told a story of his people’s place, Orcas Island and the Salish Sea: an orphaned boy discovers the people who live under the sea—the orcas—and leaves his home to join them, but he returns as an orca to care for his human grandmother, leaving fish on the shore for her. This reminds us that while we seem separate from each other, we are not.”
—Mary Fifield, Olympia VOW, October 2017
On October 10th, friends and allies congregated in the auditorium of the David Brower Center in Berkeley, California, to honor Unangan Elder and tireless community leader Ilarion Merculieff, recipient of the 2017 Wisdom Treasure Award.*
Ilarion surprised everybody by beginning his acceptance speech with a video about contagious laughter, which had the entire audience laughing for 10 minutes!
Ilarion then greeted the audience with a traditional Unangan greeting—“Hello, my other self”—before giving a vibrant and moving talk about his experience of being raised in the traditional way, the teachings he received, and how these may benefit anyone wanting to live a more connected life.
“The most important things in life should not be defined. And we’re living in a society that defines everything.”
We want to express our heartfelt gratitude to all of the people and organizations that have made this work possible. Without your financial support and your friendship, we would not be able to partner with so many wonderful Indigenous Communities all over the world. To see the list of all of our 2017 supporters, please click here.
Our 2017 numbers are about resilience and capacity. The revenue reflects the results of our long-term relationships with our major donors. The expenses are an expression of our vision to ensure long-term resilience and capacity by investing in the people who are lovingly working on our mission every day, tending to our programs and developing new ideas.