"In July, 1988, the Baha'i Council Fire was held on the Standing Rock Reservation, across the Missouri River from Mobridge, South Dakota. Ben and Juanita Rhodd were in attendance with their family. We had arrived Friday evening pretty late, having driven from our home several hours away in the Black Hills. We had not been able to do much to set up camp, so cooking breakfast for our crew was not going to happen. We drove across the River to the Wrangler Restaurant for breakfast. We walked into the restaurant and Ben noticed two men sitting near the window over-looking the Missouri River to the west. Ben said to me, "Those two men are talking about something very heavy. Perhaps we might hear about what it is later." We ate a good breakfast and headed back to the Council Fire, enjoying the presentations and talks until about two or three in the afternoon. Since Ben is a smoker, and they had requested no smoking in the area of the talks, we both went back to our camp site to sit in the car so Ben could smoke. As Ben sat smoking, he looked down between the cars, and he noticed a young boy moving as if he was looking for someone. Ben told me that the boy was coming to see him. I asked him how he knew that, and Ben just told me that he just knew.
The boy asked if this was Ben, and Ben responded that he was, and that is when the boy told Ben that two men wished to speak with him. The boy told Ben that there would be two men waiting in a car, and he pointed to that car. The two men turned out to be Jim Walton and Pat Deranger, whom we had seen earlier in the restaurant.
They asked Ben to sit with them, introducing themselves and that they wished to speak with him about a Gathering. They spoke of a planning meeting to be held in late October up in Canada at Fort Qu'Appelle. During that meeting while sitting in the car at the Council Fire with Jim and Pat, Ben was told about Annie Iron Eagle and her vision. They invited Ben to come up to Canada. Ben agreed on that day to assist them with these Gatherings, with their endeavor, and the vision of Grandmother Iron Eagle. The meeting was held in Canada in the fall, however Ben could not attend because his Uncle, Chauncey Dupree (Yellowhorse) was ill, and could not travel. At that meeting the decision was made to hold the first Gathering at Fort Qu'Appelle the following summer, 1989. The following year, in 1990, the second gathering was held in Fort Qu'Appelle.
There were Seven Banes upon humanity, prides, keeping us from attaining unity. These observations came from Grandmother Iron Eagle and the elders who gathered in 1989. These Banes, or Prejudices, along with Grandmother Iron Eagle's vision were shared with Ben while the men were seated in the car on that July day in South Dakota.
During the time of the gatherings in Canada, Ben, Jim and Pat, and the other elders kept in contact. Ben had been asked to coordinate the gatherings in the lower 48, and had made his wishes known that since "4" is a very sacred number to the Lakota, we would hold Gathering #4 in the Black Hills of SD, while Ernie and Connie Mirabal supported Jim's wish to have the 3rd Gathering in the lower 48 states. Also during those two years of gatherings #1 and 2 in Canada, Jim and Pat visited with Benno Cleveland about being the coordinator of the gatherings in Canada and Alaska.
Later, during those gatherings in Canada, Ben told Jim about Chauncey Dupree (Yellow Horse) and we would come to rely much upon his guidance as a Lakota elder for the Gatherings in the lower 48 states. He continued to be our spiritual mentor until his death in 1993.
