Wisdom Treasure Award

Honoring Wisdom, Leadership and Community Service

Wisdom Treasure Award

Honoring Wisdom, Leadership and Community Service

The Wisdom Treasure 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


2021: Chief Salaton Ole Ntutu

Chief Salaton Ole Ntutu (Maasai-Kenya), Cultural Chief and Elder, Warrior, Shaman, and Visionary

Salaton Ole Ntutu is the Cultural Chief and Elder of his African community Maji Moto. He was chosen as a young child to receive the spiritual knowledge of his Ancestors. Dedicated to keeping his culture alive and thriving, Salaton is a key partner and advisor for international non-profit organizations that support the Narok region.

He champions self-sustaining initiatives in the areas of employment, water, women’s rights, education, conservation, and tourism through organizations he has co-founded. Enkiteng Lepa, a community-based organization, protects cultural values, ceremonies, and traditions, while working to eliminate harmful practices such as female circumcision and early marriage, and promote the importance of and access to education. Conceived of in 2009, Maji Moto Maasai Cultural Camp funds these progressive projects and promotes the value of his Tribe’s traditions. A lifelong dream for Salaton is to demonstrate that people can thrive by simultaneously preserving traditions and respecting the natural world, and while doing so can increase awareness of the criticality of Indigenous wisdom for all humankind.

2020: Lydia “Lys” Kruiper

Lydia “Lys” Kruiper, Elder, Healer, Leader, Visionary (Khomani San Bushmen)

Lydia “Lys” Kruiper is a well respected leader, healer, Elder of the Khomani San community. She is daughter of the late San Traditional leader, Dawid Kruiper. Her soft-spoken demeanor and small stature run contradictory to the power she manifests. Like the blanket of stars that fill the sky at night over the dunes of the Kalahari Desert, Lys shines brightly everywhere she goes.​

The work that Lys is doing with her community promotes and creates resilience, renewal and remembering. She is especially focused on training the community youth, even traveling to neighboring Namibia to work with a still largely intact Bushmen community to learn the ancient ancestral ceremonies. She has a deep understanding that as her people are empowered and healed, so will the rest of humanity.

2019: Tom Porter

Tom Porter, Haudenosaunee Educator, Elder and Spiritual Leader

Tom Porter, Sakokweniónkwas, a member of the Bear Clan of the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne, is the founder, director, and spiritual leader of the traditional Mohawk Community of Kanatsioharé:ke located in ancestral Mohawk territory in the Mohawk Valley of New York State.   A champion for the revitalization of native languages and traditions, this much respected Elder has devoted his life to educating Native and non-Native people about the true history, culture and spirituality of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Peoples.  A nationally recognized figure in Indian country since the 1960s, he cofounded the Akwesasne Freedom School, which is today the oldest immersion school in the country, and the White Roots of Peace, a group of Haudenosaunee who toured the country encouraging Indians to embrace their respective Native traditions. Tom Porter received the 2019 Wisdom Treasure Award in New York. Click on the video to see the award ceremony and his full speech.

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 Treasure Award was presented to Mrs. Tangiora on the 26th of July at the David Brower Center in Berkeley, Ca.


Wisdom Treasure Award 2017

Honoring his tireless work as a wisdom keeper and leader for his people, Sacred Fire Foundation presented its 2017 Wisdom Treasure 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 Treasure 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 Treasure 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 Treasure 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 Treasure 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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