Updated: Dec 6, 2021
Update on Traditional Ecological Knowledge Workforce Development Project: Year One of Five
The importance of providing experiential educating to Native Americans is a compelling and powerful climate change solution. Our students can become leaders in their communities as they bring in their own knowledge, perspectives and ideas for how to survive the effects of climate change. Native and indigenous peoples are the most vulnerable to today’s unprecedented climate change.
Elderberry Wisdom Farm is helping Four Native American interns complete the Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) Workforce Development training this month. Our investment in them will help them prepare a platform where they are able to be part of much-needed decision-making, green innovation and policy making.
For the past two months, two full days a week, our bright interns, Ibri, Cana, Kaya and Autumn have been learning TEK principles, plus climate adaptation and mitigation plans of tribes in the region that are facing climate change. They have been researching and preparing reports on Native plant species growing in our nursery. Classes include lectures and film clips, plus talking circles and feedback from the interns, followed by weekly reports and surveys. Their Career Pathway Planning Toolkit has expanded weekly with new lesson plans and readings.
The students had grown accustomed to school and university classes that delivered lectures most of the time with less opportunity for feedback and interaction. Our learning model at Elderberry Wisdom Farm is a more experiential and participatory design with reliance on student input in each session. It initially surprised the interns to be asked for their feedback, but they have all been actively participating in four classes each morning since joining our internship in early October.
After we share a potluck lunch, we go outside to complete service learning activities on the farm. This fall, outdoor activities involve site assessment, soil assessment, tending the small elderberry patch, work in our small greenhouse where 800 or more plants have been growing, and planting them in the 350-foot hedgerow. This pollinator hedgerow is being developed along Delaney Road, SE and will serve as a buffer and a source of healthy Native plant species for threatened and endangered pollinator species, especially bees Native to the Willamette Valley that may be threatened and/or endangered.
Recognizing the importance of holistic learning, our classes provide perspectives in Native American leadership principles, communications, and other workforce readiness issues. We also include training in mentoring practices, health and wellness resilience, and microenterprise development. The students have homework each week and fill out weekly reports and surveys. Now they are actively preparing emerging research reports being presented at Chemeketa Community College.
The themes the interns are pursuing in their final presentations involve: Food sovereignty, zero food waste, habitat restoration on home reservations that are increasingly affected by drought, and new microenterprises being developed including our Native plant nursery and the habitat restoration LLC we are forming to assist landowners, especially those whose properties burned during the 2020 Labor Day fires and want their ecosystems restored.
It is not surprising to me that these promising Native interns’ pathways may be leading to a life of service. Our research into indigenous entrepreneurship has shown an emphasis upon creation and development of ventures by Native people that benefit their community. Emphasis upon economic success is balanced with the desire to provide social and economic advantages for home communities. We sometimes call it selfless service. Perhaps this is why indigenous entrepreneurship is becoming an emerging field of research. The interns recognize the importance of balancing the non-economic desire to serve others with the traditional economic need to support their family and eventually provide generational prosperity to successive generations.
They also feel it is essential that their work and potential microenterprises be environmentally sustainable. Morgan wrote in Mutant Message Down Under in 1999: “…it is truly amazing that after fifty thousand years, they have destroyed no forests, polluted no water, endangered no species, caused no contamination, and all the while they have received food and shelter”.
Abdu’l Baha stated in Divine Philosophy, “Work done in the spirit of service is the highest form of worship.” Work frequently becomes a highly personal and spiritual pursuit and our first group of Native interns are reflecting that principle. Degen in Traditional livestock production among Bedouin in the Negev Desert also reported in 2007 that “…business activity and personal autonomy among the Sámi are so intimately interwoven that it is difficult for the individual person to differentiate between business and household.”
You Are Invited To Join Our Celebration Virtually
Our greetings to you today include an invitation for you to join us as we celebrate the accomplishments of our first of five groups of interns in the Traditional Ecological Knowledge Workforce Development Project. We invite you to be our guest via Zoom on Thursday, December 16 at 1:30 pm. Although the event will be held live at Chemeketa Community College, Covid-19 incidents in Marion County continue to make us cautious. So we invite you to join us remotely on Zoom.
