25 Years of Wisdom of the Elders!

Wisdom of the Elders, Inc. was founded in 1993 by the late Martin High Bear, Lakota medicine man and spiritual leader, and Rose High Bear, Deg Hitan Dine, (Alaskan Athabascan). Wisdom of the Elders, Inc. records and preserves traditional cultural values, oral history, prophesy and other messages of guidance from indigenous elders in order to regenerate the greatness of culture among today’s and future generations of native peoples. Please join us as we celebrate 25 years of Wisdom of the Elders and honor Rose High Bear's day of birth. All are welcome⚡️

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Join us as we kickoff our Wisdom of the Elders Winter Fundraising Drive with #GivingTuesday! #GivingTuesday is one of the biggest days of the year for non-profit…

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eNewsletter from Wisdom of the Elders
November 2018



Greetings to our Friends of Wisdom of the Elders, Inc.,

I would like to introduce myself in brief. My name is Teresa Montana. I am Eastern Cherokee and Dakota. I attended Southern Oregon State College (Southern Oregon University) in Ashland, Oregon, University of Oregon, Eugene, and Washington State University, Vancouver to name a few.

I am a United States Army Veteran, Medic. I am on the Advisory Board for the Native American Community at Washington State University, Vancouver and most recently joined the Board of Trustees for Clark County Historical Society, Vancouver.

I initially came to Wisdom of the Elders in 2012 as a member of the Advisory Council to assist in the writing and development of the Discovering Our Story curriculum. I was asked to return in March of this year to continue coordinating that same program for the Oregon Department of Corrections.

In short order I was asked to take the position of Assistant Executive Director and now will be moving into the Executive Director position at the beginning of 2019.

I must say, I am beyond delighted to head up Wisdom of the Elders, Inc. on behalf of all our Indigenous community and all our partners in the Portland Metro area.

Upon first being introduced to Wisdom, I was immediately moved in my heart to do everything I could to work with and support all that Wisdom represents. The sharing of our Indigenous knowledge to enhance our relatives’ growth and understanding of who we are and what gifts were bestowed on us by our Creator as a people. To be able to teach about those things that makes us unique and distinct, to open the minds and hearts of all people who we may come across in our daily walk is such a huge privilege and honor!

I am looking forward to the next 25 years of Wisdom of the Elders. I will do all I can with the help of our staff, partners and collaborators to expand our reach, expand our knowledge and expand the depths of understanding the Indigenous Ways of Being while creating an atmosphere of race reconciliation.

My most humble thanks and appreciation for being asked to serve.


We would like to invite you to join us in our 25th Year Celebration and recognition of Rose High Bear on her birthday to be held on November 14th.  We will celebrate all the hard work and dedication Rose has invested in our beloved Wisdom of the Elders and share the vision of the Next 25 years!

On that note, Rose was recently featured in Our Prosperous World, a blog edited by Sara DeHoff, which “offers resources for building a vibrant global community and provides tools and training to help diverse groups work together better.” The link is at:  https://www.ourprosperousworld.com/cultivating-spiritual-prosperity/.

Come celebrate in recognition of Rose High Bear



Wisdom’s Multimedia Producer Kunu Bearchum is a 2018 DreamStarter, which Billy Mills, Founder of Running Strong for Native American Youth created in 2015. He is heading a project that uses Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and first foods to highlight biomedical and nutrition science to young Native Americans as part of a week-long summer science quest.

This summer day camp included a field trip to the first foods garden at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) with Rosa Frutos (Warm Springs), Program coordinator for the Northwest Native American Center of Excellence and Dove Spector, Senior Research Assistant. The group also took a trip to Mt Hood to gather water and first foods with Marie Knight and Jessica Rojas, and another trip up the Columbia River Gorge with Storyteller Ed Edmo (Shoshone-Bannock) to tour the She Who Watches petroglyphs and learn about Native American life on the river before Celilo Falls was flooded. The youth also enjoyed service learning activities at Wisdom Gardens located in back of Wisdom’s office, adjacent to Kelly Butte Natural Area in SE Portland.

We’re proud to announce that Kunu was also nominated for two 2018 Native American Music Awards. He also presented an award at the NAMMY Award Ceremony at Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino in Niagara Falls, New York in October.  His music video “So Precious” has also been chosen for the 2018 LA SkinsFest, which is taking place November 13-18 in Los Angeles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o07Vk1s1Abk



This Sunday, November 4, Wisdom of the Elders will broadcast its next issue of Discovering our Story Television Program. You’re welcome to tune in. The program airs on the first Sunday of every month at 1:00 PM on Comcast Channel 11. Our program is re-broadcast on the Tuesday following the live studio broadcast at 10:00 PM on Comcast Channel 22, and again on the Friday following the live studio broadcast at 9:00 AM on Comcast Channel 23.

Our guest will be Darlene Foster, Wasco/Warm Springs elder, traditional storyteller and traditional food gatherer with the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs. She served as a consultant with Wisdom during production of its third series of Wisdom of the Elders Radio Programs in 2005. She also served as an Advisory Council member of the Northwest Indian Storytellers Association.

Darlene serves as Gambling Prevention Outreach Specialist at Native American Rehabilitation Association in Portland, Oregon and lives with her family in Milwaukie, Oregon. Please tune in at 1:00 pm, Sunday the 4th!



