Gathering Story

The very first glimmerings of the Gatherings started as far back as 1959, when a gentleman named Angus Cowan spoke with Grandfather James Ironeagle and Walter Gorden, a Councilman and the Chief of the Pasqua Reserve, in Alberta Canada, who shared with Angus about the conditions on their Reserve. These two tribal leaders were sad and depressed as they told Angus that they wanted a better life for their children and youth. Angus shared a prayer with James and Walter, as they stood on the shores of Pasqua Lake, near the village cemetery, “Let the religions agree and make the nations one, so that they may see each other as one family and the whole earth as one home.”

By the mid-1960s, Jim Walton and Harvey Ironeagle were part of the group, together with Harvey’s parents, Grandmother Veronique and James, to start the first Council Fire on the Pasqua Reserve, with others to follow in Haines, Alaska and Yakima, Washington, and at the Baha’i Temple of the West in Willamette, Illinois. This Gathering was named “The Unity Drum Calls.” The Native elders, Harvey Ironeagle, together with his parents, Grandmother Veronique and James, plus Jim Walton and Angus Cowan headed up these Gatherings to discuss unity and what could be done to give a better life for the children. They had been started through the prayers and encouragement of the Baha’i Faith, however with the teaching of no proselytizing, it was important these Gatherings proceed as non-denominational, combating the seven prejudices plaguing mankind, to name a few: racial prejudices, religious prejudices, educational prejudices, and so on. Grandmother Veronique Ironeagle had been given a vision of the Gatherings, and encouraged her husband and son to speak for her to promote the unity so needed in this world.

The third Continental Indigenous Council took place near Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada on the Blood Reserve in August of 1982. In December 1982 the Elders held a Unity Gathering on the Pasqua Reserve.

In 1988, Jim Walton, a Tlingit elder, consulted with the Saulteaux/Cree First Nations Elders on the Pasqua Reserve in Saskatchewan, Canada, including the family of James Ironeagle and his son, Harvey Ironeagle. He spoke with them regarding the many prophecies of the indigenous people and the time of their fulfillment. Harvey’s grandfather was Chief Strong Eagle. it was Harvey’s mother, Grandmother Veronique Ironeagle who was the first to recognize that the time had come. She was the initiator of the Spiritual Unity of the Tribes Gatherings.

It was first believed that only the Medicine People and the Elders would gather together to consult, and then teach and lead others. But Grandmother Ironeagle and the other Elders consulted on the Pasqua Reserve in 1988 were filled with urgency. They felt there wasn’t much time remaining, that there had to be Gatherings now. Understanding must be given to all mankind, and as many as possible must be included. The Elders said things must be done “in a good way” so that the prophecies could be fulfilled as they had been revealed.

By 1988, the movement was well underway, and Jim Walton brought the message of unity to the Continental Indigenous Council hosted by the Baha’is of the United States on the Standing Rock Reservation near Mobridge, South Dakota on the Missouri River. At that time, Ben and Juanita Rhodd became involved as coordinators in the Lower 48 States through the encouragement of Jim Walton. In 1989 and 1990 the Ironeagle family on the Pasqua Reserve promoted and held the first two Spiritual Unity Gatherings on their Reserve on the shores of the very lake where the Unity Prayer had been said back in 1959 by Angus Cowan.

Ernest and Connie Mirabal became involved and hosted the third S.U.T. Gathering at Nambe Falls Pueblo, New Mexico in 1991. Ben and Juanita Rhodd hosted the fourth Gathering in the Black Hills in 1992, as the number four is sacred to the Lakota and other tribes of the Northern Plains. Benno Cleveland became the coordinator of the Gatherings in Alaska, also because of the encouragement from Jim Walton. The fifth Gathering was held in Tannacross, Alaska later in the summer of 1992.

Back in the 1960s, Jim Walton had read the book, Black Elk Speaks. When the Gatherings came to South Dakota, the story of Black Elk was shared more deeply.

“I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy.”

– From Black Elk Speaks as told to John Neihardt

Jim Walton had been encouraged to visit the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in 1988 to meet the Black Elk family, as he was very intent to discover if the story told by the Elder was true. He traveled to the Pine Ridge following the 1988 Continental Indigenous Council, and met with Henry Black Elk, Nicholas Black Elk’s grandson, who did confirm Black Elk’s vision as stated.

For detailed information on Jim Walton, the messenger of the Spiritual Unity of the Tribes Gatherings, click on this link.

Others became involved in hosting and promoting the Gatherings such as Don O’Connor and Sue Ewart in Australia, following the first Alaska Gathering, who took the message “Down Under” in 1999. When they were sadly killed in an untimely car accident in 2016, their dear friends, John and Judi Palmer kept things going. In 2000 Clay and Mary Ellen Uptain took the reins in the Lower 48, with help from Richard Weathers, who began helping with the Gatherings as a young man in Alaska. Ben Rhodd became more involved in his work as a Native American archaeologist and anthropologist on the Northern Plains, and Board Member of the World Archaeological Congress. Benno Cleveland has continued as coordinator of the Alaska, Canada, and Siberia Gatherings.