The 90-minute event will begin at 1:30 pm Thursday, December 16 at this link:
We will open with a drum song and greetings from staff. Then the Interns will present, including their personal introduction and Native background, followed by the research and information they discovered while exploring their career pathway. Most presenters will share how they are integrating TEK principles into their plans. They understand that TEK and their connection with the world of nature has strengthened their potential for success and the opportunities for fulfilling earth conservation work. This includes the possibility for some to establish agricultural or horticultural microenterprises, especially with the special partnership we have formed with MercyCorps Northwest which is offering Individual Development Accounts to interns who choose to launch their plans. There will be an opportunity for a Question and Answer period following each speaker. The event will conclude with a Wopila or Thanksgiving prayer followed by a cultural giveaway to participants.
Message from Jan Cockrell, Elderberry Wisdom Farm’s Board Co-Convener
Our Co-Facilitator Jan Cockrell has stepped up to share this message and a request with you as we prepare to conclude a historic year.
Each year the Board of Elderberry Wisdom Farm hosts an end-of-the year fundraiser. Not only are donations from supporters greatly appreciated by the founder, the board and the staff, but funding agencies also need to see that nonprofits have a base of supporters.
It is simple to donate. You can go to our website www.elderberrywisdom.org. The section that says "Donate" has a Donate button. The site is secure and accepts major credit cards, or you can donate through PayPal.
Thanks to our donors we will be able to fulfill project plans in 2022 that share Traditional Ecological Knowledge with Native Americans and preserves their oral history, traditional stories and other cultural arts as well as tribes’ sustainable conservation principles. We are:
*Recording and preserving gifted Native American elders, cultural leaders and scientists while training emerging Native filmmakers
*Sharing messages of wisdom and guidance; rich Native American cultural values; stories and music; and habitat restoration principles in a changing climate
*Sharing messages of harmony and hope to uplift our community and strengthen race reconciliation
Today's Native American youth represent our future. They are our future history keepers, future living museums, future community leaders, future healers, future spiritual leaders.
Dogindh! Pilamayaye! Wopila! Thank you!
Janice Cockrell, on behalf of the Board
Introducing Our Newest Board Members
We are happy to announce two more members have joined the board of directors at Elderberry Wisdom Farm this year. Duane Medicine Crow has been a member for a few months and serves as our Co-Chair, but we have been so busy launching two large projects that we failed to video-record his introduction until November.
Kristie Knows his Gun has been a treasured colleague until recently when she indicated she would consider board membership. I first met her when she was mentoring PhD candidates at George Fox College who were fulfilling internships at Chemawa Indian School. After meeting her, the board unanimously agreed that she is an ideal member of our team.
Both recordings have been produced by our Film Producer, Sam Forencich, and added to our Board of Director page by our web designer, Mark Phillipp. We invite you to check it out.
This is a great time to express our gratitude to Sam and Mark who have volunteered professional multimedia services to us for over a year. Sam helped us to film a number of special individuals and produce film clips. Mark created our website and produced our e-newsletters. Because of this, our website has grown and blossomed into a valuable communication tool where we can share important messages with our community. Their kindness and generosity have provided much more than volunteer support to us. It goes deeper than that into friendship and seems like they have joined our family here at Elderberry Wisdom Farm. Many blessings to you, Sam and Mark, as we approach the holy day season!
What Excited Rose This Month?
Each month, I hope to share news from Native America that I feel is significant and exciting! This month it is from the White House which has committed to elevate Indigenous Knowledge in Federal policy decisions.
