Report: Mending the Sacred Hoop
October 13 — 15, 2000
by Morwen Two Feathers
In the weeks following the Gathering of the Five Colors, I returned to the vision documents I had written over the last two years. These documents were created as a way of communicating the ideas and intentions that came through the visioning work that Jimi and I had done that culminated in our plans for Mending the Sacred Hoop.
In the beginning, it seemed that the vision was too big to be captured in words, or in an event or program. When we began to ask people to join our Steering Committee, and later when we began fundraising, it was imperative that the vision be articulated in a way that could be grasped by people who were not already immersed in our way of looking at things. And so began the ongoing work of refining and clarifying our intentions and goals.
In evaluating and assessing the success of this event, it is helpful to look back at the stated goals and compare them to the actual outcomes. Sections of our concept paper and fundraising letters are quoted below, followed by my description of what happened.
"The intent of this event is to bridge the spiritual and the political communities, bringing together anti-racism activists, community groups, youth, spiritual teachers and elders of many traditions, and interested individuals of all five colors to share and learn from each other in the quest for reconciliation and healing."
In my view, there were key constituencies not adequately represented at the Gathering. The Yellow section of the Hoop was under-represented, both in the Council circle and among the participants. I also hoped to see more Boston area political activists (including CCI members); it was noted at the event that there was a sense of "preaching to the choir" in terms of most of the participants being spiritually oriented.
Our plan to have the voices of youth at the gathering also did not go as we intended. Because of the timing of the Greeley Foundation grant for "Passing the Torch" (we were notified of the grant in late May, near the end of the school year, and we did not have the matching funds to secure the grant until late September), the Peer Mediation program at Concord-Carlisle High School was not able to get a group together to attend Mending the Sacred Hoop as we had planned. Jimi is still planning to work with this group of high school students to teach them Council process and other skills, as described in our proposal. When Mending the Sacred Hoop happens again, we expect that this group of students will attend, along with groups from other schools we hope to be working with in the coming year.
Despite these missing pieces, this gathering was still remarkable for the sense of connection across boundaries. There were 85 participants in all, with all Five Colors present. The diversity of voices in the Council was breathtaking, with spiritual teachers and elders of many traditions. The emphasis on healing and reconciliation was grounded in recognition of the depth of the wounds and the extent to which the Hoop has been broken. A strong sense of mutual support and respect for everyone by everyone was palpable throughout the event.
Goals of the Project
To foster healing the wounds of racism and social injustice by creating a space for deep listening and acknowledgment of each other's truths.
This space was created during the day-long Council on Saturday. Many truths were spoken, some painful, others inspirational, some simple, others complex. The depth of listening was profound. Tears were shed, and laughter shared.
Here is an excerpt from a report written by Jerrie Hildebrand, one of the members of the Steering Committee:
Saturday we gathered council style with the elders in the center and the participants in the outer circles around us. This day was for only the elders to speak. Not one elder spoke without acknowledging Spirit of some sort and its guiding hand. Prayers and invocations from many languages from Spanish to Gaelic to the languages of those indigenous to our continent and others were spoken. Women's and men's wisdoms and the wisdom of a young teen woman were shared. No taping or videoing was allowed so that it was witnessed by just those there and Spirit. It kept the space safe and sacred. There was a purity to the voices.
We spoke of the new war called progress and the vicious cycles of producing, consuming and getting rest when we can. It is a war of the soul. Women spoke of the oppressions they faced and the wealth of what is on the other side when one chooses to walk through the fires. One elder spoke of the cost of being one who stands on the front line [working for change]. The hurt from taking the hits not just from others outside of our communities but the most vicious being from within. Sometimes with only the knowledge that you must be doing something that is making a difference and Spirit that picks you up and pushes you forward.
We continue to be grateful for the Council process and its power to open hearts.
To bring together people who are not now working together on these issues, across racial/ethnic lines, across political/spiritual lines, and across generational lines.
To create a space where innovative ideas, new conversations, new working relationships, and collaborations can be nurtured, and to support community members to take these forward into action.
A beginning was made to accomplish these goals. I am personally aware of several new connections that were made that will continue as collaborations. Support of these collaborations going forward is taking the form of an email discussion list which was created following the event, with all gathering participants who have email as subscribers. Discussion and exchange has already begun through this medium. We are looking forward to hearing from people about projects growing from the seeds planted at this event.
