grandmothers pray for the world
POJOAQUE PUEBLO, N.M. - The International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers gathered for prayers at sacred Pueblo sites and sent a message to the world to protect Mother Earth and honor the sacred ways for peace.
Agnes Baker-Pilgrim, 80, is the oldest living female of the Takelma, who lived in the valley of the Rogue River in Oregon for 20,000 years. Baker-Pilgrim joined indigenous grandmothers from Africa, Mexico, the jungles of Brazil and the mountains of Tibet and Nepal.
Together with Lakota, Arapahoe, Cheyenne, Hopi and Yupik, the grandmothers sent a message to the world.
''The grandmothers of the world want to go forward and not only talk to the women of the world, but the president of the United States and the world leaders. We want them to hear our voice,'' said Baker-Pilgrim, speaking for the council.
''There has got to be a better way of taking care of our Mother Earth,'' Baker-Pilgrim told Indian Country Today.
The grandmothers, she said, are sending a message that there must be better medicine and a new awareness of the pollution around us.
Baker-Pilgrim said she has traveled to many parts of the world and found the water polluted. Never in her 80 years did she foresee a time when she would need to buy bottled water because the rivers and streams are too polluted to drink. Mercury is building in the rivers and smog is clogging the air of our cities, she said.
''We need to enlighten people and tell the world leaders there has to be a better way. If we allow the animal kingdom to disappear, at the rapid rate it is disappearing, then we are killing ourselves faster than we think.
''We are the natural nurturers of the Earth Mother. The Earth Mother needs our help, she needs our prayers. We need to educate the women of the world that prayer works.
''We want to preserve the beauty we walk in for the seventh generation, for the unborn to be able to walk in beauty and have clean air and good water.
''Now the government wants our reservation land, our First Nations land, for garbage dumps. Years ago, smallpox blankets were given to my people to kill them off. Now they are sending garbage and toxic waste to be dumped on our reservations.
''The biggest disgrace in the history of America is the treatment of the First Nations people, but the genocide is still going on,'' said Baker-Pilgrim, who is a Confederated Tribes of Siletz elder and granddaughter of Chief George Harney.
Mona Polacca, Hopi/Tewa/ Havasupai, is working on her doctoral degree in Justice Studies at Arizona State University and has directed her efforts toward alcoholism, domestic violence and mental health for Native people.
Polacca said the primary purpose of the gathering in the northern pueblos of Nambe and Pojoaque was prayer.
''Many of the grandmothers are practitioners of their earth-based medicines, keepers of [the] medicines of their people.
''Many are involved with struggles involving multi-national corporations coming into their homelands to take their natural resources; they oppress them for the practice of their religious indigenous ways. We are able to support one another through prayers and our ceremonies,'' Polacca told ICT.
After saying prayers at the Nambe River waterfall, Polacca said, ''This is a prayer from the grandmothers of the world, from the four directions of the world. We are not leaving anyone out. We are praying for our existence and our generation. Everyone, no matter what color our skin is, is part of this prayer.
''We all have sacred places within ourselves and wherever we might be.''
The grandmothers from Tibet, Africa and Nepal traveled in New Mexico with translators. Polacca shared the message of Tibet grandmother Tsering Dolma Gyalthong, living in exile in Toronto, Canada.
''She is praying for freedom, that her people may reclaim their country and the Dalai Lama will be able to return home. That is our prayer with her.''
The 13 grandmothers wore bracelets bearing the words of a prayer for freedom for the people of Tibet.
The grandmothers, including Margaret Behan, Cheyenne-Arapaho and fifth-generation descendant of the Sand Creek Massacre, met for the first time in October 2004 in Phoenicia, N.Y. Sponsored by the Center for Sacred Studies, the purpose was to preserve the traditional medicines and sacred ways while praying for world peace.
''This event brought together indigenous grandmothers, who are the guardians of the traditional healing and medicine ways of their peoples, with women wisdomkeepers of Western culture,'' said Donna House, Navajo.
House said as a result of the Global Women's Gathering, the indigenous grandmothers formed ''an international alliance unlike [any] the world has ever seen, with the intention that this visible form may inspire others to pray and act for unity and peace on Earth.''
Ambassador Carole Mosley Braun, Gloria Steinem, Alice Walker and Wilma Mankiller, former principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, attended.
Earlier, in Gabon, Bwiti elder Bernadette Rebienot had a vision of the grandmother's council. In Gabon, women gather in the forest to share their visions, pray for world peace and then share their voice with their president.
In New York, grandmother Rita Pitka Bleumenstein, Yupik, cried as she shared a vision she had when she was nine years old. In the vision, she realized that she must pass down the traditions and teach the young people to save the earth.
Flordemayo, Mayan curandero (healer) from Nicaragua, now living in New Mexico, was among the grandmothers.
In New Mexico, on the rainbow trail, House likes to remember a Navajo song.
''Walk on a rainbow trail, walk on a trail of song, and all about you will be beauty. There is a way out of every dark mist, over a rainbow trail.''