The Biden-Harris Administration is forming an Interagency Working Group on Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge! They plan to gather input from Tribes and Native communities and prepare a guidance document for release in 2022. Their memo recognizes Traditional Ecological Knowledge as: “One of the important bodies of knowledge that contributes to the scientific, technical, social, and economic advancements of our nation… With Tribal consultation and input from knowledge holders and practitioners, the Administration will develop a guidance document for federal agencies on how the collection and application of such knowledge can be mutually beneficial to Tribes, Native communities, and federal agencies and can strengthen evidence-based analysis and informed decision-making across the federal government… (They recognize ITEK as a form of knowledge that can and should inform Federal Government decision-making where appropriate and commits to improving Federal engagement with Tribal Nations and Native communities around ITEK.” https://www.whitehouse.gov/ostp/news-updates/2021/11/15/white-house-commits-to-elevating-indigenous-knowledge-in-federal-policy-decisions/
Also in November, President Biden hosted the first Tribal Nations Summit since 2016, bringing together tribal leaders with government administrators to discuss issues and launch initiatives. This effort to improve public safety and justice for Native Americans and protect Tribal lands, treaty rights, and sacred places is of the highest importance to Indian Country. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/WH-Tribal-Nations-Summit-Progress-Report.pdf
The Passing of a Gentle Woman Warrior
The November passing of Marcella Rose LeBeau, or Wignuke Waste Win (Pretty Rainbow Woman) brought a flood of memories and emotions. I recorded this Lakota matriarch, Unci Marcella in 1999 at her home in Eagle Butte, South Dakota as part of the South Dakota Oral History Project.
She was a distinguished World War II veteran and nurse, former Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe tribal council member, and recipient of many honors. She was honored for her heroic service during the Battle of the Bulge in Normandy, France on D-Day with its highest honor, the French Legion of Honor Medal. At age 100, she received Special Recognition Award from the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C.
During two summers of 1999 and 2000, I traveled to South and North Dakota to record Lakota, Nakota and Dakota elders in preparation for writing the biography of my late husband, Lakota medicine man and spiritual leader, Martin High Bear. I found her to be kind, humble, and articulate, reflecting so many other virtues of Lakota women which I continue to admire deeply 22 years later. I remember her at the Memorial of Stanley Looking Horse when they called for the women to bring out their sacred canunpas (pipes) to smoke as part of the ceremony. She encouraged me to fill and smoke my pipe which I did. I’m sure her wake and memorial will reflect all the goodness she reflected into the world for more than a century.
2021 Thanksgiving Week Observance with Native Film Festivals
You may be aware that Native people have mixed feelings about commemorating Thanksgiving Day. We enjoy time with our ever-growing family, a big meal and important companionship that continues generations of traditions within our diverse lineages. My family’s feelings were more mixed than usual this year due to the loss of my grandson, Nathaniel, who died of natural causes on May 1. The past seven months of prayers is helping us through our year of grieving, and we are blessed with the tradition of the keeping of his spirit bundle. I felt comforted knowing the time we spent together at Thanksgiving this year helped us to fortify one another as we travel through the pain to his spirit releasing ceremony next May.
This year, I chose to binge on Native American films during holiday week. Two festivals, the National Museum of the American Indian and the Red Nations Film Festival both released dozens of documentary films in mid-November.
The film, Yáa at Wooné (Respect for All Things) honors herring, a species central to the lives of SE Alaskan Native peoples for thousands of years, but which is endangered by overharvesting and climate change. Seeing women singing and drumming by the water; watching herring swim underwater; enjoying the drone footage over the water and toward the Alaskan horizon; hearing the elder speak of the gifting of herring to loved ones after the harvest as a deep spiritual and emotional gift; learning of the ancient story of the maiden who sang to the herring by the water and as she fell asleep, they laid eggs in her hair. It was healing despite the reality that this gift from Creator is threatened with extinction.
The documentary film, Home From School: The Children of Carlisle featured the Northern Arapaho on Wind River Reservation as they returned sacred remains of three boys who died in 1883 from diseases while attending Carlisle Indian School. I felt their pain and joy over this story of reunion which required two journeys from rural Wyoming to Pennsylvania.
The elders cried, “Those were our babies that were so sacred to us!” and “Carlisle stripped them of their language and culture and they became a number!” One of the boys, Hayes, had been buried in the wrong grave, so it took persistence, red tape, DNA and another trip to Pennsylvania to finally bring him home. The film concludes as the riderless horse approaches the tribe’s cemetery and the remains of the 12 year old boy is reunited with his family.
This film of the Northern Arapaho had an impact upon me, especially since Elderberry Wisdom Farm has a collaborative partnership with Chemawa Indian School and University of Washington’s Indigenous Research Institute to complete a five-year health and wellness research project titled Chemawa Journey of Transformation. We are also in the middle of pre-production planning of our next documentary film titled Chemawa Journey of Transformation: We Are More Than A Cemetery. It will feature high school students who are searching for answers in the midst of the boarding school cemetery investigations in US and Canada.