Over the years many people have attended and supported the Spiritual Unity of Tribes Gatherings. Now more than ever the world cries out for Spiritual Unity of all peoples and all nations. We are so very grateful for all our relations that have been a part of these S.U.T. Gatherings. We invite you to join us as together we pray for and call forth the mending of the Sacred Hoop.


1989 & 1990

Saskatchewan, Canada

The guidance of the Elders was followed and the first Spiritual Unity of the Tribes Gathering was held on the Pasqua Reserve in Saskatchewan, Canada in 1989. The second Gathering was also held on the Pasqua Reserve in Saskatchewan in 1990.


Nambe Pueblo, New Mexico

In 1991, Grandfather Ernest Mirabal and his wife Connie Mirabal of Nambe Pueblo in New Mexico hosted the third Gathering. This was the first Spiritual Unity Gathering held in the United States.


Black Hills, South Dakota

The fourth Gathering was held in the Heart of Turtle Island, the Black Hills, in 1992. The Spiritual Unity Gatherings in the Black Hills are called the “Gathering of Eagles.” A Dakota Elder told his people of this Gathering more than thirty years earlier.

August 1992

Tanacross, Alaska

Spiritual Unity of the Tribes V was held in Tanacross, Alaska, August 4-10, 1992, with the theme of “Honoring the Grandmothers”. The grandmothers are the image of Mother Earth, giving life and strength. There are many prophesies regarding the importance of the grandmothers, including the teaching “There won’t be peace on earth until the voices of the grandmothers are heard.” The Tanacross gathering was blessed with the attendance of Elder and Medicine Man Yellow Horse, along with many local Athabaskan elders and leaders.

June 1993

Mexican Springs, New Mexico

Spiritual Unity of the Tribes VI was held in Mexican Springs, New Mexico, June 21-27, 1993. Representatives of the Six Nations responded to the invitation to come to Gathering VI and accepted the bundle that invited the Six Nations to host Gathering VIII in 1994


Yakutsk, Sakha Republic, Russia

In 1994, at the age of 72, Jim Walton went alone, and not speaking the Russian language, to Yakutsk, Sakha Republic, Russia, to help establish alcohol-recovery programs. As a result of his work, the republic held several Healthy Lifestyle Summits; the Tundra Women’s Center in Cherski, Sakha Republic, was founded (the first domestic-violence center in the Republic); and hundreds of cultural and health care exchanges occurred between indigenous people of the Sakha Republic and Alaska. Members of the Spiritual Unity of Tribes Steering Committee have traveled to Yakutsk, Siberia to coordinate a 1994 Gathering there with the Sakha people. The Siberians had been previously invited to attend Gathering VII in Tanacross.


Washington State

In 1994 a Gathering was sponsored by the Lummi Tribe in Washington State, coordinated in part by Roberta Charles.

1992,1995 through 2000

Black Hills of South Dakota

The Gathering of Eagles was held in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the traditional territory of the Lakota Nation in 1992, and 1995 through 2000. In 1995 through 1997 the Gatherings were hosted by Vernon and Emalee Schmidt, near Custer, South Dakota. In 1998 through 2000 the Gatherings were held at Borderlands Retreat Center, on the Pesla, the Heart of the Heart of Turtle Island. Ben Rhodd was instrumental in bringing the Spiritual Unity Gathering to the Black Hills in 1992 and has continued his involvement throughout the period.


Navajo Nation near Gallup, New Mexico

The 2001 All Nations Healing of the Twelve Feather Gathering was hosted by the Bear Clan Family of the Navajo Nation near Gallup, New Mexico. 

2002 to 2005

Canyon Calm, near Custer, South Dakota

The Gatherings returned to the Black Hills for 2002 through 2005. They were held at Canyon Calm, near Custer, South Dakota, and hosted by Garry and Mary Kate Stanker.

2006 & 2007

Chuska Mountain, near Gallup, New Mexico

Hosted by Grandmother Helen Tahe’s daughters in her memory. Grandmother Helen was the guiding light and inspiration for the Gathering of Eagles for many years. She always wanted to host a Gathering there on her Dine family’s ancestral land.


Bear Butte, South Dakota


In 2008 and 2009 the Gathering of Eagles was again held in the Black Hills. The location was the Free Spirit Campground at the base of Bear Butte. The Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and other tribes have conducted ceremony at Bear Butte for hundreds of years. Archeologists have found evidence of human activity at Bear Butte up to 6,000 years ago. For more information,
see the book, Lakota Star Knowledge.


Nambe Pueblo, New Mexico

In 2011, Grandfather Ernest Mirabal and Grandmother Connie Mirabal brought the S.U.T. Gathering back to Nambe Pueblo, New Mexico, for a second time. People from Australia, New Zealand, Siberia, Scotland, Germany, and elsewhere atended this Gathering.

1999 – present


Since 1999  S.U.T. Gatherings were held in Australia, and have continued annually.

Learn more

June 2016

Black Hills of South Dakota

In 2016, the S.U.T. Gathering of Eagles returned to the Black Hills of South Dakota. It was held at Borderlands Retreat Center, which was the fourth Gathering at that location. People from Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Australia, Germany, Scotland, Argentina and many other places attended.