eNewsletter from Wisdom of the Elders
September 2018



Wisdom Workforce Development Internships for Native Adults and Youth Starting Soon

Our Wisdom Workforce Development internship starts again soon. We are recruiting Native American/Alaskan Native/Hawaiian/Pacific Islander adults for paid internships in environmental assessment and habitat restoration. This is a paid internship opportunity. For 13 weeks, the team will complete one day of classroom education a week plus two days a week of service learning activities.


This is our sixth training for Native adults and it has been supported by an amazing group of collaborative partners who have provided our workforce team with diverse service learning experiences in local natural areas. The work is rigorous and conducted in sometimes inclement cold and rainy and windy weather. In the summer, it can be very hot and humid. However, it can also create a career pathway to a conservation field as part of Wisdom Workforce Development LLC, Wisdom’s social venture or as an employee or intern with one of Wisdom’s environmental partners.


cropped_Alvey-Karrie-Doug-Carlos-willow-staking-compressed 2Whether you are enrolled with a federally recognized tribe or self-identified as Native American, we will welcome your application. The application form is at our website at www.wisdomoftheelders.org or feel free to call Wisdom’s office at 503-775-4014 for an interview.

We are also encouraging Native American/Alaskan Native/Hawaiian/Pacific Islander youth (ages 18-25) to apply for a paid internship in workforce readiness for green jobs this fall. They have an opportunity during October to be part of a team of youth of color completing classroom education and service learning in the Portland area. Topics will include: environmental education, park and open space maintenance, green building and deconstruction, horticulture and urban forestry, waste management and trucking. More information and a link to the online application is available shortly, So watch our website at  www.wisdomoftheelders.org.


Wisdom Workforce Development LLC partnering with Portland Bureau of Environmental Services:

Wisdom’s social venture, Wisdom Workforce Development LLC reached agreement and developed a new contract with Portland Bureau of Environmental Services this summer. We finalized the new contract in June and have been working in local park and natural areas with BES staff. Work has included manual invasive species removal, seed collection and cleaning of Native species, and planting. Special kudos to our team which is led by Alvey Seeyouma (Hopi) and includes Autumn (Blackfoot), David Eys (Blackfoot) and Bruce Amick (Blackfoot).


We have been conducting habitat restoration work on public lands for the past several years, first working with Metro collecting seeds at Quamash Prairie and other sites and then cleaning and processing the seeds at Metro’s Native Plant Center. Wisdom’s LLC has fulfilled contracts this year with Metro, Friends of Trees, Friends of Trees, West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District and other partners in Lents Urban Renewal Area and other parts of the Portland metropolitan area. Special thanks to our partners!


Wisdom is Funded by National Endowment for the Arts:

Wisdom was honored to receive two grants from National Endowment for the Arts this spring. Both grants feature recording and sharing the cultural arts of Oregon tribes and responses to the changing environment. We have relied upon funding from NEA since 2002 when we received our first grant for production of Wisdom of the Elders Radio Program.


We have already filmed tribal elders, indigenous scientists and cultural leaders from five tribes and this new funding will help us complete filming of up to four remaining tribes. These two grants fund work from June 2018 through May 2019. Wisdom’s media  team includes Co-Director Tim Burgess (Paiute, Shoshone), Co-Producer Kunu Bearchum (Northern Cheyenne, Hochunk), Co-Producer/Co-Director Larry Johnson (with Lawrence Johnson Productions) and Rose High Bear (Deg Hit’an Dine, Inupiat) who continues to serve as Executive Producer. We also received valuable assistance from two Media Interns from Reed College this summer, Karina Ceron and Andrea Deniz.


One grant from NEA-Media provides funding for our media team to complete two full-length documentaries of Oregon tribes for the Native Wisdom Documentary Film Series. We have already completed short docs and this funding allows us to produce 54:30-minute productions. We are planning a series of Film Screenings and Community Consultations in Oregon plus the films will be entered into native, environmental and educational film festivals around the country. We are grateful for matching funds from National Endowment for the Humanities, James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, Running Strong for American Indian Youth, and Oregon Arts Commission.


