Though an Elder may not be defined by a specific age, they carry a deep spirituality that touches every aspect of their lives. Their teachings, values, principles are the very threads that hold cultures together. Elders are recognized because they have earned the respect of the community through their wisdom and ability to live in balance. Indigenous Elders are committed to sharing their knowledge, providing guidance and teaching others to respect all life. They are a living reminder that everything is sacred.
We are living in a time where “we are drowning in knowledge and dying for wisdom”.
We are deeply grateful to the Elders who sit on our Elders Council. We look to them for guidance in understanding protocols, respectful interaction and guidance to the foundation and our global community. We value their worldview, wisdom and expertise represented by their unique cultural background and lived experiences. We recognize that as we seek answers to some of the world’s biggest challenges, these voices are more vital now than ever. We honor the ancestors that have gone before us and those yet to come.
We give gratitude to the Elders for their service and lifelong commitment to protecting the sacred.
Kahontakwas Diane Longboat, BA, BEd, MEd is a member of the Turtle Clan, Mohawk Nation at Six Nations Grand River Territory, Canada. She is a ceremonial leader, traditional teacher and healer. Since 2013, Diane has served as Elder for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Canada’s largest and leading institution for clinical services and research for mental well-being. In addition in 2016, Diane became the Senior Project Manager, Guiding Directions Implementation, the CAMH strategy to improve practices and partnerships with First Nations, Inuit and Métis. Diane lead the development of the Ceremony Grounds for CAMH to establish the Sweat Lodge, Sacred Fire, and medicine gardens, including the policy development required to support traditional Indigenous healing as a standard of practice.
Diane is founder of Soul of the Mother, a Healing Lodge on the shores of the Grand River at Six Nations Grand River Territory, with extensive relationships with First Nations in Canada and throughout the United States and globally. Diane is also founder of First Nations House (Office of Aboriginal Student Services and Programs) at the University of Toronto.
Diane is a professional educator with a Master’s degree in education and has taught at universities and conferences, nationally and internationally, on the topic of traditional Indigenous knowledge systems and spirituality as the fuel for innovation. She has published extensively on Indigenous education law and policy for the Chiefs of Ontario and the Assembly of First Nations.
In 2017 and 2018, Diane was the Indigenous Education Advisor to the Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Minister of Education (Minister Naidoo Harris and Minister Hunter).
Recently, Diane was Co-Chair for the development of the Indigenous Peoples Program at the Parliament of the World’s Religions global gathering in Toronto for 10,000 delegates in November 2018. Over 100 Indigenous spiritual leaders from around the globe spoke in the Lodge of Nations built inside the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and at workshops throughout the Parliament.
Diane is recognized as an Evolutionary Leader by the Source of Synergy Foundation in New York City and is a faculty member of the Shift Network. Diane is a Board member of Honoring Indigenous Peoples, and a member of the Council of Elders of many organizations in North America including the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, Canada.
Mariano Marcos Terena is the son of the Xané Pueblo, from the region of Aguas del Pantanal, between Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. A Brazilian national born in 1954 he is a Xane’ leader who has devoted his life to working and organizing for the rights of Indigenous people and for the earth itself. In 1977, Marcos founded the first Indigenous political movement in Brazil, the Union of Indigenous Nations. In 1992 he organized a landmark event in the struggle for Indigenous peoples’ rights, the World Conference of Indigenous Peoples on Territories, Environment and Development. At this historic gathering, Marcos was chosen by over 700 Indigenous leaders from around the world to deliver their message to world leaders at the United Nations Earth Summit (UNCED). Marcos is also a founding member of the Inter-Tribal Committee, Land is Life, the International Alliance of Indigenous-Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests, the Brazilian Indigenous Institute for Intellectual Property, the World Indigenous Games Festival, and the Call of the Earth Circle.
He founded the Union of Indigenous Nations (UNIND), and was involved in the process to include Indigenous peoples rights in the Brazilian constitution. Marcos has advised Ministers and official sectors of Brazil on Indigenous people matters. The relevance of his work is well known in International forums such as the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and the World Intellectual Property Organization where he has acted as adviser and spokesman on behalf on Indigenous people movements. Among others, Marcos was involved in the following initiatives: the creation of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, coordination of the Forum for the Protection of Traditional Knowledge in Brazil and jointly with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and he also coordinated the Indigenous people panel in Santiago +5 Conference on Racial Equality.
Besides being the creator of Indian Voice, a radio program, Marcos Terena has also commented about Indigenous rights in various television programs. He has written two books: The Indian Aviator and The Citizens of the Jungle.
Oren Lyons is a traditional faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation who sits on the Onondaga Council of Chiefs. Born in 1930, he was raised in the traditional life ways of the Haudenosaunee on the Seneca and Onondaga reservations. As a youth he left for New York City but in 1970, Lyons returned to his ancestral homeland in upstate New York to act as Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan. In this capacity, he is entrusted with keeping alive his people’s traditions, values and history. Since then he has dedicated his life to preserving and protecting Indigenous lifeways by being one of the key players in establishing the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations.
In recognition of his contributions over many years as a teacher of undergraduate and graduate students in the University at Buffalo, Dr. Lyons is listed as SUNY Distinguished Service Professor and Professor Emeritus of American Studies in the UB College of Arts and Sciences. He has appeared on the documentary Faithkeeper, produced and hosted by Bill Moyers in 1991, and in Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary “The 11th Hour” in 2007.
