Dearest Youth Passageway kin,

Greetings from the lands of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute peoples, along with 48 contemporary tribal nations who are historically tied to the state of Colorado – a place I am calling home, again.

As we creep slowly towards the light of the spring equinox, I pause and stretch back in reflection to the days of darkness, this winter, when I came to a decision about how I desired to relate to Youth Passageways in the coming year. Today, I share with our larger network that I have stepped down as the Stewardship Council Co-Chair and would like to take this moment to thank you, the network, the spiral governance and particularly those within the staff circle and stewardship council that I have been in close connection with for the past 3 years. I bow in gratitude for the learning, the sibling-hood, the growth and commitment to help regenerate healthy passages into mature adulthood for today’s youth, witnessed every day within the various projects, working groups and conversations I found myself a part of.

My biggest prayer that I’d like to share is that any body of works I was a part of on behalf of YPW, in an effort to uplift network partners who were and are learning how best to serve and offer programming by and for queer & trans people, that that work built more than burned bridges. My mistakes and edges forge my commitment to learning, advocating, and relationship accountability, repair and transformation across identities and cultures.

Where this network may have fallen short for me or where I failed the network will be a beautiful flaw on the tapestry woven into our story during my time and I pray many of us will continue to grow and stretch in the discomfort and move towards deeper understanding. 

My story with YPW began on the island of Hawai’i (from which I just returned recently) in 2015. It was here I met Darcy Ottey, developed my skills as a Guide for Rites of Passage, and became a YPW Ambassador after attending the 2016 gathering in Los Angeles. I then sailed across the Atlantic and lived unanchored until 2018, when I returned to Turtle Island, and participated in two of our network partners’ programs. First, a two week Rite of Passage Journeys’ Leadership Intensive guided by Darcy & Cameron, also our Co-Director & SC Treasurer, in the Pacific Northwest, followed by summertime with Youth on Fire & Melissa Michaels and the rite of passage movement community at Golden Bridge in Boulder, CO. My relationship to YPW deepened in autumn when I made my way to All Nations Gathering Center in Yellow Bear Canyon, SD for a YPW healing ceremony. Invited by Youth Passageways guardians Becky & Dallas Chief Eagle I reconnected with many folks I hadn’t seen since our LA Gathering in 2016. By the end of that year, 2018, I said, “Yes!” to join the YPW Stewardship Council and become the Secretary. I also said “Yes!” to drop anchor in the Bay Area of the Ohlone people, supporting my partner and now fiancé while they finished grad school.

When the pandemic and uprisings happened in 2020, now the Co-Chair of Youth Passageways, I found myself closer to the Leadership Circle. I was lucky to have the ability and time to plug in where I was needed and where I felt I could bring my gifts. We birthed the YPW Education & Consulting Collective in the midst of the fires, offering caucus spaces for both the People of the Global Majority and aspiring and committed white anti-racists in the network. We planned and held our first virtual Stewardship Council gathering in autumn. I was a part of creating systems of accountability and assessment for our staff and leadership within YPW. I supported our “Core 4” in organizing monthly Stewardship Council meetings. And I hope throughout my time my input for website updates, particularly the partner listing classifications and specifically the gender & sexuality search, provide a container of belonging and a tool for LGBTQIA2S+ people and my Queer & Trans kin. 

I feel I have served our mission, the organization and the people I call family well. I trust the fruits of my labors will come to bear in deep time and I remain open and curious, with the ability to witness and remain close and supportive to those meaningful relationships I have invested in. I hope that the fires that have forged YPW into our current stage of development (still a young organization!) bring with it an accountability  and vulnerability that shepherds us through a collective, regenerative, healthy passage into the conscious and embodied adult leaders serving young people in these uncertain times. 

What’s next for me? Well, I’ll continue to be in contact and involved with the YPW Education & Consulting Collective and assisting with fundraising for now. I’m completing my SomaSource Practitioner studies with Golden Bridge and am on the Production team for Surfing the Creative here in Boulder, CO this July. I’m volunteering with OUT Boulder, learning how to DJ, tending to my website, participating in a Queer Mirroring training and becoming a foster parent. I’m creating home. If you’re ever in the area, hit me up, I’d love to show you.

Queer Odyssey

(image by Dane Z)

~ dancin’ bodhisattva in service to humans rising up & gettin’ down.

With love &  gratitude,

Jett Cazeaux



In early December 35 women who guide women and girls through rite of passage gathered in Ojai from across the USA and Canada. The gathering was called “Transitions and Thresholds” and was an answer to a call for women to gather and ask questions about what it means to be a woman and to guide women and girls in this time of cultural transition. Guides were supported by three wisdom keepers representing all the five nations. There was singing, celebration, communing and deep questioning about what rites of passage means now, how to define gender as gender constructs are being pulled apart by our youth, what it means to be empowered as a woman and what sort of world we are initiating people into. The gathering brought more questions than answers. These questions and the discussions and resources that women shared are available for all in a book of proceedings. If you wish to receive access to this or are interested in future gatherings you can join our facebook group Transitions and Thresholds or you can email convener, Miriam Jones, at HERE.

There was an overriding desire to continue gathering women together to ask these questions and on the whole, make space for our collective wisdom to emerge. To facilitate this a gathering has been organized in the Blue Mountains in NSW Australia for March 22-24 2019. Already over 30 women from Australia and New Zealand are intending to gather together. Additionally, there is third gathering in the UK being planned for 2020. If you feel the call and are interested in hosting a gathering in your local area the convening group is committed to supporting this through the resources and approach we have created.
We are also planning monthly themed zoom calls where women can come together to listen and discuss different burning questions that are arising. These will be facilitated by various guides and is being hosted by Again please email Miriam if you are interested in those and would like to be kept informed. We will also post information on these in the facebook group.

