Teaching Respect

Dark Rain Thom Ohio StorytellerMy people were from Southern Ohio for the last several hundred years. I can remember being 8 or 9 years old and walking on the property that we now own and my father was explaining to me this little trail that we were following is not just an animal trail or a hunters trail, but it’s part of the old warrior’s path that has been here, we know, for over 400 years and it has always been in family hands. That’s part of what became US 23, south through Chillicothe. I still have property where my ancestors are buried.

I had a Grandmother who was Wyandot and was an herbal healer. Her Great Great Grandmother is buried in one of the mounds down there.

Traditional teachers, I had my Grandmother. Every time she would see me, she would call my name and say, “Come with me and go take a walk. I have to show you this.” She would show me either something she had brought out of the woods to have in her garden, which was a medicine plant, or she would take me into the woods and show me the herbs, and the trees and the plants and tell me how she used them.

On my Mother’s side of the family, her father was a Cherokee. My oldest Aunt married a Cherokee medicine man. He was quite elderly when they married but I was privileged to be taught by him for several years. So, I have mixed blood. If you’re looking at me, I have blue eyes from an Irishman back in the 1730s. I have absolutely no qualms about who I am or where I stack up in the stratosphere of tribal people because I know the culture I was taught. I know the religion I was taught. I know the traditions I was taught and I have always known who I am. My Great Grandmother as well as my grandmother and my Father always made sure that I knew who I was and who I came from. So, I have lots of teachings that I learned from all of them.

Dark Rain Thom and FamilyMy father was the one who was actually my spiritual teacher. We lived in a town about 90 miles away from my Grandmother, so we were down there two or three days a week because my Father supported them, and helped garden. He was my spiritual teacher; he taught me my place in the universe. We not only need to know who we are, but we need to understand our place in the universe. He’s the one that helped me to understand my connection with what the other people would call nature, the other nations of creation.

We have such a long history and such a broad spread out history. We lived among the Creek nation. Three of the Creek were a confederacy. They had eight different groups, if I’m correct, to their confederacy. Three of those were Shawnee groups. Washington wanted a history of some of the people because the Shawnees were everywhere, he wanted to know our history.

It was said that at the time of Columbus our relationship to the Creek nation, C R E E K, was very old, but our relationship to the Uchee was Ancient. The Uchee were almost annihilated by the Creek in war and they finally were absorbed into the Creek nation. In the 1970s there were only 50 Uchee, true Uchee left. I don’t know what their current system is, but those were people. When I use the 500 years of oral tradition, I would have to go back to these other related tribes. I would not put in these oral traditions unless I could find a validating oral tradition in one of these tribes back before Columbus that we were related to or interacted with or lived among.

The Koonas, who now live on San Blaz Island off of Panama, at one time lived in Mexico and in the Yucatan. They helped build boats for the migration of about 30,000 people. We have a tradition that we migrated out of there and part of us went around the landmass and part of us went across the Caribbean in boats. These people who lived there, because we were from the center of the land, helped us build the boats. So I felt better about putting in the oral tradition that we migrated across that Caribbean or around the arm. The reason we split is we knew that we were not sailors. We heard of the storms across that big Caribbean. What if we all drowned? Well, if we all went around the landmass, there were Cannibals along the way. What if we were all captured and all eaten? So we doubled our chances and split our people. We have a tradition of when we met and where we met.

We do have a rich history, we know who we are, we know where we come from, we know where we were, and we know where our ancestors are.

There is such richness of story and conflict, and loss, and good things. My western friends will never know about my people, or other Algonquians, or the Iroquois nation who have tried to find every way they could think of to make things work between the different cultures and to find ways of peace amongst us.

We all feel that we were given a spiritual responsibility for this earth. Even though we don’t live on the same parcel of land that our ancestors did, none of us have ever been told by the Creator that we are free of that obligation. We are still responsible for protecting and preserving the earth. When you see a lot of Native Americans on both sides of that Mississippi River, fighting for environmental causes, or logging and things of this sort, it’s because they are filling their spiritual responsibility. We’re few in number now because we’ve been so decimated with diseases and intermarrying and loss of culture because of these other things, but we can still teach. We can still teach the dominant culture to respect what they have, what we all share.

