Posts Tagged ‘Nez Perce’

Earth Day — Deepen Your Connection

mossy trees of rainforestThere are so many ways and avenues to finding a connection with the world and celebrate EVERY day as Earth Day. The fact that the internationally recognized celebration of Earth Day is today, April 22, simply serves as a reminder.

The Pachamama Alliance is deeply committed to each of us finding and owning our profound connection to earth (the wordPachamama means Mother Earth), and their mission is:

To empower indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest to preserve their lands and culture and, using insights gained from that work, to educate and inspire individuals everywhere to bring forth a thriving, just and sustainable world.


Up To Us

Programs and resources you can access via Pachamama are a fantastic source for earth steward inspiration. The “Up to Us” engagement pathway has in-person and online learning courses available to all of us, to awaken us to the critical earth-focused issues we face today—it’s a great way to get tapped into a high level conversation about taking a stand and making a difference, and it leaves you empowered, not devastated or deflated. There are several ways to engage, beginning with the “Awakening the Dreamer” symposium, and progressing to other opportunites—check them out here.

Pachamama Journeys

This one grabs my heart and imagination and won’t let go–I’ve not yet done a journey with Pachamama, but I absolutely will! These travel opportunities are one-of-a-kind transformative travel excursions to incredibly biodiverse regions of the Amazon and Andes—visits to indigenous communities are AT THE REQUEST of the indigenous partners who invite you to explore and learn and carry their wisdom home.

Amazon Advocacy

Pachamama engages in very specific campaigns of advocacy and awareness in tandem with their indigenous partners in Ecuador. Programs are diverse and make a real difference, like “Jungle Mamas” dedicated to empowerment and health for women and girls; “Rights of Nature” working for recognition of the importance of all species and ecosystems; “Yasuni-ITT” supports protection of Amazon regions; “Sarayaku” seeks justice for human rights violations toward the Kichwa people; and “Indigenous Resilience” empowers people throughout the region.


I have been so fortunate in my own life to be connected to a North American Native American tribe, the Nez Perce in Idaho, and one of my brothers in that community taught me a tenet that is found in so many communities—that of the Seventh Generation. When tribal decisions are debated, examined, and executed—especially those affecting the relationship to nature—elders consider their actions in the context of how they will affect the people seven generations from now. Not for their children or grandchildren, but seven generations out. If we figure that generations are 20-25 years apart, wouldn’t it be amazing if Congress and business leaders who make societal laws and decisions for the masses were thinking of their impact 140-175 years hence? It would certainly change the conversations and take responsibility for how we affect our world.

This Earth Day, are there any actions you can take or plans and commitments you can make that you would be proud to have children of 2190 thank you for and acknowledge your important decision? It’s a beautiful way to think.

When Volunteering Feels Like Coming Home

highway sign for Lapwai Idaho Nez Perce Indian ReservationI am in Lapwai, Idaho, on the Nez Perce reservation (the tribe is more correctly referred to as “Nimiipuu“–the people), working with kids on the rez, mentoring genius and agile young minds who gain confidence in their voices and stories right before my eyes. It is some of the most rewarding work I have ever done, and I’ve been blessed to return four years. This program of Mentor Artists—MAPP, is a huge force in my life.

In the program–a one-week, short burst of intensive learning where teens, many of whom have never seen live theatre, by the end of five after-school days and all day Saturday, will have written a two-character, one-act play. In a culture that honors storytelling, astounding imagery and characters as varied as the wind, Coyote, a gun, river grass, a silver necklace, a lunchbox, a wolf fighting for pack dominance, a diamondback, mother and daughter songbirds, and so many more come to vivid life.

Yesterday was Veteran’s Day, and one of the most inspiring vets I know, Tony Johnson, my brother here, passed up the big tribal community center event honoring vets for their service to instead build the fire, heat the stones, and prepare the herbs/medicine to sweat with us. This connection, these shared prayers and songs, this fraternal bond, cracks open my heart. Tony is one of many here that are truly my family, and every time I am lucky enough to travel here, they welcome me home. I am often hugged and told, “We’ve been waiting for you, Brother” even after two years between trips.

I wish this feeling on every single one of you. May you have the joy of watching young minds push boundaries beyond what they previously knew, ushering stunning story into being…may you discover a place where community connection is everything…may you take such a strong stand for young people that you will do everything you can to assure their burgeoning pride and success…may you know the feeling of having so much respect for another that it brings tears to your eyes…may you travel far from home to feel the joyous intensity of coming home…I wish this on every single one of you.