<Back to the Issue

“A man is nothing but the landscape of his homeland.”
-Shaul Tchernichovsky.-

Vast uninterrupted vignettes of the icy Canadian prairies – spaces where scale and distance are difficult to gage – follow.  A black-robed incarnation of destiny – the keystone of KRAÏNA – weaves her way throughout the series. Walking barefoot – as her ancestors did when they arrived in Canada – she appears like the mother thread of life – life where death is always present. This was the reality of the early immigrants.

KRAÏNA spurs an exploration of loss, shifting identity, and culture issues of global significance as we make our way through contemporary debates on immigration.

History and Presence are themes that permeate Lesia Maruschak’s project and book Kraïna: My Canada. The artist’s family were immigrants and transplants to the open prairies of Canada in the late 1800s and Lesiauses her contemporary imagery and historical family photographs to engage the viewer in an exploration of culture and place. One pivotal image is where Lesia, much like Barthes in the aforementioned photograph, is a baby in a parent’s embrace. She rests on the lap of her father with surrounding family members in traditional Ukrainian garb. It is the beginning of a story as a new family starts a new life in a new land. Here in this book the image itself has a new life. It is the center, or the middle, of all that is before and all that proceeds.

Her collection of vernacular family images in conversation with the present representation of self, landscape and everyday objects creates a sense of sadness and longing. She can be any woman in her self-portraits, a ghost from her past and, for the future, a reflection of another time. This very land is where Lesia conceals her face in her self-portraits, denying the camera the validation of identity as she turns from the camera, but she physically connects herself to the land in the performance and the photographs as she walks “barefoot – as her ancestors did when they arrived.” She is connected to the same land. She is participating in the symbolic experience and the photograph becomes the witness to her presence. Curator for our journey, she includes photographs of a seemingly salvaged, historical latter; a document of a young boy in a casket; the family cemetery; bound wheat stalks; family farmlands after the harvest; and a Ukrainian-inspired prairie church to build the story and mood of the book. Kraïna: My Canada is a narrative created by the artist and reads as artist project, family album, journey of self-exploration and a lament to those lost to time.

Untold and undocumented stories, many of men and women living subsistence and unremarkable lives leave many gaps in History, especially the stories of those in a new land with new lives and experiences: many lives lived and stories untold. They are people long forgotten, yet, their genes and diluted identity continue with each new generation. In Kraïna: My Canada, Lesia Maruschak honors her ancestors and, while many of their stories remain unrecorded, she creates her own narrative that visually examines self and place for future generations.

Lesia says this of the series of work

“I am a descendant of immigrants who came to Canada from Ukraine in 1897. They were the backbone of the Canadian government’s immigration program aimed at settling Western Canada.
A $10.00 filing fee bought them 160 acres of land – a dream come true. This is our story

KRAÏNA gives form to an ‘imagined geography’ where time, identity, history and abstract spiritual concepts are blurred. My relationship with the land and the meaning that my life derives from it are echoes that prevail.  The fragility of human existence and the role of the photograph in provoking an inquiry by the viewer are central to the series. Reworked and reprocessed deteriorating and damaged photographs – found in an inherited and much contested family photo album – are the keystone. Like ghosts of the past they are meant to provoke the seer’s imagination and inquiry. Their almost translucent black and white presence – tinged with ochre and cinnabar from years of neglect – defines the series’ moody, dreamy and muted palette. They are intermingled with painted images which heighten the sense of an ‘other worldly space’.”

*Originally published in Dodho Magazine

See more of Lesia’s work on her Website

<Back to the Issue

(As part of a response to a petition from native people asking a white-led group to cancel their work with a mixed blood native woman, and for Youth Passageways Network not to feature them.)

As one who has been a rites-of-passage guide and trainer since the mid ‘80s…

As one who has co-created five networks, four NGO’s, three still alive and serving many today…

As one who is a participant in many others, and a communitarian/community activist…

As one who sees the world through the lens of injustice & inter-dependence…

As one who supports the empowerment and manifestation of the individual, the person, while seeing and working for needed system change…

As one who has stood against injustice at the risk of my own life, as well as one who has stayed silent and walked away…  

As one who is willing to show up and shut up when others need and deserve to be heard at long last…  

As one who feels that–in order for needed change to unfold–alliances, partnerships, at key times around key issues, are essential…

As one who knows I am on a spectrum and neither permanently guilty or free from having been or being: a sexist, a racist, a classist, an ageist, a perpetrator and a victim in a moment, in my lifetime, through my action, my inaction and my lineage…

As one who supports the respect and preservation of culture while simultaneously working to end some patterns that became culture, some narrow unjust views that became laws, some wounded perspectives that became custom across the globe and throughout time…

As one who celebrates and struggles through the pain and bumps along with the joys and gifts of differences in most every relationship…

I write and offer the following for those who may be interested, inspired by the Youth Passageways/Cross-Cultural Protocol work, that has had many different issues of cultural appropriation to address. I hope some of these words and experiences might serve as part of any conversation and any decisions we are each making, every day, in pursuit of love, justice and truth.

Context as I understand it…

Today, as well over many eons, cultural appropriation is being brought to attention…it is part of living in a land where genocide, slavery and immigration systems have been accompanied by ongoing discrimination, racism and disrespect. It is part of living in a world where people continue to be killed for their skin color, gender, sexual expression, class, spiritual beliefs or religion. In the USA there are extreme injustices in situations such as life on many reservations and there is a strong sovereignty movement that brings hope to not only First Nations peoples but to our country as a whole in the struggle for change.

People have been working for change for eons in these arenas and today there are many more it seems showing up with a passion and a commitment to justice that is so needed in these times. There are systematic levels to work on, as well as community and personal levels to work on. Whether it be about the change needed in our legal system or the rewriting of the constitution itself. I see it as a ‘yes, and’…a need for individual change and healing as well as a corporate, governmental, global issue. Changes needed and coming include the rights to ceremony with plant medicines and changing the name of the Washington Redskins, while waking up to how we simply speak to each other between races.  Re-education if not revolution.

