Representing four corners of the earth—Asia, Africa, Europe, and North/South America—big cat shamans gathered with big cat scientists in historic meetings in the Caves of Southern France. They met in ceremony and dialogue to discuss ways to work together to save critically endangered sacred species, sacred sites, and indigenous cultures.
The Worldwide Indigenous Science Network (WISN) and the Snow Leopard Conservancy (SLC) brought together Indigenous Cultural Practitioners for an historic gathering in Chong Kemin, Kyrgyzstan this September. Scientists, ecologists, journalists, traditional healers, and shamans from different parts of the world gathered to put their knowledge together and accomplish one mission—to find better ways of conserving the critically endangered snow leopards, sacred sites and cultures associated with these sacred animals and sites.
Raisins, dark purple and transparent gold, the currency of the Silk Road, fill a small plate on the rough-hewn table top of our Tien Shen mountain lodge. Central Asian fruit is in season and Marco Polo might have written a chapter on the flavor alone. In the first moment the raisins feel crispy in my mouth, but quickly they dissolve into a heavenly flavor so rich they seem like dates except with a lightness as if a warm sun rolled across my tongue.
It is coffee break or rather tea break on our arrival day. The Worldwide Indigenous Science Network and the Snow Leopard Conservancy have called a gathering of indigenous shamans, scientists and documentarians. Our purpose is to come up with information and a strategy to provide input on the policies forming the Global Snow Leopard Ecosystem Protection Plan, a landmark declaration to be signed by 12 governments within the Snow Leopard range at a meeting in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, this October. To our absolute astonishment, we have succeeded in getting the United Nations process to include traditional knowledge and the participation of Snow Leopard shamans in the conservation policies.
Brian Rice, author of the newly released The Rotinonshonni: A Traditional Iroquoian History Through the Eyes of Teharonhia:wako and Sawiskera (Iroquois and Their Neighbors), is one of the first alumni of the Indigenous Mind Program from the mid 1990’s. He is both Mohawk and English and during the program he concentrated on his Mohawk ancestry and the creation story of his people. His work in the program was unique in that it emphasized the practice of the ancestral journey as a pathway towards remembrance. The following is taken from a conversation with Dr. Apela Colorado on 31 August 2013.
Gillian Kean, Founder of The Dandelion Trust, dedicated her life's work to conserving the integrity of traditional sacred sites. In early 2013, Gillian invited WISN's Dr. Apela Colorado and Faith Harrison to visit the Magdalene caves in the South of France, a site that is under the guardianship of her Foundation. On the 21st of August 2013 Gillian passed away suddenly under the rare blue moon. WISN honors her contribution to sacred site conservation and the myriad of gifts she brought this world. The following is a reflection by Dr. Apela Colorado of their meeting.
This April 30 to May 15, WISN Director Apela Colorado and staff member Faith Harrison visited Occitania (indigenous southern France) to meet with Cultural Practitioners and to visit sacred sites. The purpose of the visit was to remember and renew ancient relationships, to discuss common concerns and identify ways we might collaborate and support each other going forward.
Apela Colorado, Ph.D.
Oneida and Gaul Founder and Director of WISN
Reflections on Entering the Indigenous Mind
by Dr. Apela Colorado