Happy Earth Day/Birth Day

1231980_76813417It was on Earth Day in 2009 that I launched this blog, with a simple message:


This seems the perfect day to launch the new CHANGE BY DOING blog, a destination where you’ll find news and updates on volunteer travel, voluntourism, and service travel opportunities and ideas around the world.

Check in to dip into the well for inspiration, find out what others are doing to help, and answer the question for yourself, “I wonder if I could…?”

You can

The world is an incredible place–You should go there.

So, so, so much has happened since then. I hope for you that the place on the road where you find yourself is more satisfying than where you were five years ago. Some of it will have sucked, but hopefully there are victories and proud moments and people wonderfully affected by your presence along the way. 

Earth Day is kind of like that. It’s been marked on calendars since the 1970s, and some of what has happened to the planet has sucked, but along the way there have been some wins. Our greater global awareness gives us a clearer picture of the troubles our planet faces, but also empowers us to act with greater understanding and make a difference.

In the 1970s, Dennis Hayes, one of the primary organizers of Earth Day, said, “It is already too late to avoid mass starvation.” An article in LIFE magazine proclaimed: “In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution… by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half.” Others assured us we would trigger an ice age before the end of the 20th century, and that entire continents would be arid dustbowls. Well–there are certainly regions of Africa where unimaginable drought has decimated wildlife and human lifestyle…entire nations wrestle with food and water insecurity…nobody looks at the air quality in urban China with the same jokesy “ain’t it bad and oh-so-brown” humor we once saved for Burbank…but clearly we’ve begun turning the ship, albeit slowly. There is so much to do, but not by ignoring what we have done. Whether the ecology glass is half full or half empty is irrelevant–what we know is it can be filled some more.

Celebrate your progress today, on Earth Day, and find places where you have barriers to making better choices for the planet. We all have changes we can make to take a little less out of our resources…to leave a little more for the next generation.

My Nez Perce Native American friends in Idaho have a way of living and making tribal decisions that are based not on how action taken today will affect us, but how it will affect those who will be here seven generations from now. Major actions are done for those seven generations hence. If we do this, what will it do to or for our great, great, great, great, great, grandchildren? This, like every other thing they have taught me about this earth, is a nice way to look at it.


Healing Lodge of the Seven Nations

Healing Lodge Flag by Sophie Rault

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had volunteer experiences in the substance abuse/treatment community, and in  Native American tribal community…but never put them together. I am no expert in either, but I will tell you, it would be impossible to be MORE proud than I have been of several of the young people I’ve worked with in each group.

Substance abuse is a hard-ass issue confronting almost any demographic, and life on the reservation is not without an unfair share of stumbling blocks like excessive drug and alcohol use. The Healing Lodge of the Seven Nations serves adolescents 13-17 years old from any cultural or ethnic background, and grounds their work in native teachings from the Coeur d’Alene, Nez Perce, and Kootenai tribes of Idaho, Oregon’s Confederated Tribes of he Umatilla Reservation, and the Kalispel, Spokane, and Colville Reservation tribes of Washington. Day treatment and residential programs serve youth through all seasons on a 45-acre campus, and in addition to chemical dependence issue, supplemental services include family education, cultural programs, medical care, an alternative school, recreation program, advanced aftercare support, music/expressive arts program, and supportive mental health services. In a respectful environment of cultural diversity, true healing can happen, amid ceremony and ritual, support and hard work.

If you have never been part of Native Community, or have never wrestled with addiction yourself, you have no idea the challenges being met by these miraculous young people every single day. See if there is a way you can help to make sure the work continues.

International Women’s Day 100

Today is the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, with events around the world commemorating the way we move ahead as a universe because of feminine energy. I am here in Northern Idaho being nurtured by some of the most amazing women in the world (that is not to exclude the men of the Nez Perce Tribe, who welcome me as a brother as well), and marvel at the way connecting and caring are so free here on the Reservation. My web connection won’t allow me to post much until I get home, but the experience here touches my soul so deeply–I wish this upon every one of you.

Find an event today (there are 100s of international events for the day) to breathe life into this year’s theme: Equal access to education, training, and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.

Celebrate women today