After an usually dry summer in Olympia, Washington, a welcoming rain greeted Yakama Nation Elder Levina Wilkins, Hereditary Chief of the Lummi Nation Tsi’li’xw (Bill James), and 35 people who came from Oregon, California, and Washington state to gather around a consecrated fire. The group listened as Levina and Bill shared stories of their upbringing, the Elders that cared for and guided them, and the traditions that they pass on to young people today.
The Voices of Wisdom event at the beautiful Blue Deer Center was a powerful experience and many of us who attended feel we grew significantly from participating in it. Gail Whitlow, a Mohawk Elder, presented first, explaining that for centuries, prior to the white people’s arrival, her Mohawk ancestors had used this land for sacred gatherings.
Ancestral wisdom, held by Indigenous Elders the world over, is the knowledge gained and kept for centuries by the Indigenous Peoples of the world. Not only does it hold the key to our survival, but it also teaches us how to live in right and balanced relationship with everything and everyone around us.
World Indigenous Peoples’ Day (August 9), which commemorates the tenth anniversary of the signing of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, is bittersweet this year. While much progress has been made in the last decade, there is much work to be done to honor Indigenous communities and their world views.