News from Wisdom of the Elders

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Portland’s Native American community along with our colleagues, partners, funders and the general public are invited to a special celebration welcoming our new deputy director to Wisdom of the Elders, Inc. The celebration will be held on Monday, May 16 at 5:30 pm at Ecotrust’s Billy Frank Sr. Conference Center.

Wisdom enthusiastically welcomed Dorothy Aguilera-Black Bear, Ph.D. (Choctaw) to Wisdom in March. She and her husband Kashnapi (Lakota, enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe) and two boys Isaac and Nace Black Bear, (Lakota, enrolled in the Rosebud Sioux Tribe) travelled from Boulder, Colorado to their new home in SE Portland. Kashnapi is a talented flute maker and musician, bringing back the traditions of the Northern Style Cedar Flute to the Lakota people.

We will introduce Dorothy and her family to our community at this event. She holds a Ph.D. in Educational Foundations, Policy and Practice from University of Colorado at Boulder. For the past two decades, she has worked to improve education policy and practice through community-based research with school communities in urban and rural settings that serve tribal and urban Native populations throughout the country. As a Native woman who has lived in reservation communities and in mainstream communities, she is sensitive to issues pertaining to restoring and preserving our cultural practices especially languages and has published on topics related to Native students’ rights to their languages in schools, language policies, educational sovereignty and indigenous leadership.

Dorothy’s role at Wisdom is a result of generous capacity building grants from Meyer Memorial Trust and The Collins Foundation. These funders are supporting Wisdom’s Three Year Executive Transition Plan.  Wisdom’s board approved the Executive Transition Plan in 2015.

Dorothy is expected to assume the executive director role at Wisdom in 2017. Co-founder and current executive director Rose High Bear will continue to serve as executive producer of Wisdom’s documentary film series along with the culturally tailored multimedia curriculum, which is compatible with Native American learning styles that has been developed at Wisdom for the past decade.



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Friends, mark your calendars for Friday evening, June 10, 2016 so you can plan to join us at our annual “An Evening with Wisdom of the Elders.”  Carma Corcoran and Rose High Bear called on James Mason, Ph.D. Chief Diversity Officer and Director of Culturally Competent Caregiving at Providence Health and Services last week.  He let us know that Providence Health and Services will serve as Presenting Sponsor for “An Evening with Wisdom of the Elders” for the third year.

Wisdom’s fifth annual Native American cultural gathering includes music, dance plus our salmon dinner and silent auction. So watch for another update soon. We will be offering sponsorships, table sales and tickets shortly.

While Carma and Rose were meeting with Dr. Mason, he also agreed for Providence to sponsor Wisdom’s upcoming symposium “Native Storytelling is Healing” being planned for September 2016. This first of a kind event was requested by our partner National College of Natural Medicine and is being organized by Wisdom board member Maria Valdez who is also a Naturopathic Physician and Professor at NCNM.

Wisdom’s NISA Coordinator Nico Wind (Assiniboine and Ojibwe) is also consulting with Northwest Indian Storytellers Association Advisory Council members to plan the symposium. It will be held the month prior to our 11th Annual Northwest Indian Storytelling Gathering planned for Portland the weekend of October 7-9, 2016.



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Wisdom Workforce Development interns are inviting Native community members to a consultation on Wednesday, April 20 at Zenger Farm.

Wisdom’s first Wisdom Workforce Development Program launched in Portland in March with eight Native American adults on the first team of interns. The team is completing classroom training and service learning activities focused on environmental assessment and habitat restoration.

The interns have been working at Kelly Butte Natural Area identifying propagation sites for Erythronium oregonum, removing invasive species (English ivy), and general site maintenance (litter removal, identifying sites with poison oak, etc.). They are currently at Zenger Farm working in the 50-foot buffer around the organic farm by preparing the soil for a fall planting of traditional First Foods species.,

The team will continue through May at sites along the Springwater Corridor and at Beggar’s Tick Wildlife Refuge where they will continue to learn about local threatened and endangered species, traditional First Foods, invasives, soils, pollinators, ecology, and climate impacts. Project partners include Portland Parks and Recreation, Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, Johnson Creek Watershed Council, Zenger Farm. Funding partners include Metro, East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, East Portland Action Plan and Portland Development Commission.

Sunday May 1, 2016 10AM-7PM

Daybreak Star Arts and Cultural Center
Discovery Park
5011 Bernie Whitebear Way
Seattle, WA 98199

A day of traditional Native American storytelling with storytellers from the Pacific Northwest.

Lunch with traditional Native foods will be provided.

In addition to telling stories, the tellers will share in panels and workshops on the art and skill of storytelling to encourage audience members to become traditional storytellers.

Storytellers Featured:
Elaine Grinnell / Jamestown S’Klallam
Tammy Cooper / Nooksack
Lois Landgrebe / Tulalip
Raven Heavy Runner / Blackfeet
Jessica Dominy / Tlingit
Roger Fernandes / Lower Elwha S’Klallam
Toby Joseph / Ute & Apache

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Wisdom of the Elders is inviting Native American college-age students in the Portland area to serve as peer mentors for Discovering Yidong Xinag*. This Native American youth leadership initiative is designed to engage Native youth in environmental and climate studies through service learning by serving as peer mentors to middle school youth. They will have opportunities to learn about their local ecosystem, explore higher education in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) fields, and pursue STEAM career pathways. They will also learn how to produce a short video about local environmental/climate issues.