Despite the absence of the high school group we had planned for, there were a few young people there, including a 12 year old girl who spoke in Council at the request of one of the Elders. The recognition of the importance of working across generational lines was emphasized by a group of participants who discussed outreach to schools on Sunday, and another group which talked about teaching respect to children.
Wider communication about the work of this gathering will go out as a result of the participation of Oannes Pritzker. Oannes's interviews with the traditional wisdom keepers (elders) will be heard as a series over many weeks on his weekly one-hour broadcast, "Honoring Mother-Earth/Indigenous Voices", on Radio For Peace International; Global Community Radio (worldwide shortwave & internet). This program will literally be heard around the world.
To explore the relevance of wisdom of the Old Ways of all Five Colors to the work of creating political and social change.
The Council on Saturday was a direct manifestation of this intention. Insofar as there was a "topic" of the Council, this was it. The Elders spoke eloquently about the relationship between spiritual ways and practical action, and of the need for both.
This topic was further explored during Sunday’s Open Space sessions. Open Space, facilitated by Jay Vogt, served the purpose of creating space for participants to network, brainstorm, share resources, and make plans. Jay’s presentation of the process was tailored to the group, and was very useful in giving permission to do whatever would be most productive. Several groups convened, to talk about such topics as bringing Council process into schools, "re-tribalization" as a route to healing human society and our relationship with the Earth, and the future of Mending the Sacred Hoop as an ongoing event. Quite a few people utilized the "butterfly" and "bumblebee" options, forgoing formal group discussions in favor of following the flow of conversational opportunity and finding rich resources for connection and collaboration that way. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and participants felt that the Open Space process was an excellent way to take the energy from Council and ground it in practical applications.
Sunday afternoon’s Ceremony of the Four Colors likewise emphasized the relationship between spiritual ceremony and social and political realities. This ceremony, while drawing upon ancient forms, symbols, and rituals, was created in recent years specifically to address healing among the Colors of humanity. The ceremony acknowledges the contributions made by each Color to the world. Each participant is invited to offer prayers in each direction. Tlakaelel’s gentle guidance reminded us all to bring this mindfulness into the way we live each day. This experience was a perfect closing to a deeply moving weekend.
To celebrate the universal heartbeat and the connections between all people, as expressed in music and dance.
Friday’s keynote address by Babatunde Olatunji and the performance featuring West African and Asian drumming (along with storytelling rooted in Native American traditions) served to create a sense of deep connection among participants. Each of these art forms was completely new to some members of the audience. Yet all recognized the universal heartbeat underlying these unfamiliar cultural expressions. Throughout the rest of the weekend, I received feedback from various people about the beauty and power of Friday’s program. Although this part of the event was costly and labor-intensive, it served its purpose of opening gathering attendees to each other, and bringing more than just people’s heads to the process.
"To our knowledge, the core goal of this project has never before been accomplished: bringing together elders of the Five Colors in council to discuss Mending the Sacred Hoop, and bringing communities of the Five Colors together to create practical strategies for doing so. It is our intention that this project catalyze a major acceleration in collaboration and creative energy for solving problems and envisioning our common future."
What was the impact of Mending the Sacred Hoop? When we awoke the day after it was over, the world was still the same place. The Middle East was still poised to explode in violence. Poverty, hunger, and despair still greeted too many people upon awakening, and the likelihood of waking to these was still much higher for those who are black, brown, or red. Work proceeded as usual on genetic engineering of our food crops, weapons production, emptying the Earth of Her store of ancient sun energy (oil), and the increase of profits for those who are already wealthy. Leonard Peltier was still in jail. Hate-group internet sites were still generating traffic. Soul-deadening drivel was still being passed off as entertainment. And I could go on.
But still… but still. In my heart there was a new seed planted, of hope. My own sense of helplessness in the face of all that was abated, by knowing that I have companions on the Healing Path. To stand in circle with people of many colors, languages, religions, and personal circumstances, and know that we all recognized each other as family, as tribe – this, more than any experience in my life, has taught me the power of vision, intention, and faith to change the world.