Call for Volunteers
We frequently welcome volunteers coming from local universities and colleges to join us outside on the farm. Some have discovered the farm and offered to help us test the soil, conduct a site assessment or plant our Native species in the new hedgerow. In return, they have been able to learn more about our learning model and the importance of environmental diversity and sustainability through TEK concepts. They also notice the healing and feelings of harmony that comes with working on the land.
We work with Volunteer Match and frequently put announcements onto their website at https://www.volunteermatch.org/. You can check us out there for the latest of projects.
During December, we welcome volunteers to join us Tuesdays, Dec. 7 and Dec. 14 and Thursdays, Dec. 9 between 1:00 and 3:00 pm. Volunteers will work with our Interns to complete the planting of Native plant species in our new 350' pollinator hedgerow. The volunteers showing up this fall have been great to work with. Email Autumn at email@example.com if you can join us so we will know to expect you and can share any updates before your arrival.
We are planning a few winter projects that you can also watch out for. Our Crew Leader, Autumn is planning construction of our new greenhouse kit, ongoing maintenance in the pollinator bed and elderberry patch, setting up a section on the farm for mushroom growing, constructing nests for mason bees, and a new Native species seed germination project we are planning in our greenhouse.
Volunteering for the King Tides Project
I am a volunteer for the CoastWatch and Oregon Coastal Management Program citizen science project. They requested volunteer photographers and citizen scientists photo the coastline during the King Tides the weekend of December 3-5. They requested assistance documenting this winter's three highest tide sequences. Their specific request: “The project is placing new emphasis on comparison shots--photos taken from the same spot at the high point of a comparatively normal high tide, to be contrasted with the same view at the high point of a king tide.”
If you live in Oregon, you might want to participate as a citizen scientist and take photos of future King Tides. I was there last weekend and got to collect some stunning images and film footage of an unrelenting ocean. The day was sunny and inviting and also healing. The ocean spray hit my face and my camera, reminding me of the healing power of water. The spouting horn at Depot Bay was doing its thing and I got slow motion footage including the mist and fog which obscured the sun enough to include it in one shot. https://oregonshores.org/article/king-tides-project-rises-again
I could sense the changes mentioned in Native American prophesy. Climate change on our coastline is inevitably impacting Oregon’s three coastal tribes. Sea level rise, ocean acidification, unprecedented storms and other climate impacts have already been affecting them, their natural resources, important ecological areas and sacred sites. They have been preparing for these changes, much like Alaskan Native elders and scientists who have documented the past 65 years of changes. I served as Executive Producer of the Native Wisdom Documentary Film Series for over a decade, and anticipate I may continue to share tribal responses to the changes in future films, especially highlighting the role of Native youth pursuing careers to find solutions in environmental science, agriculture and other earth based fields.
The board of directors and staff at Elderberry Wisdom Farm acknowledge that for thousands of years, the Native ancestors of the land and our own ancestors continue to watch over us and our sacred landscapes. They inhabited and cared for these lands with great love, wisdom and attention. Living on the land for millennia is the wellspring of an extensive body of knowledge, values, beliefs and practices that many refer to as traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), or traditional knowledges (TKs).
This knowledge, passed down orally, through personal experience, and spiritual teachings, continues to be the foundation of our cultural identity and survival. It is increasingly relevant today. We draw upon its strength from being practiced and continuously evolved so that new knowledge is integrated into the ancient practices. Native Americans carry this understanding in our hearts as a trust for future generations with the understanding that it is of benefit to all of us and all of our human family. The best way to ensure its survival is to continue to use it and share it.
We live and work in the Willamette Valley, the traditional homelands of multiple bands of Kalapuya. We acknowledge that all of the land and water of our region on which we practice restoration is their ancestral home. Following the Willamette Valley Treaty of 1855, they were forcibly removed to Western Oregon reservations, which served more like prison camps than villages. Today, living descendants of these people are a part of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Community of Oregon and the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians. As we strive long-term to help conserve and protect our natural resources from emerging climate issues and other challenges, we acknowledge how much we need the wisdom and traditions of these peoples and their ancestors.
Thanks to Christopher Yarrow for photo image