Our work is to ensure it unfolds in a good way

What we share, what we protect, what we embrace from songs to rite of passage ceremonies is a key area that groups such as Youth Passageways and many others are in deep inquiry around. Who are our people? What is our lineage? What is our respectful way of being with rituals that, in many cases, have grown across time and culture and land since the first fire? What is our responsibility to those who have gone before us? How do we honor the sanctity of ceremony while also living in a capitalist society? Would anyone charge for entering a church or temple? Throughout history Buddhas have been dynamited from cliff faces, churches have been burned to the ground and sacred sites have been defamed. What is our part in ending the war?

Who belongs?

ROP ultimately is about belonging whether to a tribe, community/group, land, culture, race, or this earth. And yet in the founding of networks, we often discuss the role of “vetting,” and how one does that within a network, on a website, in a community – not to mention within a country, e.g., in immigration practices. Who belongs and whether or not I belong is one of the continuing questions and wounds for many in our world today. Even though as an extended community, we may share common values and mission, I also imagine and have often experienced that what “you” would find o.k. I would question, and what another would find unacceptable, I would engage with. On a practical level this brings any network to ask who is a partner, a member, a participant? My response was then, as I feel now, that in each organization or network, we state and work our call, our mission, our vision, our mandate, our ethics, our task strongly, and then we reach out into every community and especially those less likely to have the privilege of what is being offered. We attend and be with whoever and whatever shows up–be that support, alliance, critique, or resistance. We create a forum where issues, if and as they arise, can be revealed, can be aired if not healed. In addition, and as essential, is looking to any staff, member, partner or the circle of participants to find their way, to witness, to be ambassadors, to discern, rather than looking to the network conveners to be police. If our guidelines are clear and current, and if we do our due diligence to be responsible and accountable to our own lineage and the land, place or country and its lineage, we then will discover what is ours to do and who will do it.

Who are we and how do we respond, regarding issues of cultural appropriation? Specifically, relations with First Nations?

I would hope we as youth guides start by modeling a guideline that has only served some in this land, and needs to serve many more than it does …“innocent ‘til proven guilty.” I would hope when a seeming injustice or offense occurs we look at the individual person and/or organization and also look beyond –  at the time, at the system, at the whole context that co-created it.

More than a watch dog, I hope any of us might be a witness, a student, a tracker and a safe haven to face situations of offense, injustice, cultural appropriation that will, I suspect, continue to arise as part of our work. Bottom line is that whether we initiate or respond, I hope we take care of each other while we falter and learn; may we help each other strengthen our own authentic voices, know our lineage and support people to listen to each other, to learn through the issues, to be part of the healing. And may we all remain humble in this pursuit.

I have not been an active member of the CCP (Cross-Cultural Protocols–Youth Passageways) for a variety of reasons. From a distance, from what I know, I appreciate the work being carried. So, I speak up now as a Youth Passageways ‘guardian’ because I need to write this for myself, and also to bear witness to others I see and hear who often express concern on all sides of the cultural sensitivity issue. I feel to say some things from my experience over the years, to do my part by sharing some of my experience below, to have a voice at the table or better yet to simply be part of our collective awareness. We are all here in these seats now for a time not to dominate with a perspective, knowing, or decision but to offer a piece of the story. It feels a moment to share a bit more of where I am “coming from,” living through a time and life experience of, Title 9, “MeToo”, Civil Rights, Wounded Knee and more – a time in some ways very different than the one many of you were born into.

I will make general references below and not use many names here for obvious reasons.

I am hopefully offering a personal perspective as part of the whole that will serve in the ROP network’s vision/mission, that every youth alive can have an initiation opportunity. I say all of this below to bear witness to the complexities. And I hope to be a nudge to others to write and speak from their experience, so we can continue to find truth and love and action in the circle. I would love to see an issue of Confluence focused on this.

A network is a living council, a world of many separate and also mixed cultures

As I have worked in different countries and cultures over the years, I have witnessed extremes on many sides and found that each time accusations arose it was rarely simple…there was something to be learned, healed or changed. As more now recognize the power and import of tradition and culture, that which was stolen and continues in some or many ways to be, I need to also speak for those who gave away, those who gifted, those who shared, as well as those who received, those who walked with as much integrity into their time and situation as seems possible. I cannot fall too quickly into the world of right and wrong, except when it comes to structural injustice such as with racism and sexism as examples. As we take our positions and stands, I want to speak for both individuals and groups. I feel we are here to find our way with each and discern relations rather than judge appropriation too quickly.

There are for example those white and Metis who went and apprenticed for years, a lifetime in South American villages, those who followed Buddhist monks, yogis and guru’s requests to bring the teachings to any and all in America…I have witnessed healing, in the essential return to our own “song-lines,” and healing as well amongst many who have crossed borders. In many places, I have been privy to partnerships, ones deeply informed by racial differences, historical trauma, systematic oppression as well as ones guided by the human heart, shared values and common ground. I, and many cohorts, work for such through continued awareness of what privilege and injustice we are consciously and unconsciously a part of, inside and out. I look to be with others in pursuit of creating alliances needed in our world, hopefully evolving in a healthier more whole-hearted direction to protect all life and to be part of the learning and healing of ourselves along with others.  

Some specifics … to help highlight why each situation demands attention

I have been with AIM reps carrying guns and anger that have silenced me, brought me to a deeper place of compassion, understanding, and fear for the world we have created. I have also seen them change from coming to break up a ceremony to, after much listening and sharing, three days later stay to offer a ceremony. It was my direct experience of AIM that became what I could trust.

