Wisdom Fellowship Award

Honoring Wisdom, Leadership and Community Service

Wisdom Fellowship Award

Honoring Wisdom, Leadership and Community Service

The Wisdom Fellowship Award is presented annually to honor the work of an elder who has demonstrated lifelong achievement in bringing wisdom, leadership and learning to their people and their community.

In this time of turmoil and change, the deep knowing that Indigenous Peoples hold is invaluable if we are to survive. The wisdom of their ways, the respectful relationship they maintain with everything around them, the way in which they demonstrate gratitude, are qualities we could all learn from.

Elders the world over are the keepers of tradition, of profound relationship with the living world and the Sacred. They are the ones who look out for their communities, guiding and teaching them. The work they do is vital, not only to their own communities, but to each one of us. By acknowledging and honoring them, we bring awareness to the importance and relevance of their wisdom and perspective.

Join us in honoring Ancient Wisdom holders


2018: Pauline Tangiora

Pauline Tangiora, Tribal elder and peace activist, Maori

Pauline Tangiora is a Maori elder from the Rongomaiwahine Tribe on the North Island of Aotearoa (New Zealand). Deeply rooted in the ancestral wisdom of her Peoples she has devoted her life to environmental, peace and Indigenous rights work, both at home and around the world. The Wisdom Fellowship Award was presented to Mrs. Tangiora on the 26th of July at the David Brower Center in Berkeley, Ca.


Wisdom Fellowship Award 2017

Honoring his tireless work as a wisdom keeper and leader for his people, Sacred Fire Foundation presented its 2017 Wisdom Fellowship Award to Unangan elder Ilarion Merculieff on October 10th at the David Brower Center in Berkeley, California.

WFA full ceremony

Watch this video of Ilarion Merculieff´s full beautiful and inspiring talk after receiving the 2017 Wisdom Fellowship Award.

2017: Larry Merculieff

Larry Merculieff, Kuuyux, Unangan (Aleut)

Larry “Kuuyux” Merculieff is of the last generation of Aleuts of the Alaskan Pribilof Islands to be fully raised in the traditional way. Kuuyux, a name given once a generation, means extension, like an arm extending from a body. Living this destiny, Larry served 35 years as a community leader on St. Paul Island, his home. His work now extends internationally, as he facilitates the use of traditional ways of dialogue, decision-making and consensus building, and talks about indigenous elder wisdom for modern times.

2016: Marcos Terena

Marcos Terena, Indigenous rights activist, Xané

Mariano Marcos Terena, is a Xané leader who has devoted his life to working and organizing for the rights of indigenous people and for the earth itself. The Wisdom Fellowship Award was presented to Mr. Terena  in October 2016 at the Latin America Indigenous Funders Conference award dinner hosted by International Funders for Indigenous Peoples (IFIP) in Lima, Peru.

2015: Caleen Sisk

Caleen Sisk, Chief, Winnemem Wintu

Caleen Sisk is the Spiritual Leader and Tribal Chief of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe in Northern California. Caleen’s traditional teachings and training comes from an unbroken lineage. Since assuming leadership responsibilities in 2000, Caleen has focused on maintaining the cultural and religious traditions of the Tribe. She received the 2015 Wisdom Fellowship Award during our Ancient Wisdom Rising event that took place on August 7-9 at the Blue Deer Center, in Margaretville. N.Y.

2014: Tarcila Rivera Zea

Tarcila Rivera Zea, Social Activist, Quechua (Peru)

Sacred Fire Foundation presented our Wisdom Fellowship Award to Quechuan activist Tarcila Rivera Zea for her 20 years of defending the indigenous peoples of Peru and supporting their cultures. She is pictured here at the Award Ceremony with Onondaga Chief Oren Lyons, the first recipient of the WFA in 2012. The award was presented at the International Funders for Indigenous Peoples’ World Summit on Philanthropy September 24th in New York.

2013: Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, Geshe, Bön (Tibet)

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, of the Bön tradition of Tibet, is an acclaimed author and highly respected teacher to students around the world. The Wisdom Fellowship was presented at the Blue Deer Center in the Catskill Mountains of New York at the Ancient Wisdom Rising event in August of 2013.

2012: Oren Lyons

Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper, Council of Chiefs, Onondaga Nation

Oren Lyons is a traditional Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation, who sits on the Onondaga Council of Chiefs. The Wisdom Fellowship was presented to him at the Ancient Wisdom Rising event held in Atlanta, GA in November of 2012.

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