Wisdom’s multimedia team, Tim Burgess (Paiute, Shoshone) and Kunu Bearchum (Northern Cheyenne, Hochunk) plus Consultant Larry Johnson traveled to southern Oregon recently. They filmed interviews with world renowned Takelma Grandma Aggie (Agnes Baker Pilgrim), and Klamath Modoc visual artist Ka’ila Farrell-Smith for our ongoing Native Wisdom Documentary Film series. They also gathered b-roll for the documentary project.

Here are some behind the scenes photos from our trip to Southern Oregon!

Takelma Grandma Aggie (Agnes Baker Pilgrim)

Ka’ila Farrell-Smith (Klamath Modoc)



Wisdom Workforce Development’s Fall 2018 Internship is underway again. The WWD Interns work with partners in the field conducting service learning activities two days a week and classroom education one day a week. The interns have an opportunity learn from experiences with almost two dozen collaborative partners including Metro, Portland Bureau of Environmental Service, Portland Parks and Recreation, Johnson Creek Watershed Council, Friends of Trees and Zenger Farms.

The in-class training, led by Wisdom’s Education Coordinator Dawn Lowe (Mohawk, Apache, Hawaiian) covers topics like habitat restoration, invasive species identification, site assessments, indigenous plant species recognition, phytoremediation, climate change solutions and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK).

Recently, the WWD interns had an opportunity to compare the dangerous Poison Hemlock or Conium Maculatum. Poison Hemlock is also known by other common names such as: English Hemlock, Australian Carrot Fern, Irish devil’s bread, devil’s porridge, poison parsley, spotted corobane and spotted hemlock. This plant is often confused with similar looking plants like fennel, chervil, anise, coltsfoot, Queen Anne’s Lace, wild parsley, Osha and wild carrot. The most distinctive feature of poison hemlock is that the entire plant is hairless. In contrast, the look-a-likes have hair somewhere on the plant such as the stem, leaf or root surface. Poison hemlock also has purple spotting towards the bottom of the stem that goes into a solid purple before going into the ground.

Poison hemlock is a highly toxic herbaceous flowering plant in the carrot family Apiaceae. It is native to parts of Europe and Northern Africa. A hardy plant capable of living in a variety of environments, hemlock is widely naturalized in the Pacific Northwest.

The WWD interns learn how to distinguish between poisonous lookalikes that are non-native and those plants that are similar but native to the region. Interns compared the root of the Poison hemlock to the Osha Root and noted the difference in color i.e. Poison Hemlock root being hairless and creamy white, Osha brown with crown of root hairy.

The interns took notes and cell phone photos for easy identification. We also discussed environments poison-hemlock likes to grow in and how the Pacific Northwest is prime because of its moist climate.



The Wisdom Workforce Internship crew has had many wonderful service learning opportunities working with Luke Bonham, Residents Assets Manager with Rose Community Development Corporation this year.

Our biggest effort most recently completed has been to carry out landscape improvements at Bellrose Station, its apartment complex in SE Portland. Aging junipers were removed that obstructed visibility and harbored rodents. The grounds were then mulched and prepared for planting this fall. A variety of over 190 low maintenance and pollinator shrubs were planted at the main entrance, and at the entrances of residents’ apartments.

Eight trees were planted to provide shade in the summer. An arborvitae hedge was installed for screening adjacent to the children’s playgrounds and 10 raised bed boxes were built for vegetable gardening.

It has been rewarding to the interns and residents alike to witness the transformation. This project was especially rewarding for the variety of skills it provided our interns to develop. Our Crew Leaders led newer members which helped to build their work and leadership skills.

In addition to working at Bellrose Station, Wisdom Workforce Development has been able to work at six housing properties this year, removal invasive vegetation, planting native plants in bio-swales and pollinator borders, mulching to protect soils and even upgrading a playground. Thank you, Rose CDC for providing us these opportunities to make a difference revitalizing  homes of our community members.

Wisdom Workforce Development offers two three-month internships to Native American adults in the Portland area, one in spring and one in fall. It provides environmental assessment and habitat restoration training both in the classroom and in the field with diverse hands on service learning experiences.


ROSE Community Development Corporation is a non-profit dedicated to revitalizing outer southeast Portland neighborhoods by providing affordable housing, improving economic conditions and providing the tools and supports community residents need to improve their quality of Life.

From the website at  https://rosecdc.org/:  Rose CDC is dedicated to Revitalizing Outer Southeast Portland neighborhoods, through the development of good homes and economic opportunities. We are rooted in the belief that affordable housing gives people the opportunity to build better lives. But since our first project — rehabilitating a single house in Lents for a low-income family in 1992 — our work to revitalize our community has extended far beyond housing. We are improving economic conditions in our neighborhoods and giving people the tools and support they need to improve their lives.


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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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This past spring, Wisdom’s Rose High Bear joined Mrs. Elizabeth Sigman in the classroom at Chemawa Indian School in Salem. They worked together to co-teach ecology to the Native American high school students, focusing upon the importance of restoring traditional First Foods, especially threatened and endangered species. Rose shared traditional stories, film clips from the Native Wisdom Documentary Film series and colorful PowerPoint presentations.

Mrs. Sigman joined Rose at the Oregon Indian Education Association Convention at Oregon State University on May 2. They presented a professional development workshop on the use of Wisdom’s Discovering Yidong Xinag* environmental science curriculum in Oregon’s classrooms. (*means “Discovering the Old Wisdom”)

Wisdom’s multimedia team, Tim Burgess and Kunu Bearchum also worked with Mrs. Sigman in the Senior AVID class to produce a short film featuring the seniors, their heroes and the legacy they are leaving at Chemawa. It was shown to the entire student body at the school’s last Monday Student Assembly.