Yellow Horse had his vision of the 7 medicine wheels in 1984. These medicine wheels were beautifully incorporated into the very core of the Gatherings. Sadly with his passing, they had not all been completed, and Ben was honored to take the responsibility to complete them for our dear spiritual mentor. " - Ben and Juanita Rhodd
“We must all love one another. Not the love in movies and books, but real love, a love beyond all words and conditions.” Traditional Chief Peter John (Athabascan), speaking at the opening ceremony, Tanacross August 1992
“I believe the Gathering is timely. I believe the Gathering is serious and should be treated with respect and should continue. I will continue to support future Gatherings in any way I can.” Samuel S. Demientieff (Athabascan)
“Everyone involved and the event itself is special to my heart and spirituality. I humbly thank you all. The event and people and earth are all in my prayers…” Kay Wallis (Athabascan), Fairbanks
“The Gatherings are worthwhile for Native training for young and old, sharing and understanding the equality of men and women, how drugs and alcohol affect Native spirituality, effectiveness of genuine Native workshops, preparing Native youth for a broad and world-thinking scope…” Harvey Iron Eagle (Pasqua), Saskatchewan, Canada
“In the difficult time ahead there will be those who will try to cut down the tree of life and destroy it. Our job is to love them. This we must do-love them to pieces… J. C. Lucas, Native American of Vancouver Island, British Columbia
“The Gathering is a gift from the heart; it is an event created by the people who come to it. It is people coming with trust in spirit, and it works. There were elders living at a bare subsistence level that created the first Gathering. There must be no politics and no preaching. This must be a gift from the heart. Politics divides people. The Indian has a spiritual gift for all mankind.” Simon Ortiz, Acoma Pueblo (Gathering III Newsletter)
“The Gathering was one of the highlights of my life. It was so moving and I just felt the love and energy that was there. I think everyone felt what I felt because it showed in their eyes and touch. Such a high but calm contentment. The purpose of the Gathering happened. It involved non-Indians as well as Indians, and when they left they were ready to be messengers…” Connie Mirabal (Hopi), Nambe Pueblo
“Thank you from my heart of your card, kind thoughts and notes and sacred gifts-and thank you Lincoln, for taking the minutes this evening. Please know that each and every one of you are very special to me. Everyone talks about how their lives have been profoundly changed by the Spiritual Unity of the Tribes Gathering in Tanacross last year. I did not attend the Gathering, but my life has been profoundly changed by being involved with this committee. This is a spiritual consciousness raising, and a very healing experience for me in many ways, and I am honored and thankful to be a part of it. I am looking forward to being at this year’s Gathering. Thank your for being the loving beautiful people you are. Love, Jeannie.” Jeannie O’Malley, Fairbanks
“In our old society, instead of looking to condemn we looked to nurture the good. The good in some people needs nourishing so it can grow. This perspective, along with our ancestors strong spiritual beliefs and the concept that all living things are equally important, is what Spiritual Unity of the Tribes Gatherings is based on. “Tribes’ refers here to all races. We must unite and educate people. We must work on values, discipline and attitudes. To this end the Gatherings were organized. This is what Native tribes did in earlier times when faced with a threat to all. For me, the Gathering was a chance to talk about what was troubling me, and to put it in perspective. I was able to deal with my problems honestly. The left-over problems of Vietnam that I had not dealt with came to the surface, hopefully for the last time. One thing we learn from the talking circles is that our individual problems are problems for others, too. When people start understanding one another they develop trust and as a result there are bondings. This ultimately results in unity…” Lincoln Tritt (Gwich’ in), Arctic Village
“Elders realize it is a tough job to deepen the spirituality of mankind-but we cannot quit here. It would be our fault if the people don’t hear us now…” Jim Walton (Tlingit) Nenana, Alaska
“A major impact occurred when Yellow Horse announced that healing from the Gatherings was directed to all nations. I see these Gatherings as a major part of the Native American’s mission to a world that seems to have lost the trail…” Dr. Robert Morgan, Anchorage
“The Gathering is of great importance because it brings people together to share the teachings. We have been disbanded for so long that we have lost so much of our culture and no longer pass on the knowledge to our children. Now, we can unite with pride in our heritage, that we no longer be ashamed of who we are. This is a time of healing for grandparents and parents, so that our children can begin their healing and their children don’t carry on the pain that started when our people were conquered…” Alice Abraham, Anchorage
“I came because I was invited to share the teachings of the Fire and the wisdom of the Four Directions, sacred teachings of the Lakota. All my heaven, doing good I will leave here upon earth…” Yellow Horse, Minneconju Lakota elder, South Dakota