For more information, visit:

To apply, visit:

*Yidong Xinag means “the old wisdom” in Deg Xinag dialect of Athabascan.

News & Invitations from Wisdom of the Elders

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Thank you to our Multimedia Production Interns!

Bennington College students Cody Walker and Owen Gerber-Hatem have been serving as interns at Wisdom for their Field Work Term Project assignment this winter. They have been assisting in the development of video clips for Wisdom Workforce Development training program. Producing a set of 6 clips from each of 12 recordings, plus other supporting material, in only seven weeks is quite the feat! This is the fifth year that Wisdom has worked with Bennington College (Bennington, Vermont) interns.

We could not have produced this volume of work without their commitment and skills. Wisdom thanks Cody and Owen and wishes them the best in their future projects and college pathways!


Wisdom Workforce Development Internship Program

NOW RECRUITING for Wisdom Workforce Development Internship Program!

Wisdom Workforce Development will provide specialized environmental assessment and restoration workforce training, service learning in local natural areas, and a job pipeline to meaningful environmental career pathways.

Connecting with the world of nature while assessing and restoring public natural areas benefits Portland’s Native community members. This is a paid internship program for Native American adults age 18 and older. Interns will work 20 hours a week March through May.

Please contact [email protected] for more information, or visit


NEA Chair Jane Chu visits Wisdom of the Elders

Wisdom was honored on January 19 by hosting the site visit requested by National Endowment for the Arts chair Jane Chu. She was joined by Brian Rogers, Director of the Oregon Arts Council and Oregon Cultural Trust and other NEA Staff.

Wisdom’s Executive Director Rose High Bear sang an honor song to the group upon their arrival. Ciarra Greene (Nez Perce), Wisdom’s Workforce Curriculum Writer/Educator presented examples of our STEAM curriculum; and Daniel Dixon (Menominee, Stockbridge-Munsee), Multimedia Production Coordinator screened a film clip of Wisdom’s climate documentary and a recording of a recent Northwest Indian Storytelling presentation.

Chair Chu also toured Highland Park STEM Middle School the nationally recognized school which uses Wisdom’s Discovering Yidong Xinag curriculum integrating Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM). Last November, Highland Park’s Principal David Nieslanik received an “innOVATION STEAM Grant Award” from the Ovation Foundation, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, and Americans for the Arts and we’re proud to be partnering with them. Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities.

Wisdom acknowledges climate journalist Terri Hansen

We are proud of Wisdom’s board of director member Terri Hansen. Several years ago, Terri made the decision to focus her journalism career on climate issues increasingly impacting Native American and Alaskan Native peoples.

She assisted Wisdom with our fourth Wisdom of the Elders Radio Series and is a climate science journalist for a number of national publications, including Indian Country Today!

See her latest article about the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw who are forced to move off of their disappearing Louisiana island


Wisdom receives Humanitarian Awards for Climate and Native Wisdom documentary films

We received word on January 20 that Wisdom is the recipient of two awards from the staff of the Global Film Awards and the IndieFEST Film Awards. The IndieFEST Film Awards group firmly believe that film can make impactful changes globally and the Global Film Awards and the IndieFEST  Humanitarian Awards are designed to give recognition to those illustrious filmmakers whose craft inspires audiences to make a difference!

The judges’ results for our 2015 Humanitarian Awards were communicated and Wisdom won not one but two Global Film Awards. We received an Award of Distinction for The Cutting Edge: Climate and The People of the Whale and an Award of Distinction for The Cutting Edge: Climate and The People of the Whale.

Rick Prickett with the IndieFEst Film Awards notified us that our productions were hand selected by their judges and staff as “a film that represents the spirit of humanitarianism from the entire pool of entries to the competition throughout 2015.”

He said, “We appreciate the extremely important work you are doing to raise awareness and shift global paradigms. We are truly grateful for your talented filmmaking and dedication and we honor YOU, as a filmmaker, for bringing awareness to the critical issues of our time.”

These productions will be available later this year to our colleagues and supporters. Please let us know if you would like to be put on the waiting list for them.

Wisdom would like to express appreciation to our gifted production team, led by Lawrence Johnson, our Alaskan Native elders who were recorded over several years, our board of directors who have approved production of this film series, and all the supporters and funders who have made our productions possible.


Climate and Native Wisdom: People of the Oregon Coast Documentary Series

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This documentary series turns the lens on Native peoples of the Oregon coast. We will feature the voices and stories of Native scientists, traditional food gatherers and cultural leaders, formed by their long, close relationship to the land, its resources and sacred places. They are preserved in their ancestral knowledge and songs, faithfully passed down through the millennium.

We are seeking your support to match grant funding from National Endowment for the Arts so that we can produce this series of climate documentaries and radio programs. There are several ways you can help support production:

We sincerely thank those of you who have generously contributed to this campaign and we invite you to continue to follow our progress.

Pinamaya (Thank you in Nakota),

Nico Wind and the Star Storming Team



Wisdom’s 2015 Year in Review

It has been an action-packed and fulfilling year at Wisdom of the Elders, Inc, and we couldn’t have done it without the support of our board, staff, partners and other friends and colleagues. As a Wopila, or thank you, we’re looking back at 2015 at Wisdom in review and sharing our reflections and photos of special events with you!