2013 Wisdom’s Year in Review

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Wisdom’s Executive Director Rose High Bear, at Wisdom’s 20-year Anniversary

– from the Desk of Rose High Bear

Dear friends and relatives,

2013 brought more blessings to Wisdom, plus a few challenges that helped to make us stronger:

  • Wisdom received its first grant to produce video from National Endowment for the Arts that features Alaska Native response to environmental and climate issues along with oral history and cultural arts recordings from Athabascan and Inupiaq elders.
  • 28 video recordings of Alaska Native elders during a three week trip to Fairbanks, Barrow and Anchorage. Below, we share excerpts from the recording transcript of Alaskan Athabascan elder Ronnie Silas, Chairman of Minto Nenana Fish and Game Advisory Committee.
  • Wisdom received its first grant from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for The Wisdom Project.
  • Wisdom hired three part-time staff members to help Rose guide our programs. Daniel Dixon (Menominee Mohican) is Production Coordinator and DOS TV Producer; Amanda Kelley-Lopez (Choctaw) is The Wisdom Project Coordinator; and Candice Brings Plenty-Wright (Oglala Lakota) is Discovering Our Story for Schools Coordinator.
  • Wisdom’s first Summer Field Science Camp was held in July in partnership with Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA). The Wisdom Project is expanding to include new partnerships in 2014 with Northwest Indian College, Ecotrust, and others.

    NAYA youth, volunteers and Wisdom staff spend a sunny summer afternoon planting berry bushes at Wisdom Gardens

  • Wisdom Gardens hosted many special guests in 2013 including NAYA youth, as well as Deputy Undersecretary Ann Bartuska, Ph. D. who directs the Research, Education and Economics Program for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • Discovering Our Story curriculum was adapted for high school use, including video productions of regional elders and storytellers that were edited into shorter segments at the request of youth, and is almost ready for piloting at NAYA thanks to the Discovering Our Story Advisory Council.
  • Our 8th annual NW Indian Storytelling Festival was held in October at NAYA and PCC Cascade, including our 8th annual Emerging Tribal Storytellers Workshop, with support from the Advisory Council of the Northwest Indian Storytellers Association.
  • We hosted 8 interns from Easter Seals of Oregon, Bennington College, Northern Arizona State University and San Diego State University who applied their educational experience to our programs.
  • A team of 7 AmeriCorps workers completed construction on Wisdom Gardens with the support of Design with Nature Landscape Architect Lora Price.
  • Wisdom’s 20 year anniversary celebration was held at Ecotrust, attended by over 100 guests, and featured in articles by two national publications, Indian Country Today Media Network and News from Indian Country.
    2013.04.19

    Wisdom’s 20-year Anniversary, hosted by Ecotrust

  • Our Second Annual “An Evening with Wisdom of the Elders” was enjoyed by nearly 150 people as we continue to diversify funding that leads to greater sustainability for Wisdom.
  • Our board of directors grew stronger in solidarity around Wisdom by forming governance, leadership and development committees; and started developing our three year staffing plan including succession planning so Rose will have time to complete the Martin High Bear biography before 2019.

Alas, Wisdom’s 2013 revenue dropped from 2012 levels as Rose assumed new roles that took time away from grant-writing, especially staff supervision, new partnerships, and diversified development activities. However, 2014 plans are in place for friend-raising with our new Friends of Wisdom sustaining membership campaign, and fundraising through grants and a new addictions prevention consulting assignment with a tribal client.


Chairman of Minto-Nenana Fish and Game Advisory Committee Ronnie Silas, Athabascan elder, Minto, AK:

Watch for The Wisdom Project’s series of Film Screenings that will be held in March 2014.  The schedule of details for the Film Screenings, which will include community consultations, will be announced later in January.

In the meantime, you can enjoy a few quotes from our trip to Alaska in August. We enjoyed interviewing Chairman Ronnie Silas. He has a wry sense of humor and since he has been a subsistence hunter all of his life, he knows intimately the four seasons that his people depend upon for survival. Old Minto was a fabulous backdrop for our recording, and we got to hear the haunting sound of Sandhill Cranes migrating overhead and stopping to land on the floodplains.

Ronnie Silas smile

04:28 – They used to have camps all over the place in the springtime. People would travel all the time. Muskrat was the main thing. They’d sell the fur and eat the muskrat body; finger licking good muskrat body. [smiles]

Sometimes they’d gather up and have a big potlatch. Throw the camps together, kill a moose or two, just have a big festival, dancing all night. It was fun. I was just a little kid. We used to live in spring camp about 10 miles out, past a place they called Cache. A bunch of caches… It’s where they stored their stuff for winter time or any time. That’s why they call it Cache. It’s called Minto Flats. There’s a big lake big lake called Duckshed Lake. So that’s main attraction out there, a lot of ducks, black ducks, geese, muskrats and there’s always moose. On the edge of, it’s so big, that lake. There’s always moose around the edge. If they want people to eat free they just go out there (for a) bonfire potlatch or memorial potlatch.

46:46– “Last spring well the geese came in twice. First of all you get the white geese they go north. They all went by one day. About three days later they all started coming back. We had geese hunting both ways. It snowed up north so they turned back to warmer climates.  It was an immediate climate change for them right there! (smiles)

Ronnie Silas pointingLike I say I’ve never seen this before. You see all this water here? Usually it’s just 10 to 12 feet wide, this creek. Now look at all this. It’s been like this all summer; all that water. You can’t see it but there are mountains up that way, mountains all around us. That’s where the water is coming from and it’s not leaving us. I think the climate change has been melting all the water in the mountains.

1:00:11  “They used to start with springtime. They used to move out to camp with dog teams. All the rivers open up and they’d hunt ducks or fish with nets, or the old fish traps I was telling you about. And then summertime they’d move back to the main village in Old Minto and set up their nets and fish wheels, fish all summer. After they’d fish all summer then comes moose season. At the time it was caribou season also. They’d hunt moose all winter. That was their fresh meat. Then you get tired of eating moose meat all winter. Then the ducks come along, you change their diet right there too. Then the fish come along. Seasonal, everything goes by the season. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes bad. Depends on the climate I guess. Let’s blame it on the climate again.” (smiles again)


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2013 NISA Festival - S'Klallam Storyteller Roger Fernandes (Photo courtesy Treothe Bullock)Your one-time or recurring donations help continue our work of Native American cultural preservation, multimedia education and race reconciliation.

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Discovering Our Story Program, our health and wellness initiative

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Wisdom Radio, Series Four: Indigenous Response to Climate Change

The Wisdom Project, our Native youth leadership initiative

Northwest Indian Storytellers Association’s annual tribal storytelling workshops and festival

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