And so again, this Lewis and Clark Expedition and commemorating its 200th anniversary, after 200 years the scars have healed enough that we can talk. We can listen without either side being on the defensive now. The tribal people still have things they taught Lewis and Clark that this generation needs to be taught. We have things we never had a chance to teach and share and now we have a chance. We’re getting to talk to the elders and the language preservation programs, the cultural and religious preservation that is coming out of this. This is all retooling the Indian people to continue their spiritual responsibility. If we aren’t people enough to do it physically, we still have the moral obligation to do it by teaching it to those who can and so we do. Teaching respect for all of our relationships is built on this respect.

Dark Rain Thom

Dark Rain Thom speakingShawnee and Algonquin elder, Dark Rain Thom, is a traditional elder and tribal historian. Scientists, linguists, anthropologists, historians, and archeologists agree that the Savannah Indians and the Shawnee are the same people and are now the modern-day descendants of the Fort Ancient Mound People. Shawnee means “People of the South Winds.” Dark Rain’s father was part Shawnee and part Wyandot and several other tribes, while her mother’s people were Cherokee from Alabama. Shawnee ancestors traveled the land east of the Mississippi. Most Eastern Tribes were removed West between the years 1830-1842. The Shawnee has many branches. Today, three are federally recognized and five are not. Dark Rain’s branch was granted recognition in 1980, but after 17 years the State of Ohio has currently decided not to acknowledge this recognition. The tribe’s headquarters and ceremonial grounds are in Champaign County while their business for tourists is in Logan County. She lives with her husband, James, near Bloomington, Indiana, and has served on the Shawnee tribal council for over 30 years.

Dark Rain shares with diverse audiences the history and oral tradition of her people, place of origin, and migration stories, as well as medicines, food, lifeways which includes traditional etiquette for young people, and spiritual values. She tells stories of going hunting with her great uncle and how she was tested for her hunting skills, even though she was a girl.

Dark Rain strives to serve as a bridge between two cultures that share this land. She knows songs and dances that have been passed down from tribal family to tribal family. She is one of the teachers of the young warriors in training, works with young girls, teaches medicinal herbs, and traditional healing. She also tells the history and traditional uses of cultural artifacts and heirlooms that have been passed down for generations in her family. One item, in particular, is an octopus bag, which is one of the oldest known pieces of Shawnee beadwork in America today.

One of her stories is on Wisdom of the Elders Radio at www.wisdomoftheelders.org

Dark Rain Thom
6276 West Stogsdill Road
Bloomington, IN 47404
812 876-2424

2024 Spring ITEK Internship Graduation Celebration

Date: Friday, June 14, 2024
Time: 1 PM – 4 PM (PDT)
Location: Great Spirit United Methodist Church, 3917-3927 NE Shaver St, Portland, OR 97212, USA

We celebrate the remarkable achievements of our Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (ITEK) internship graduates. These dedicated individuals have contributed significantly to our mission and have taken diverse paths toward success. Many have joined our Wisdom Workforce Development, LLC Crew, while others have secured positions with our esteemed partners or are furthering their education to expand their opportunities in this vital field.

To our graduates, we extend our heartfelt gratitude for walking with us in this important work. We wish you all continued success in your future endeavors!

Wisdom of the Elders, Inc 2024 Horizontal

Press Release: Update: Kevin Coochwytewa Creates Wisdom’s New Logo

Exciting News! Wisdom of the Elders Unveils Fresh Look with New Logo and Re-brand!

We are eager to finally be able to share with you all our new logo for Wisdom of the Elders!

This new logo reflects our organization’s re-commitment to preserving and sharing the oral histories, cultural arts, language concepts, and traditional knowledge of Indigenous elders, storytellers, and scientists. Join us in celebrating this rebranding milestone as we continue our journey in collaboration with diverse institutions, agencies, and organizations.

While our appearance may evolve over the years, our dedication to Native American cultural sustainability, multimedia education, and cultural reconciliation remains unwavering.

A HUGE thank you to our logo designer, Kevin Coochwytewa (@lightning.kev) (Isleta Pueblo/Hopi), lightningkev.com a visionary artist with a deep reverence for tradition and an innovative spirit. Kevin brings a unique blend of heritage and contemporary flair to his work, and his profound respect for the wisdom passed down by our elders promises to infuse our organization’s identity with renewed vitality and resonance.