I have been with traditional people who hold their ways very close. I have been with less traditional peoples, who moved with dignity as bridge people, who not only offered their ceremonies to other non-natives but gifted the responsibility to select non-natives. Some took on apprentices that were non-native because those were the ones who expressed interest or were, yes, in many cases, privileged enough to have the time. Even though we can identify many injustices that created such situations and hopefully continue to attend to those, it nonetheless is part of what happened quite a bit, what at least I witnessed, in the ‘70s and ‘80s. And it continues today in similar and different ways.

We have witnessed first-hand the disagreement of what and how ceremonies, songs, practices and perspectives should be offered, shared and passed on in many places, as well as within one tribe. I have seen people questioned about their heritage in a way that brought connection and understanding and other times brought added trauma into a life already tragically shattered. I have known well, white people as “want-to-be’s,” idolizing and romanticizing the “Natives,” walking the Red Road, some without knowing who they themselves are or where they came from. And I have been with sincere individuals led to and called to learn through relationships with indigenous people, guided simultaneously, yes, by knowledge of and connection to their own ancestors. I have been with takers and money makers and not wanted to be connected to their careers and I have been with many who learned in such exchanges, deepened and healed and focused primarily on what they could give back – not only to a teacher but to whole nations. I have seen white, black, brown, yellow and red people be true bridge people, finding their healing by daring or being forced to venture beyond their homeland, the Res, the favela or the monastery, as well as listening and choosing at times to return. And I have been deeply moved, educated and in service to peoples who have deepened into the preservation and continuation of their traditional culture.  

I and many cohorts, have sat with charlatans and impersonators, liars and fabricators, and witnessed the darkness of power use and abuse, and the gift of people having to wake up and find their relationship to such. I have sat outside of lodges where the people who were leading did not even know or have a connection with the land they were on, much less the depth of the ceremony, much less the offense they were making to some. I have been friends, mentor and student of many Metis, mixed-blood people, and learned of their struggles, and related to their journey when tradition offered them as little as did the dominant white culture. I have worked with whites that grew up on the Res, lived or spent time or worked as I have been blessed to do in other cultures and woke to their whiteness and the knowledge of what they were doing, imposing, missing, longing for through such. I have seen many stand strong in ancient truths and ways, as well as modern wisdom, as well as many walk between the worlds and find their unique place despite criticism from people on all sides. I have been blessed to sit with peoples of different races and classes that refused to take sides, refused to be enemies, and some who were killed for such…and seen their relatives carry on and know the essential contribution of this path.

Too often I, we, judge too quickly. And why? Among many other reasons I imagine, a desire to be right, a desire to be good, a desire to protect, a desire to be part of the healing?

I stand for the latter and walk with people who care about the pain of the present with a look to the future, as well as to the past, who seek understanding and action…for what will serve all of life. Ones who will sit with the heart knowing, the “not-knowing,” and don’t so quickly have the answers. The knowing I hang with for now at least, is that we are learning and healing every day if we so choose and ask and pray…and that what was o.k. in the past may not be now, or in some cases never has been.


I ask us all to be careful we do not pass on the condemnation of others from hearsay, from accusations alone, through policing, through watch-dogging those we have not met, been with, asked who they are…even for the sake of protecting others we know or don’t know either.

Ignorance is not a path, nor is denial, and righteousness is a tricky slope; restoring relations takes care and time. What is ours to do, what is the time we have to do it well…what comes our way and what do we seek out? How do we continue to create community, solidarity and relationship in the face of sometimes painful learnings? Can we, will we stay in the circle?

May we walk slowly and make every action a part of the healing

I know at one time in my life if I had not heard a particular legend or the Hopi Prophecy I would have most likely left this planet. Maybe that would have been o.k….and still…I know the persons who shared it were honored, loved and respected by many….and, at best by others considered inappropriate, controversial, breaking protocol. As my mentor then said, “if you’re doing anything meaningful, it will be controversial.”

I am ever grateful for having met, experienced guides offering a container, a ceremony for initiation at a time I was in search for such …I had self- initiated too often and hurt myself repeatedly. I knew I wanted to, that I had to, offer that gift once experienced to others. Thirty years later, many of us now have offered ROP to anyone and everyone called, encouraging all participants to find their own way with their ancestors, within the ceremony, with the earth, with nature as teacher, with the community present as well as the one they return to. Such journeys for the first 10 years included my family, my community, my ancestral lines of white North Americans and Europeans, predominantly. And since then, over the past 20 years, journeys have also included POC, African, Asian, Hispanic, Pacific peoples, and South Americans…indigenous and colonizers. I have seen Jews and Christians unexpectedly rediscover the roots of their traditions when being alone for many days in nature. Others seem to find a spiritual home in nature and the community that never was there within their religions. I have seen ancestors show up in ceremony, convincing me of truths so many have known for eons.  I have seen boundaries crossed and alliances formed that do not ignore race or history or identity yet establish common ground that is a belonging to this earth.


As a native elder spoke to me just this week, we need each other

I have been with native people who thanked some of us white ones for the connection, the seeing, the respect, sometimes for just showing up and shutting up – for learning, for listening, and even inspiring them at times! This was humbling. I walked with, worked with and loved a white Australian man who was initiated into and lived with the oldest aboriginal tribe and turned out to be a key link to paints and painting again, the movement to reawaken dreamtime through art. And I have sat and worked with western white brothers and sisters who did such and then found it was time to stop such a focus, who listened more deeply around “helping,” around the effects of even philanthropy, who listened again for when and how to show up and to walk together and when to turn to themselves and work more deeply with themselves and their own people, race, religion or class. I was once deeply thanked by Pacific elders for working “with my own.” And just this week thanked by Paiute elders for reaching out and walking with them.