The second grant from NEA-Folk and Traditional Arts will fund Wisdom to video gifted cultural leaders of Oregon tribes regarding their cultural arts and how they are dependent upon Native plant species in the natural world. When recordings are completed, some will be selected for inclusion in the Native Wisdom Documentary Film series. We will also hold a second First Foods Symposium and Storytelling Gathering where film clips will be shown and First Foods specialists will present. This public event is currently being planned for April 2019. We will update you on the plans for these projects in the upcoming newsletters and at our website

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Opening of Dairy Creek Channel on Sauvie Island Begins:

Wisdom’s Simone Florendo (Wasco/Eastern Cherokee) sang the River Song (Wasco) and an honor song (Cathedral Lakes) at the West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District groundbreaking ceremony at Sauvie Island this summer when the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce celebrated the opening of the Dairy Creek channel connecting the Columbia River to upper Sturgeon Lake. Wisdom’s Interim Executive Director Teresa Montana, Multimedia Coordinator Tim Burgess and Kunu Bearchum also attended to support and document the event.

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The site is located off Reeder Road (at mile post 7) on Sauvie Island. Their project completes restoration design to restore the hydrologic connection of the Columbia River to upper Sturgeon Lake so as to prevent further loss of wetland habitats in Sturgeon Lake important to both migratory juvenile Chinook Salmon and the plethora of waterfowl and other wildlife that use the lake. A combination of river flow regulation and human manipulation of natural levee formations had resulted in disconnection of the Sturgeon Lake floodplain from the Columbia River. It was suggested at the event that the bridge onto Sauvie Island receive an Indian name, possibly Wapato Bridge. Wapato is a traditional First Food root species consumed by tribes along the Columbia River.




Honoring Peta Mni

Wisdom was shocked to hear the recent news of the passing of Peta Mni, Wisdom’s past Multimedia and Communications Coordinator. Rose posted a message on his FB page over the holiday weekend and is sharing excerpts here for those of you who remember him and loved him. Thank you for remembering him in your prayers.


“It has been a month since his passing, but it was just confirmed last night at this FB site. I had heard mention after getting back home, but I was in disbelief. I had been away at Hanbleceya vision quest camp and then headed off to another Sun Dance within a few days. After resting up this past week, I started to search for an announcement hoping not to find it. I’m so sorry to have just found it. I’d like to remember my friend and relative, Peta.


I remember the first time we met outside of a deli on SE Division Street in Portland. I had met with him to interview him for our Multimedia and Communications Coordinator position at our Native American nonprofit, Wisdom of the Elders, Inc.  I don’t believe we ever started the interview. We spoke of things we shared in common, of Sun Dance and Hanbleceya and about Wisdom’s Founder, the late Martin High Bear, Peta’s work in Hawaii and my past two decades recording and preserving the voices of Native elders. I still remember the moment his eyes teared up revealing a tender heart filled with empathy and compassion. It confirmed to me that he would be perfect on our team.


Peta and I grew close working together at Wisdom. I believe it was in 2009. We continued to work together until he moved to NYC. He helped us video record Native elders and storytellers for our Discovering Our Story series and he trained Native youth in film production. It was not easy because community turmoil would sometimes interrupt our work. But we kept our focus on our work and felt blessed for the opportunity to meet and preserve the messages of the Native elders we recorded. They all suffered from historical trauma and as they shared their stories in front of the camera that Peta ran, they would tell how they had risen above their suffering to become a community leader. This made it possible for us to share their beauty in our health and wellness curriculum and at our website.


I think it was 2012 when he moved to NYC. We were completing our Discovering Our Story series with its focus on the Hero’s Journey of Transformation. Peta was finalizing post production of 36 video recordings and we were adding lesson plans to share with Native elders and others from the Portland area and beyond. He had to go back to NYC he said he had to clear up some old trauma in order to fulfill his twelfth step from orphan to the hero within. He had been completing his own hero’s journey steps and said this was why he had to go back. For most of us, this is a 5-step journey, but for Peta, there were seventeen steps.

Peta had a Lakota spirit name which means Fire and Water. He felt comfortable and a sense of belonging in our Native American community. The true meaning of his name which was gifted to him by the Spirit World is meaningful and deep. He walked a spiritual path and we felt good relating with him as friend and relative. Like all of you who have said these kind and loving words this past month to honor and acknowledge him, I’m also sad and grieving his loss.


Many of us believe that when we cross over, the Spirit World gives us a year to look back at all the events and people in our lives.  And then when our spirit is released, we travel home to the Spirit World where we find happiness and fulfillment and healing among our ancestors and family in the Spirit World. I’m sure he is already busy during his year, looking back at all the events and loves of his life, finding the meaning and the richness in his relationships and experiences. With the support of our prayers and love for him, I’m sure he will find what he was always searching for.


I love you, Peta, and will always remember you. And someday, when I journey home, I will see you again and we can continue our hero’s journey of transformation together.”


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