Together, we strive for a brighter, more inclusive future for all. ✊🏻✊🏼✊🏽✊🏾✊🏿

Celebrating the Graduates of the 2024 Spring Multimedia Paid Internship Program This June

The Wisdom of the Elders multimedia department has an increadable relaunch of its renowned internship program for 2024. In collaboration with Open Signal, a leading organization in media empowerment, this program offers aspiring Indigenous/BIPOC multimedia professionals a hands-on experience in a dynamic environment.

In late March, a fresh wave of interns lead by KJ Moore (Multimedia Producer) swept into Open Signal, eager to dive into the world of multimedia production. With classes in Studio Production, Cinematography, and hands-on camera training, they eagerly got their hands on the equipment and started to produce amazing content. This cohort, characterized by their quick learning and undeniable enthusiasm, wasted no time in putting their skills to the test.

Venturing beyond the studio walls, they took to the streets, documenting the pulse of the surrounding community and capturing events for Wisdom of the Elders. One recent highlight was the filming of Jeri Moomaw’s presentation—a poignant moment that showcased their dedication to storytelling.

Now, their sights are set on a sacred journey to Tsagalalal (She-Who-Watches), a revered petroglyph in the Columbia Gorge. This excursion promises not only breathtaking scenery but also a chance to honor the land and its history through their lenses—an opportunity embraced by both interns and the Indigenous community alike.

As they gear up for their final projects, slated for presentation in June, the interns are preparing to leave their mark on the multimedia landscape. From film festivals to documentary series, their work will not only showcase their talents but also amplify the voices of the communities they serve.

In the end, this internship is more than just a stepping stone—it’s a chance to make meaningful connections, hone their craft, and tell stories that resonate far beyond the confines of a screen.

Stay tune for more information about the 2024 Spring Internship Graduation in June

A special Thank you to KJ Moore, Tim Keenan Burgess and Open Signal

Community Spotlight: Meet Ayla Hubert: Wisdom LLC, Field Crew Tech

Hi, my name is, Ayla Hubert.

I am a Land Stewardist working with the Forest Park Conservancy (FPC). I believe FPC helps make the environment a better place for humanity. I love working at FPC because it’s outdoors and helps restore the earth to its natural beauty. I enjoy pulling ivy and grubbing blackberry roots. Doing this land work for a greater cause is bigger than me, and it’s a freeing experience for my soul, allowing me to discover who I can become while supporting the earth’s beauty alongside humanity to help the state of Oregon.

I started out with Wisdom when I first returned to Portland, coming out of some difficult times. I began with an internship at Wisdom and, after completing it, moved on to an internship at FPC. Eventually, I was able to return to Wisdom to secure a full-time job working with the LLC Crew.

I love working for Wisdom because I’ve learned a lot about invasive and non-native plants, as well as the first food plants I’ve worked around. Working with Wisdom has shown me the importance of saving and restoring the land to its natural beauty, and how other members of Wisdom have welcomed me. Working with Wisdom is truly a gift for my life experience.

No Dream Is To Small, Reach For The Stars.

New Staff:

We are thrilled to announce our organization’s growth and the expansion of opportunities we can offer to our community. As part of this exciting development, we are pleased to welcome and introduce two new staff members to our team at Wisdom of the Elders.



Hello relatives, my name is Davineekaht White Elk. I use any/all pronouns. On my father/grandfather’s side, I’m an enrolled member of the Siksika Nation in Alberta, Canada, from the Blackfoot Confederacy. On my father/grandmother’s side, I’m Bitterroot Salish from the Flathead Nation in western Montana. On my mother/grandmother’s side, I’m Northern Ute of the Uncompahgre band from Uintah and Ouray Reservation in Utah. On my Mother’s/grandfather’s side, I’m part of the Carrizo/Comecrudo tribe along the South Texas Rio Grande River. They are not a federally recognized tribe in the United States and are fighting for recognition. 

I was born and raised in Portland and grew up in the native community. Most of my Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (ITEK) came from teachings from my ceremonial community, learning from my family, elders, and community members. I have cultural art skills, including beading jewelry, sewing/ regalia, hide scraping, leather work, medicine bundles, and tea/slave making. I like to be creative and open to learning new skills. 