I think you get it, “yes, and…it depends”

And, I feel there is not one way here for any of us, one response to all situations that I have ever found at least, that lasts forever. Many of the white folk woke in the ‘60s along the Red Road are the more woke people today I find around cultural appropriation…who would have thunk? Having offered solo ceremonial time in nature to people from different classes, cultures and backgrounds, I can say this: all, truly all, seemed to walk away with a blessing not because of me but because of the journey. The white privileged ones, I would dare to guess over 75% of them, are more tuned in and inspired to share resources not only with a Youth Passageways, an Ojai or School of Lost Borders but with movements of social justice and traditional cultural rites.

Having said this, I say again there are significant times of cultural appropriation, lack of awareness and respect, blindness to the offense and systematic oppression we are a part of. I feel I as a white person with a white lens and white privilege I must wake up to such and show up for such. As but one of numerous examples that is complex …I have been a part of different organizations over the years and continually spoken for not charging for ceremonies something traditional indigenous people raise time and time again. Sometimes it has been heard and shared and sometimes not. Sometimes it’s said that I don’t have to make a living and as a privileged person with additional means and ways of “making a living,” therefore I don’t understand, or get it, or need the money. And yet I remain on this track, also having been with and without $ in my life, realizing along with and regardless of my “privilege,” I still say and feel the healing and change around money is needed here, on both a personal and systemic level. There are always gifts exchanged and what form that takes can vary. Do we charge to be in church, or pass a basket? Can we act from a place of generosity ?

I will continue to do my part in addressing this where and when it seems like people are “making money” off of sacred journeys and there is not a field of reciprocity to the lineage holders, the land the as well as to the guides. Again, there is much to consider and each situation can be different. In today’s world, real distinctions need to be made between trainings, programs and ceremonies. There is always an opportunity to share resources in other ways, to live and support gifting economies rather than charging for ceremony.  

….. To sum it up on a personal note ……

As said, I have been and likely will be in the future…racist, sexist and ignorant of history, of wounds, of systems, of how my actions and or inactions hurt others. I will always have a white woman lens and I live for a world and people who have access to many lens. And I continue to walk on from my graduate work focused on race and feminism in 1971 knowing I have not graduated. I carry a simple yet infinite intention – to keep learning and be part of the healing. I have seen and deeply pursued restoring and learning through my ancestral relations since I was a child and encouraged others to do so. Not because someone told me but rather because that is what came to me when I deeply asked for help.  I have found the gift in that connection as well as the medicine in severing some of those ties and ending a lineage of abuse. I get the need for continual change in our language around sex, race, wilderness and more, feeling that no formula is going to work, and practices can help. I can’t show up at times for what seems a fundamentalism of right and wrong, another chapter in hate, closed heart and mind, a good and evil lens, in victim and perpetrator views that simplify the human condition, situation, and spirit beyond recognition.

All of this to say, I find, thankfully, along with many others, a way to be hopefully who I am, with an authentic voice, and to own and share the gifts I have discovered and been given to the best of my ability, to risk offending and show up to when or where that arises. To stand my ground and be ever willing to change. To use my positionality and privilege in any given room, for justice and healing– always in All Ways. And to continue to listen for how those ways might change as the circle changes.

…Regarding our action as networks ….

It is a time of triage and in many situations, we must act to simply stop the injustice. And if we do not simultaneously support a change of ways at the root, or what some might name the level of consciousness, behaviors will reemerge. I recently read “radical” defined as “changing at the root”…if the roots aren’t tended, the grass and weeds in any garden only come back stronger. Having been a so-called radical protesting the Vietnam war, I saw us, our government, eventually “get out,“ yet not necessarily through a change of heart. It seemed, as is so often the case, that it was primarily economics and politics that moved us along. I can say “yes, thank god for that,” and yet on many levels we simply moved the war somewhere else.

As a representative at a First International Women’s conference and a leader at the First National Women’s Conference in the ‘70s, I am grateful for how we gathered, stood, and walked. Yet I witnessed the same behaviors amongst many of us there as within the patriarchy we were attempting to dismantle …some of the same racism and oppressive patterns many only now will own. I asked then, as I do now, “How will we be different when we “WIN,” when we are on top/in charge?” I myself was far from sure and have spent a lifetime in that exploration and research mostly finding myself in circle with at best hierarchies of service, diversity and responsibility. In the environmental movement where we fight for new laws and protection the same scenarios emerge. I don’t name The Enemy as capitalism but rather the mind/heartset that creates it…as I see the same oppressive patterns in countries that are communist and socialist as well. Fear, greed, alienation, generations of wounds and trauma being passed on within the dominant group as well as the minoritized groups. Without the change of heart, without healing, without coming to love ourselves, this earth, i.e., feeling intimately part of it, ultimately laws may be changed and rape will continue.

So, my ask or offering towards guidelines

This is not a new or unique perspective. For now, we need cross-cultural protocols, we need books and trainings around social justice.  We need #MeToo , It’s Time, Inclusion and Intersectionality awareness and movements – and much more. We need people everywhere who will stand up, bear witness and call out what has to change. My prayer is that we can simultaneously embody what the new story is going to look like. I would hope we ROP and council guides, if and as we are connected to an action, if and as we see cultural appropriation in its different expressions–a program that seems “off,” in whatever ways to what we value and stand for–that YES for sure we speak up. And, that we take the time, as I hear people doing now, that we find the time, ideally before any action is taken, to hear all, and encourage the learning and healing first and foremost.

I also hear again the question of what is ours to do? And that we maybe “should” even be more proactive around cultural appropriation. My simple suggestion/wish is that we take on what comes to us for sure, we do what we can do well, and then we do more as we have the time, skill, heart and resources.  Making references, connecting partners, to be helpful to each other is an essential task of networks.

With all the needed, growing awareness of systematic oppression….