Among his accolades he has received the Ellis Island Congressional Medal of Honor, the National Audubon Award, the First Annual Earth Day International Award of the United Nations, the Elder and Wiser Award of the Rosa Parks Institute for Human Rights, as well as the Wisdom Fellowship Award of the Sacred Fire Foundation. He serves on the Executive Committee of the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival, and is a principal figure in the Traditional Circle of Indian Elders that he helped create in 1977.
Pahan Pte San Win
Lakota, Cree & Metis
Pahan Pte San Win is Lakota, Cree and Metis, with family roots that reach back to Wood Mountain, Saskatchewan, Canada. Her name means Grey Swan Buffalo Woman.
With formal training from the University of Calgary, Pahan has worked as a counseling therapist with hundreds who came seeking relief from pain and suffering. She is particularly proud of her work with Indian Residential School Survivors. To incarcerated youth at the Manitoba Youth Centre, Pahan has been Kunsi or Grandmother, an Indigenous Spiritual Caregiver.
In her words, “I stand in witness to the resiliency of the human spirit and our immense capacity to heal. The spiritual growth that came to me through years spent in prayer and ceremony has allowed me the insight to understand the lessons life was teaching me.”
In 2016, Pahan was presented with the 10th Annual Aboriginal Circle of Educators Award in the category of Honouring Our Elders, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Pahan is also an accomplished storyteller sharing remarkable accounts on her blog, IMarriedaHolyMan.com. Pahan is a published author most recently contributing to the anthology, “Keetsahnak / Our Missing and Murdered Indigenous Sisters by editors Kim Anderson, Maria Campbell and Christi Belcourt (2018).
However, and perhaps most importantly, to the Sundance of Women, Pahan is the Sundance Chief. Pahan’s vision to have a Sundance that honours our stolen sisters was realized in 2017 and continues until 2020.
Tarcila Rivera Zea
Tarcila Rivera Zea is a Quechuan leader from Ayacucho, Peru who has devoted over 20 years of her life to defend and seek recognition and acknowledgment of Peruvian Indigenous Peoples and cultures. Tarcila moved to Lima when she was ten years old, and worked as a domestic worker in exchange for education, learning Spanish only at age 18, and finishing high school at 21. Through her own merit she won a series of scholarships and ultimately earned a Human Rights degree from the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague, Holland.
Tarcila is the founder and Executive Director of Chirapaq (Center for Indigenous Peoples’ Cultures of Peru), an organization committed to the recognition and full exercise of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, giving priority to the leadership of women and Indigenous youth. In the past 20 years, Tarcila has contributed to the creation of the Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas (ECMI), the International Indigenous Women Forum (FIMI) and the International Indigenous Press Agency (AIPIN). Her contributions have resulted in the creation of the Permanent Workshop of Andean and Amazonian Indigenous Women of Peru, the International Forum of Indigenous Women of the Americas and the Continental Link of Indigenous Women of the Americas. Tarcila Rivera currently sits in the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. She received Sacred Fire Foundation’s Wisdom Fellowship Award in 2014.
Tenzin Rinpoche was born in Amritsar, India, not long after his parents escaped their Tibetan homeland in 1959 during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. At age 10, Tenzin Rinpoche was ordained as a monk at Menri Monastery near Dolanji, India. He was recognized by head teacher Lopon Sangye Tenzin Rinpoche as a reincarnation of the famous master Khyung Tul Rinpoche, a renowned meditation master, teacher, scholar and healer who died in the mid-20th century.
In 1986 Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, an accomplished scholar in the Bön Buddhist textual traditions of philosophy, exegesis and debate, completed an 11-year course of traditional studies at the Bön Dialectic School of Menri Monastery, where he received his Geshe degree, equivalent to a doctorate in philosophy from Western universities. Upon graduating, His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama appointed Rinpoche to be the Bön tradition’s representative to the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies of the Tibetan-Government-in-Exile.
Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche was one of the first to bring the precious Bön teachings to the West. In 1992, he founded Ligmincha Institute in Charlottesville, Va., a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to preserve for future generations the ancient teachings, arts, sciences, language and literature of Tibet and Zhang Zhung. Today Rinpoche continues his dedicated efforts to preserve the Bön Buddhist tradition through establishing centers and groups worldwide. In 2013 he received the Wisdom Fellowship Award from the Sacred Fire Foundation.
Wanbdi Wakita has spent a lifetime making prayers for people. As a residential school survivor, peacekeeper with the Canadian Armed Forces, Chief of Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, Manitoba, Canada and Sundance Chief, Wanbdi has walked many paths. Eventually his journey led him to the work that was always waiting for him, a work given to him by Creator, that of a Wicasa Wakan or Holy Man.
With the gentle nudging of profound spiritual experiences & visions, Wanbdi Wakita surrendered into this role and since then has worked tirelessly to help people from all nations and all walks of life. His life is a testament to one’s ability to overcome tragic circumstances, heal and go on to fulfill one’s potential and purpose.
Wanbdi Wakita has devoted over three decades to work with men in prison. Presently, he works in the role of Grandfather in Residence to the University of Manitoba Access Program. He is a gifted counselor, captivating storyteller/presenter and is described as gentle, soft spoken, a man of integrity and profound wisdom.
In 2016 he received the Order of Manitoba for his lifelong work to support those in need and to champion a message of healing and unity between all nations. Wanbdi possesses a rare breadth of traditional and culture knowledge. To those who know him, Wanbdi Wakita is Creator’s gift to a struggling people. You can read more about Wanbdi at www.IMarriedaHolyMan.com