“I want the youth to be strong in their identity, to know themselves mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and to gain inner strength to carry on their life path…” Freeda Hart (Cree) Manitoba
“The Gathering was a life-changing experience for some of the people I know. The women’s sweat really changed some of the women. It was an incredible, powerful experience. The sky opened. I felt at home. We’re blessed to be on this earth; we’re lucky to have this time to grow. We’re all the same under the skin-one race. In the language of light there are no words. We are here to do this work, to help others, to be of service…” Mary Stachelrodt, (Yupik), Anchorage
“This Gathering is by the efforts of elders and youth of many tribes across the continent who agree it is time for all tribal peoples to unite with the common goal of renewing the Spiritual Values and Principles of our Indian Tribes. All Indian peoples are connected by Mother Earth, so we all have to live in unity. The world is desperately in trouble. Humans have upset the balance of the natural world. Many people now look to our Native wisdom for inspiration. There needs to be understanding, respect, concern, compassion and love among all living things. This Gathering is one way the Indian can give of himself, to have it come from the heart to share with all people. This is the purpose of Spiritual Unity of Tribes Gathering…” Ernest Mirabal, Former Governor, Nambe Pueblo, New Mexico
“I am so happy to be here, to be a part of this. It is good.” Elena Charles (Yupik Elder and Grandmother), Bethel, Alaka
“When the Grandmothers see that our hearts are pure and our purpose is good, they will begin to speak. When the Grandmothers speak the spiritual opening will happen…” Walter Austin (Tlingit), Anchorage
“The Gathering was a wonderful experience for me and my cousin who shared our Indian brotherhood for the first time. I was able to see my Sioux brother Big Elk and share prayers with him. It was a very precious and special time for all of us…” Irene Chavez, Tempe, Arizona
“I thought it would be a good time to come here, help and learn from the Grandmothers…” Larry Black Wolf (Algonquin), Anchorage
“It is the elders that have called us and in time this is going to continue. We must do all we can while we can…” Tlingit Elder
“Spirituality is part of our traditional ways. Part of our beliefs. This is where I learned love, care, tolerance, patience. These are the commandments to the Indian people. I was past 30 years old when my Grandfather started telling me what the elders have been saying-the prayers, the songs.” Francis Bird (Suteau), Saskatchewan
“Spiritual Unity of the Tribes is about Love, Honor, Respect. This movement is helping me to heal and grow.” Benno Cleveland (Inuit), Fairbanks
“I always wanted to learn about the Indian ways. What I’m learning is old, ancient humble ways. What I want to hear is more women elders speak, because as women and as Natives we have a lot of trouble with our self-esteem. When an Indian woman talks, she shares embedded teachings of the Elders.” Mary Jane Litchard (Eskimo), Iqaluit, Canada
“I came to this Gathering seeking knowledge, advice that ties in with my background and my people, who they are and who I am…” Raymond Bocatch (Tlingit), Juneau
“We’ve been consumed by materialism so that we cannot see. One day we’re going to see the true light. The only way to save the world is to become a rainbow warrior, and like the rainbow to become a prism of light.” Cloud Eagle, Nambe Pueblo, New Mexico
“This meeting is not a lecture; it is a prayer and all of us help make it happen in a good way. Bring what you can offer, and we will all be stronger for it. Come with a good heart, and a clear mind-the foundation we build needs to be solid…” Ben Rhodd (Potawattami-Lakota), South Dakota
“I feel a strong sense of solidarity with Spiritual Unity of the Tribes, not only because I am proud of my Native American ancestors, but also because the valiant struggle for justice and dignity of indigenous peoples is an inspiration to freedom-loving people everywhere. Not only people of color, but people of good will of good will of every race can celebrate the rich contributions of the Indian peoples…” Coretta Scott King, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center
“The first evening I had a healing…I was able to overcome a severe infection without antibiotics. My children were cared for. As I healed, every day I saw a little differently. The bonds between us became stronger. I could see this is the way we were meant to live, everyone sharing with one another…” Kathryn Lenniger, Nenana
“Know that it does not matter to me what race or religious background a person comes from. I share my knowledge with all peoples; this is what I have been shown by Creator. Time is too short and all the Mother’s children must be awakened and dance in unity upon the Earth…” Robert Ghost Wolf (Lakota)
“If the Native people could turn their whole vision around, especially in administration of communities, from politics to spirituality, and use spirituality to solve economic problems, it would help revive our culture and Native cultural values. These Gatherings are a vehicle for reviving the cultures.” Harvey Iron Eagle (Pasqua), Saskatchewan
“We have had enough of talk. Let there be deeds…it is time for all people to receive the spiritual gift from the Indian…” Gathering III Newsletter, Nambe Pueblo
“We are very interested in your alcohol programs. I am afraid all Soviet programs, services, campaigns against alcohol are ineffective. We always try to use Native American models and examples, both good and bad, to fight negative phenomena in our life. Your anti-alcohol experience, methods are extremely important to us…” Ales Simakou, Byelorussia