I ask that we too may stay aware of the individuals, those who hadn’t a place within their tribe, their homeland or reservation to be; those of different lineage and skin color who chose to stumble or be guided into other worlds to find their voices, their wisdom, their gifts, their healing. There must have been way over 50 indigenous and Metis people who came to The Ojai Foundation in the first 10 years, and we were there, yes, to sit in ceremony sometimes with them. Yet many times it was about simply listening to them, to their pain, their story, their dreams, and their worldview. This was a privilege and a gift. And, they came or stayed to listen and offered help with our pain, our lost sense of place, home, ancestors, whatever, to offer themselves and their prayers together to be part of the healing.

Who and How do we decide?

Do we think like a circle? Do we have faith in reaching out to others to find our best prayer and action…are we modeling working in partnership and looking to and nudging our partners to show up in our networks?

So, this is my confession ☺, reflection, my story for now, that I offer on these topics

I continue to learn from different indigenous people, those who have lived and deeply carried their cultures, those who have been forcefully separated from it and returned with dignity, and those who have walked between many worlds, and been part of creating new culture. I continue to learn from my own family who are in the white picket fences where they grew up, some who are as conservative as they come, as well as those white western people whose lens is radically different after leaving “home and comfort,” turning to work and/or live in different cities, different cultures. I am a 69 year-old white woman “becoming,” an offspring and product of my ancestors, my time, my environment, my culture, my class, my privilege, my race…as I experience others so to be, whether Trump or Nelson Mandela. As well, I am ever-changing woman with the choices I have made, the situations and people I have known, my blood family, and my emerging global community. I offer what I feel may serve to the places, people and organizations whose visions I share.

And I am here to receive your responses, reactions, feedback, dialogue and perspective.

We thankfully will continue, I hope, to hear from a diverse group within the leadership of more such networks and organizations committed to healthy communities for all. I seek to find and tend to trust the actions and prayers, healing and learning in circles, communities, organizations and networks such as these.

Looking forward…with gratitude, Gigi

<Back to the Issue

Last month, I learned that wolves “storytell” by rubbing their bodies against something to pick up its scent. They then carry that scent back to the pack, communicating it to the other wolves with the playful movement of their bodies upon each other. I didn’t learn this from the internet or even from an informational and slightly outdated documentary. I learned this, first hand, as an alpha wolf of the pack chose me (me?) as the “story of the day” and proceeded to nuzzle and rub his entire body against mine, diving back and forth with his fur, with enough friction to start a fire.

How did I happen to get so close to an actual wolf to experience this kind of encounter, you ask? No, I was not wandering around in Yellowstone, magically stumbling into a pack of wolves and having some kind of new-age “me and the wolves are one in the moonlight” moment. Last month, I spent three days with a group of queer folks at Mission: Wolf, a wolf sanctuary in occupied Ute territory or so-called Colorado. It was there that I had this experience.

This magical outing was organized by a project my mentors and friends run, called Queer Nature. QN is dedicated to cultivating earth-based queer community through traditional skill-building, and it has been the home of much of my queer soul-searching recently.

I received so much in the three days I spent sleeping on the land and dreaming to the sounds of synchronized wolf howls (did you know that wolves howl in the key of E?! and that when a wolf’s mate dies, the howl changes, signaling it as a howl of mourning!?). I learned about the myths poured and projected onto these fierce and wild creatures by a colonial mindset. Most of us are probably familiar with the fairytales like Little Red Riding Hood and the vicious role the wolf plays in that story. I also learned that wolves and queers have a lot in common in the experiences of being othered and misunderstood in mainstream society.

Wolves have undergone a horrific genocide, much like the barely talked about genocides that have been enacted on indigenous nations of humans. Pre-european colonial contact, there used to be two million wolves across the lands of Turtle Island or the so-called usa. Before wolves were put on the endangered species act in 1967, there were a couple hundred. After conservation efforts have kicked in, the number is somewhere around five thousand now.

But still, wolves remain resilient and free. Even the wolves I met this past weekend who were confined to well-maintained cages within the context of this sanctuary. You can just feel it in the way they move and how they hold strong boundaries with humans. There is a wildness that remains and can never be tamed.

At first, having a sixty pound wolf dog shove his body into mine and being chosen as the “story of the day” in this way was frightening. Genocide is built by and thrives on fear. I have been taught to fear/demonize these friends, and as this bold one started wildly rubbing himself all over me, gathering my scent for a story and telling me a story with his movement, I froze up. I didn’t know what was happening. The many times I have been attacked by canines in this life came back to me. The more I resisted, the more intense the movement and the urge to share the story became, until finally, I surrendered. I chose to receive. I took a deeper breath. I faced my fear, and I looked him in the eyes… his face coming right up to mine, soul-to-soul, we stared into each other.

Meeting my indoctrinated fear of the Other and of the wild is incredibly healing and humbling. It allows me to see how I have been continually caged by the conditioned fear of my own wildness. The story the wolf passed down to me did start a fire. It rekindled and fed a fire in me that burns to to go deeper, to reclaim forgotten knowledge, and to show up more for the human and more-than-human communities who are impacted by the racist, abelist, colonial cis-hetero-patriarchy.

This showing up must be rooted in my lifelong commitment to be present to the shadow work of unweaving the trauma of the colonizer and the colonized in me. To my ancestors who were druids, faol (or wolf, pronounced “foil”) brought learning, inner strength, and intuition. They were considered a messenger for when it is time to cross barriers, to take risks, to go beyond the limited compass of what is ‘normal’ behavior in order to learn and grow. Faol brought an awareness of our deepest self, the inner power and strength that comes from spending time alone.

I see it is as a sacred duty to remember, to reconnect, and to queer my relationship to these wise creatures, in ways that my most recent ancestors who were colonizers and settlers have forgotten. I see it as connected to my soul purpose in this life to plant seeds of learning to heal the trauma of the oppressor that I have inherited and that I benefit from every day, as a white queer genderfluid being. It is so important that queer folks who share the intersection of whiteness remember this work. We are our intersections, and there is no real way to hide from our skin privilege and the work it calls us into doing in ourselves and with our communities.

