News from Wisdom of the Elders


Don’t forget to join us for an evening with Wisdom


The planning for our annual fund raising dinner event is well underway and we are proud to announce that Roger Fernandes will be our keynote speaker as well as our featured artist for “An Evening with Wisdom” for our fifth annual event Friday evening, June 10, 2016 in Portland OR.

WrMkQ0mWZXdjaVAUHt1YHcvBIKvL0ns1Lj99Uzlc6Imey-lMTCZhaOP_hQE0cEOyJohWLEpKQc37ZbSM9vMTu9XaaZ1U_B3K0mBVtn6vijJcbmZI773pi8K0MshCKjbi7vME6tlNPjDdcEbaXFf2sOIsvSeF-VekmphtMFo=s0-d-e1-ftRoger Fernandes is a member of the Lower Elwha Band of the S’Klallam Indians from the Port Angeles, Washington, area. He describes himself as an urban Indian since his mother, Violet Charles, moved to the city of Seattle where he was born in 1951. He is from a family of four brothers who are all active doing various cultural things like singing, basket making, artwork, and storytelling. Roger has been storytelling for about eight years. The stories he started with were simple legends. Over the years, he moved into telling myths, creation stories, flood stories, and hero stories. In sharing these types of stories Roger approaches storytelling as a way for Native people to teach non-Natives about the aspects of their culture that go beyond food, shelter, and clothing. These stories actually define the culture of the tellers. In the course of learning Native American stories, Roger has integrated stories he has learned from other cultures around the world like Mexico, Africa and Asia. All stories speak the same human language and teach the same lessons.

As a tribal historian, Roger offers a comprehensive multimedia presentation on the art of the Coast Salish people, including slides showing the art of the Salish people and provides interpretation for how their art is relevant to historical events. He has accumulated artifacts and artwork to show how the Native people of this area created their designs, art, basketry, and carving. Fernandes believes art, music, and stories reflect the culture and the culture reflects the environment. Stories lead to a spiritual and emotional understanding on how to live in the world. Roger is involved in art organizations and initiatives by and for Native American artists. He’s the Executive Director of South Wind Native Arts and Education Foundation, a small grass roots non-profit and serves on the Arts Advisory Committee for the Potlatch Fund. He has recorded a CD, “Teachings of the First People,” that shares several of the stories he tells in his performances. He won a Folk Life award from the Washington Arts Commission for his work in teaching about Coast Salish art. He has a degree in Native American Studies from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.

Roger does a lot of work in schools and tailors his presentations to youth. Children understand stories at one level and so he gives them access to stories that are easy to interpret. Native people call their stories “the teachings” and are the fundamental way of teaching children. He likes them to be involved in the interpretive process. Elders have another level of understanding and bring wisdom and knowledge to any discussion, so Fernandes incorporates cross-generational experiences in storytelling. His audiences include community groups such as schools, libraries, parks departments, senior centers, and open forum presentations geared toward general audiences. For more information about Roger, visit his website, Turtle Island Storytellers. Roger can be contacted directly at 425-868-7503 or [email protected].

A Evening with Wisdom



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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




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!