“Then I finally met a traditional man who was practicing our Native Spirituality. He suggested I pursue my own heritage to find my identity, to find healing, to find spiritual growth. He told me we had been here thousands of years, long before the Europeans, and the Great Spirit had given us a way of worship. That really inspired me to research my own heritage…” Campbell Papequash, Norquay, Saskatchewan
“This unity of people is so important. If the Indian people pick up the leadership for a better world things will happen fast. We have to be an example to the world. Other people will turn to our spiritual leaders. This is an opportunity for us to move ahead, to give strength and provide opportunity for spiritual leaders. It has to be all different tribes who will accomplish this…” Ben Kahn, (Navajo)
“All is for the children. We still have our traditions. We need to get back to our children for their health and welfare, bring back the spirit to them as parents. We must ask Grandparents about their way of life. We are too attached to TV, car and house.” Radford Quamahongnewa, Hopi Traditional Religious Leader
“Many young people today don’t have hope. The elders are here to revive that. Elders have the spirit foundation and are looking to the young generation to carry on.” Chippewa Elder
“I learned of the Gatherings from Cloud Eagle of Nambe Pueblo. He spoke of having a peaceful, loving attitude toward all mankind and also all of Earth Mother’s creatures and creation. Something magical happened for all the people I know who went to the Gathering. Our lives were transformed. We become connected at a deeper level…” Simram, Tijeras, New Mexico
“The drums beat a pathway back into my hear, to the voice of my mother who spoke of Mic Mac blood. Blue eyes, light hair tell of different tribes…a change is coming, Gathering the Tribes to heal the earth, to speak the truth…that we are one family. I went, and found my Grandmother who I never knew, and other ancestors calling me to teach my children that we all dance together in the Sacred Hoop…” Janet Maynard, Kennebunkport, Maine
“We as Indian peoples will be enlightened and will work to bring a very good time to the whole earth. We will learn to gather power and strength from our Creator. We must have open minds, absolute faith and our abiding will for this to come about. The Indian is at a turning point in history and it is good to be in on it at the grass roots…” Jim Walton (Tlingit), Nenana, Alaska
“The main objective is for the elderly to help us renew the spiritual values and principles of our Indian tribes. The Elders will take counsel together and join hearts and minds to seek solutions to the problems we face. Open to all tribes and all tribes and all religions, all cultures, the Gathering is an opportunity to learn from and respect the many different cultures and traditions. We do not ask for your sacred ceremonies. We ask that Elders come forth and express their feeling and knowledge and share their experiences and successes. The vision is that of Black Elk-how the Indian peoples would one day reunite the many hoops into one great hoop…” Lawrence Sam, Navajo-Hopi
“My experience at Nambe Gathering changed my life. I started a spiritual support group here in my home, and became familiar with Native cultural practices locally.” Kerry Timberlake, Mill Valley, California
“One of the purpose of the gathering is to reinforce the conviction that what the Indian people are is unique and valuable, perhaps beyond measure, and that the heritage which is represented is important not only to them but to all people. That heritage speaks to the overriding problems of our time, or any time, and if it is to continue it will be through the young people who receive from those who have its spirit as well as its content. Books, curricula, schools and scholars won’t do it. It comes through direct transmission from the elders.” Ernest Mirabal, Former Governor, Nambe Pueblo
“Expressions of compassion and kindness gave me such a warm feeling of union and harmony with the people at the Gathering…” Sally Caldwell, North Pole
“The purity of our attitudes will remind ourselves of what we hope to accomplish. We must all remember that we love each other…” Tlingit Elder
“The sacred fire’s healing power was intense and I’m extremely grateful for those who kept it going…” Eleanor Vlarde, Witehorse
“Everyone is my grandchildren even white people and Apache people. In the past we did not plan and you can tell by the problems of alcoholism and the direction of current political leaders. Here we make plans. This itself is an accomplishment. The Grandmothers have good teachings, and some of the youth are born leaders…” Charlie Begay, Navajo Elder and Medicine Man
“I offer to this Gathering a real prayer of the Zuni people - I add my breath to your breath That our days may be long on the Earth That the days of our people may be long That we may be one person That we may finish our road together May our Mother Bless you with life May our Life Path be fulfilled…” Simon Ortiz, Acoma Pueblo
Greetings! I have been a junkie of these gatherings for many years. I totally believe in the concept of the vision of the Spiritual Unity of the The Tribes, plus I like the name, it means a lot. Most people think when I say that I am talking about my own tribe or the tribes that I have lived with and been associated with most of my Life. But that's not true.