I am unspeakably grateful to these wolf teachers for the way their stories have reminded and empowered me. I am grateful for the teachings of their harmonized dawn and dusk howls. For helping me cross barriers of ‘normal’ in my own body and mind. For schooling me in new and old ways of telling stories and for sharing story with me.

I could not have faced my fear so courageously if it wasn’t for the queer community of solidarity and love that I was surrounded and supported by in this meeting with the wolves. I feel that queer family is a social and ecological imperative. The folks at Queer Nature often say that the more-than-human world can be life-saving allies and accomplices to people who are othered and oppressed by human society, and that there is a special connection we as queer folks have to the natural world. The curriculum of Queer Nature seeks to re-weave skills of belonging, to each other and to the land, and it is through these feelings of belonging that I find my bravery.

And so, I say: Thank you Faol and specifically the wolves of Turtle Island. I am in deep sorrow for the ways my own people have fallen out of relationship with you and caused you harm, and I ask for your forgiveness. Your stories will remain with me, in my cells, in the haunting memory of what it means to be alive and tangled and here and human. To you, I bow. To all those across generations who have treated you with the respect and reverence that you deserve, I bow. May we all remember what it is to be woven in wild webs of sacred intimacy that hold us accountable to our dreams, our powers, our souls, and to each other. So may it be.

*Images courtesy of Pınar Ateş Sinopoulos-Lloyd

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We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

-TS Eliot

I was twenty-two years old when I started to write.  For the first time in any true sense, I began to write creatively, both to express myself in new ways and to explore my own language.  I began slowly with things that were on my mind, wrestling with pressing decisions and investigating motivation. As the practice progressed from hobby to habit, my writing took form more as a seeking than a saying.  I tried to clear my mind of day-to-day things, sat quietly, and reached out to the deeper rhythms below the hum. Only then did I come to the art of it, to sincere efforts in translation.

To facilitate this process of seeking and saying, I approached my writing sessions in a consistent way:  dimmed the lights, lit a candle, played some music, and sent a polite request for wisdom into the universe.  I invoke the darkness that shrouds the bulk of existence, play host to the elements that give rise to the rarity that is life, and extend my antennae into the sky in my humble attempt to explore my own consonance with universal rhythms.  The results are mixed, of course, but this is the ritual.

Although some may associate the notion of ritual with a sinister intent or with a shadowy occult form of sacrifice, most of us have ritual in our lives.  I greet each day with a ritual grinding of the sacred beans; a boiling of life-sustaining water; and a slow consumption of the warm, caffeine-infused results.  Although the phenomena of human ritual vary widely, many of the motivations are common. Often they arise out of the opposition two forces: the human desire to affect the world around us and our lack of control to do so.  One thinks of the raindance or the myriad pre-hunt rituals that humans have performed, pressed under the weight of existence.

My own writing ritual is a small outgrowth of one my friends and I developed over many years on our group expeditions.  In our youth, we mixed journeys into raw nature with our personal investigations into the nature of our being. We found a certain openness in gatherings at the edge of the river, around the fire, under the night sky.  In one particular location, where the force of life and eternity seemed peculiarly strong to us, we built a fire pit. Not just any fire pit, mind you—this one was special. For us, it was an open invitation to return to this place, an altar upon which we could measure ourselves in pure form, and a crucible in which we could burn away parts of ourselves we did not want or need.

In those days, there was a strong desire to stretch boundaries, to explore new places and spaces, to see things unseen, to hear things unheard, to try things untried.  In time, we began to experiment with another creeping pull—the desire to return to places we had been before, to places where we had resonated well with the surround. The first place where we felt this sort of majik we named the Euberland.  And in the beginning, we thought this strange yet familiar buzz was unique to this place alone:  a slow bend in a creek with soft gravel beds and majestic sycamores, an open meadow hemmed in by thickly forested hills.  It was a secluded and somehow ancient place where caravans had traipsed during the civil war, where native people had undoubtedly gathered.  We thought it the fountainhead for the spring of being, and, for a time, it was just that to us.

The more we revisited, the more welcomed we felt, and the more attuned we became to the rhythm of the air and the water and the land.  It seemed, almost as if by means of some open circuit, we could plug ourselves right in to the earth by way of standing between soil and sky; and in doing so, we could transcend the human-nature dualism.  

Ultimately, we came to the sense that we should be able to find this majik elsewhere, perhaps even everywhere, and so we went, scattering ourselves across the globe in this humble hunt.  And the deeper our investigation, the more we found that other locations opened up and shared with us the subtle magnificence of place in time.

* * *

The notion of return has a strong pull, and its undertow reaches into many facets of our lives.  In many religions, the myth of a return to an original state, to an edenic garden, is prevalent.  Across many cultures there is a romantic association with the idea of a return home, to the place of one’s birth or family origin.  In environmental philosophy there are deep discussions over whether human being might be capable of a “return to nature,” whether any past cultures have lived in harmony with nature that might serve as a model for such a return, or whether such backtracking would even be desirable or effective.  

In an intriguing critical meditation on Heidegger’s work, Luce Irigaray muses:  “There is never any return but a return to the same.” In seeing return as she suggests, as a going back, we might ask:  Is return a forward action or some sort of backward retreat? In seeing return in this way, as a going back, we might ask:  is return a forward action or some sort of backward retreat? For much of my life, I thought of return as a surrender of forward motion, and in that, for example, I avoided the idea of moving back to the place I grew up.  But that is a narrow conception. I would argue now that return is a dual action. As the word itself suggests, it is a ride on the circle, rather than a slide along a line. There is a turning in re-turning.  Return is an opening, an opportunity at a-gain.