I attend Portland State University (PSU), and have earned a bachelor of science degree, double majoring in Indigenous Nations Studies and Environmental Science, and a certificate in Indigenous Traditional Ecology Cultural Knowledge (ITECK). I’m a part of UISHE, the United Indigenous Students in Higher Education at PSU, as their social media manager. I serve on the Portland Urban Forest Plan Community Advisory Committee and Metro Equity Advisory Committee. I have three years of experience in the environmental education field at the Oregon Zoo in 2017, I graduated from the Center for Diversity and Environment Leadership Program. I have seven years of experience working with the Portland Native American Community at the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA) in their Youth Education Services. I enjoy being outside with my partner and our little Chihuahua/Pomeranian dog, Sunny, and spending time with loved ones.            



Cheela dv-laa-ha~ Łax̣ayam shiksh!

Howdy, y’all! My name is Jae Viles-Erdelt. I use he/him pronouns. I am a descendant of the Joshua people of the Rogue River, the Sixes people of the Sixes River, and the Pillar Rock people of the Columbia River. I am an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of SIletz Indians, and the Chinook Indian Nation. 

I was born and raised in Eugene OR where I had the good fortune of being raised immersed in my Native cultures that are intrinsically tied to the wisdom that comes from the land. Gathering beargrass, spruce root, cedar bark, hazel, mussels, crab, fish, huckleberries, and camas has had a significant impact on my priorities and how I navigate the world. I have benefited immensely from these relationships and feel that it is my responsibility to enable the same relationships for other Native people. 

For the past three years, I have been lucky to find community in cultural fire. After participating in a few burns, and recognizing the importance of bringing good fire back to the landscape, I joined as a founding member of an all-Indigenous prescribed and cultural fire crew called the Wagon Burners. For the past three seasons, the Wagon Burners have burned more than two thousand acres of prairie oak savanna, and pine woodland in Oregon and Washington. We also had the honor of participating in the first re-entries of fire with the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, and the Chinook Indian Nation. 

It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life to be able to help my Chinook community bring good fire back to our homelands. Seeing the youth of our community carry the fire and knowing they will never know a time without good fire was incredibly impactful to me. For this reason I am so excited to be coming onto the Wisdom of the Elders team, and doing restoration work with the crew and eventually helping to build a fire program to help bring good fire to the Portland Metro area!

COR Tree Planting Project:

The restoration crew has been working through the downpours, and intense heat of the past month on a project they are very excited to share with you all! Between a railroad track and a waste management facility in North East Portland, the restoration crew planted over two hundred drought-resistant trees and shrubs. 

Oregon grape, madrone, ponderosa pine, cypress, and blue blossom are just a few of the species that they put in. Despite the rough conditions, the crew worked hard knowing that these plants would be vital to providing shade to this community!

Upcoming Projects, Events & Workshops:

Mark your calendars and prepare to embark on a journey of discovery with our upcoming events, projects and workshops. From thought-provoking discussions to hands-on activities, there’s something for everyone seeking to deepen their connection with wisdom and community.

Please take a moment to consider our Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (ITEK) and Multimedia paid internships that are offered in the Spring and Fall of each year. They are both listed below. If you or someone you know might be interested, give us a call or send an email and we can further discuss the details. 

We are also excited to let you know that we are in the process of digitizing all of our archived film footage. When this process is completed we will be able to deliver the material back to the families, people, and tribes from which they came. 

Fulfilling the promises made and giving these historical materials back is, and has been, my hope and personal commitment to our extended families and friends. Wisdom has ongoing partnerships with OPB and OpenSignal that will be instrumental in these projects. 

The Film festivals and screenings will be open to the public. We will keep you posted, so please keep watch for the announcements in the upcoming year.

Join Us:

We extend an open invitation to you, dear friends, to join us as we embrace the vibrant energy of spring together. Let us gather wisdom, foster connections, and kindle the flames of inspiration within our hearts.

In the renewal of spring’s vitality, let us find joy and strength, drawing upon the timeless wisdom from our community. Join Wisdom of the Elders on our journey.

All my best to our families and friends,


Exec. Dir.