The tribes I speak of and think of is the tribe of Human Kind. We are all from tribes of one kind or another, and I truly believe Tribes are being formed all the time. Tribalness is not a blood thing, it is more a Spiritual concept. spiritual and a common Goal, a common way of Life.
As we look around us at the state of this nation and the world in general. it is evermore apparent that we need to start taking a good hard look at this tribal way of life thing. In fact it may be past time to just look at it, we need to put the quirt to the pony and move ever faster toward living it.
I felt that going back to Naki Bito..Mexican Springs was a very positive step, It was great to see old friends and it was great to see how far we have all come down this good Red Road. I think maybe we may have touched on just how precious each one of us are to one another. And, just how important it is that we all get our butts in gear and try to exemplify the concept of Spiritual Unity.
It is an Understanding that we all try to reach with one another. Both Men and Women, it is a very mutual understanding of each others roles and talents. Within that sacred Ground that we walked upon for 4 days in a Sacred manner, we saw each other face to face, we walked side by side, we were once again together as family. What more could a person want.
I was honored to see each of you again. May your song carry on within the hearts and Souls of your Grandchildren. - JT
“The youth are now unable to pray for themselves, which goes hand in hand with knowledge of one’s own culture and language. At the Gatherings we can work together…” Ruby Nelson, Navajo
“For me the Gatherings give purpose and strength to our lives and visions for a brighter future that includes acknowledging the truth that we are all one family…” Judy Selmer, Skagway
“I am honored to be part of Spiritual Unity of the Tribes and to participate in fulfilling the vision of Grandfather Black Elk. The vision of unity of all the sacred tribes of the world: Red, Black, White, Yellow. A vision of love, beauty, honor, respect, peace and unity of all Mother Earth’s children. One elder put it this way: “The Creator is not in competition with Himself. There is no wrong way or right way to pray. What is important is that you find your own path, and honor the Creator as you travel.” Freeda Hart (Cree), Manitoba
“The Gatherings are important because they encourage the exchange of spiritual thoughts which turn in to closer ties for all of us. To understand each other, our ways, is to find that we are all really one…” Margaret and Carl Longhead-Meyers, Arvada, Colorado
“Indian prayers are strong. It will take humble people like us to do it.” Millie Ramon, Apache
“This day was one of the most profound experiences we’ve had. Grandmothers of all ages spoke about love for all children and respect for Mother Earth. The Grandmothers spoke from the heart…” Barbara Gottfried and Jan Finley, West Allis, Wisconsin
“I have a wondrous feeling of anticipation that we are now close upon the time that Indigenous People are helping and awakening to a calling to roles as teachers and healers of non-native people or North America.” Connie Shaw, Denver, Colorado
“We were created to know and worship God. Among individuals there are many and various levels to understanding this process. I feel the Unity of Tribes Gatherings enhance and invigorate this process for myself and many other…” Tom Powers, Nenana, Alaska
“I found the Gathering a wonderful experience, people from all ethnic and religious backgrounds came together and were spiritually joined, leaving behind their negativities and prejudices. There was unconditional unity and love. I am a Grandmother, and I was not the same person when I left. I experienced healing on a deep level…” Karma Darame, North Pole, Alaska
“Where I come from there is a lot of killing…I really like seeing the people here, talking together and solving their own problems through peaceful ways…I like the part of using old traditions to solve new problems…” Guy Kol, Beer-Sheva, Israel
“The only spirituality that I’d found in my life had come from Native American culture. The way Native Americans respected each other and the earth impressed me. I felt that the Native American attitude was needed to bring people together. I have never seen people with so little share so much. I can’t remember ever experiencing a group of people more hospitable or friendly. The teaching of the Elders, the pipe ceremonies, the sweat lodges have benefited me greatly. The most prominent is the feeling of love and understanding…” John Smith, Eustis, Maine
“The Elder women at the Gathering spoke to me by the example of their lives. They prepared food each day. No one went hungry. As I watched I saw a tale of love upon the children, guiding quietly, without harsh words. I saw in these women great strength and great humility…” Susan Stark Christianson, Juneau
“Many people in the U.S.A. are beginning to see the results of the guns and greed culture: destruction of the human social fabric and even of the earth itself. Many of us are turning to the traditional Indian people for an example of how to live simply in a sane and respectful way, how to learn the ways of the Sacred, the Good Red Road…The Tanacross Gathering volunteers cooked and served food to 500 people a day for a week strictly from gifts and donations from the hearts of villages and participants. We arrived as strangers, we made camp and worked together and we parted as friends. It was a miracle to behold.” Jeff Knaebel, Fairbanks
“It is time we speak from the heart and heal our wounds…this is what makes the Gatherings important and successful…” Annie Fuller, Oakland, California
“We need to know it is OK to pray in the traditional way. It is always there.” Nella Ben, Apache
“The Gathering gave me a new hope and vision that there actually could be a world full of love, a world where we love our brothers and sisters and live in peace regardless of race or creed or what kind of life you are.” Carol Potter, Brookfield, Wisconsin
“The elders are being held back by politics. We can be uplifted through the spiritual accord with unity. We use nature to pray. Capitalism is doing much damage in the United States.” Monte Yellowhorse, Navajo
“I learned how the wisdom shared by the elders has a parallel in both modern scientific knowledge and in the essential teachings of the major world religions. Being from Irish and Croatian background, I felt totally accepted…” Pat Verge, Alberta, Canada
“We feel that the Native American has the better way, and always has. These Gatherings help to keep it in the forefront. Their impact is very spiritual and balanced, for all of us.” Mr. And Mrs. Dennis Meahan, Sedona, Arizona
“This is good. We must listen to the elders, it is the only way. It is hard, but we can pray together even though we are different tribes. The Elders in Canada have told me we are coming back together…” Leroy Ben, Navajo
My wife and I are leaving Monday to go to our annual get together. It is known as the Gathering of Eagles. It is based on Native American Spirituality, but is open to all people and all races. Read about it's history and purpose below the fold.
I came to South Dakota from Austin, TX to attend the Gathering of Eagles in 1996. I met my wife there. We were married at the Gathering in 1998. So you can imagine how special it is to us. Normally the Gathering is held in the Black Hills. However, this year we are holding it in New Mexico on the Navajo Reservation. The Gatherings have from 300-500 people. We camp out for a week, build an arbor, and keep a sacred fire going in the center. I have the honor of being one of the head fire keepers. Although the protocols are centered around Traditional Native Spirituality, we include everything. We have had people from Lithuania, Tibet, Wales, Aztec dancers from Mexico, Bahai, Buddhist, you name it. Here is the blurb that we sent out some weeks ago:
If you haven't heard already, the Spiritual Unity of Tribes-Gathering of Eagles will not be held in the Black Hills this year (2006). Instead a Gathering will be held on Grandmother Helen's land a few miles from the sacred Chuska Mountain in the Mexican Springs area north of Gallup, New Mexico. Grandmother Helen Tahe was a guiding light and inspiration at our Gatherings in the Black Hills. She traveled north to be with us, even when her health started to fail. She knew and loved us all as "her children." She was also very active politically and socially within her own Dine' community. Grandmother Helen was well-known and respected within the Navajo Nation. She crossed into the Spirit World on November 1, 2002. It has been a dream of her family to honor her by holding a Gathering on her ancestral land. This year that dream will be realized. The dates are June 22 to 25, and we are welcome to stay overnight to Monday the 26th. Those who can arrive early to help get things ready are also welcome.
Women - note that the grandmothers are running things. They are from several races and nations. We even have some grandmothers here from Australia. Down under they are known as "aunties." Wish you all could be there with us. We will make prayers for each and every one of you around the sacred fire. This solstice do your own ceremony, even if you live in the city. Go outside and look up at the stars and the moon. Know that your ancestors are looking back at you. Also know that everyone's ancestors lived tribally, including the Caucasians.
So Spiritual Unity of Tribes really does include the entire human race. We are all related. Joanne Shenandoah, a wonderful traditional native singer from the Six Nations tribes in upstate New York has said for years that if you want to stop the wars and killings, put the grandmothers in charge. Peace – DCU