The most tangible example of these subtle shifts giving rise to a new turning that I can think of occurred regularly along the creek shore of the Euberland.  The creek was prone to flood events that would erode the banks, deposit or wash away (sometimes large) areas of gravel, and carve out new aquatic spaces for discovery.  These events (and the resulting accretion and avulsion that claimed some of our satellite fire pits and even struck down a Wood God totem we had raised and revered) gave us an early understanding of impermanence and flow that have remained important parts of our view of the world.  This recognition of change as constant gives new context to Irigaray’s thought: perhaps there is never a true return for us; each time we “return,” we have come to a different place, a new space and time. In that light, return might be even better conceived of as a ride on the spiral, in spite of the line:  we may only ever approach the places we have been before.

I’ve become more and more convinced that whatever the path for humanity, there is much to be accomplished in fostering improved personal relationships with the natural world.  There is no doubt in my mind that there is power in place that may be accessed—unlocked via experience—a power that can glow white-lightning-hot-cold enough to forge intense relationships to natural rhythms that change a person.  The Ritual of Return, then, may be seen, not as an act of control intended to affect the world externally, but as a crucial act of integration and exploration.

* * *

Crater Lake is the most amazing place I have ever gotten to know.  I may have visited places more stunning, but I have never felt the same about a wild space as I do for the azure jewel of southern Oregon.  Ten thousand years ago, the crater that is the park’s namesake was a towering volcano in the Cascades mountain range, a spine of volcanoes stretching from Washington to California.  It was known then as Mazama; and one day, the volcano known as Mazama showed what is was made of.  It erupted with such cataclysmic force that it blew the whole mountain apart in a rain of ash and fire and lava and basalt that one simply cannot imagine.  It was too big to conceive of. The pumice, the hollow dry bones of the volcano’s marrow, is layered for miles and miles around.

What remains of that most chaotic of earthly events is the base of a mountain that contains one of the deepest and most pure bodies of freshwater on the planet.  From chaos unfathomable to a peaceful blue lake. And, yeah, it is really, really blue. It is unimaginably blue, the 100th color they left out of that big box of 99 crayons because it was just too powerful for ordinary children to wield.  On seeing it, most people can only say, “Wow. It is soooo blue.” And though predictable to the point of being humorous, they are right. All of blue is right there in the water.

And that is the last I will write here of the lake itself.  The casual visitor to the park that visits the rim, comments on the aforementioned color, and drives on south or north to take the road through the Redwoods or up the Oregon Coast Highway has missed something here.  And it is that something that can only be known through repeat adventure.

Our trips to Crater Lake began in 2004 and continued as a late summer ritual for many years to follow.

* * *

Something about repeat returns to wild places changes its effect from awestrike to something much more subtle.  It is change itself, the slow pace of small shifts that mark not just the passage of time, but the ebb and flow of the timeless exchanges:  river meets shore, mountain meets wind, tree meets the weight of snow. On repeat experience, subtlety becomes nature’s majik, and one learns to experience place anew despite a general familiarity.  Places grow more complex and appreciable under the shifting shadows, the varying light of the day and night. Last year’s favorite tree, succumbed to winter, is this year’s seedling bed. The bear cub from two years ago, now lord of the land.  

At Crater Lake, we know the way the trees rot, turning from a moist red pulp into hard, dry cubes of dead wood.  “That one’s gone to cube,” one might comment. We understand the way the trees huddle together, often in groups of five or six, to bear the routine 20 feet of winter snow with the help of a neighbor.  We’ve got our favorite trees: the ones that tower in their prime; the dead ones against which we shelter from the wind; the young stand of hemlock—at one time only about our height—that high five us each year as we enter one of our favorite trails, like teammates ushering our big entrance onto the field of play.  The examples are many, developed over time: nights by the fire, sunsets at the edge of existence, moonrises that wrench the heart, and high-altitude rides through the spinning cosmos.

Although the lore is as deep the lake, two disparate examples suffice to introduce the glow of the place.

At the edge of one of the first rim spots to view the lake when approaching from the north, there is a dead tree.  It must have once been an amazing solitary sentinel, providing an excellent little shady spot from which to sit in stillness and ponder the nature of color, the shiftiness of clouds, or other such topics.  Still, the skeleton of this tree serves as a gathering point to take in the lake, a guide suggesting one of the very best vantages. Over our many visits, the remains of the tree have shrunk, bit by bit, as the grey bark is consumed by moss, flecked by the wind, and carried by the snow into the blue below.  Each return is like visiting an old friend. You know one day it will not be there any longer, and each chance to stand with it once more is sweet. Sweet enough to commemorate in pictures. The w[i/ea]thering makes it somehow new despite its easy description as old and dead. I haven’t been to Crater Lake in several years, but I occasionally travel there in my mind in hopes that tree is still standing in some form, appreciating the remains as well as the bits that have been lost.  It is a little thing, I guess, to love an old stump, but it is somehow a lesson in how we view things: moment enriched by time and experience.

The next example requires a bit more scene setting.  From a high point in Crater Lake, of which there are several wonderful towering spots, one can look in any direction (save for  a portion of the view south, where the town of Klamath Falls can be seen way off in the lowlands of the Klamath basin) and see nothing but unbroken wildlands.  To the West, an unending series of forested hills that ultimately give way to the Pacific. To the North, the towering, lightning-smashed peak of Mount Thielsen, and the spine of the Cascades.  To the South, to California, the Siskiyou National Forest, the Redwoods, and the snow-crested Mount Shasta. To the East, the lake and the imposing Mount Scott. It is hundreds and hundreds of square miles of wilderness, to give it an inadequate measure.  Below the canopy, there are trails leading to waterfalls and pumice deserts and sphagnum bogs and places of the world that are rarely visited. In the weeks we’ve spent in the Crater Lake backcountry over the years, I can only recall specifically seeing one other person—a young woman several miles deep on the trail, running, with nothing but a water bottle.  She may have been just a figment of my imagination, perhaps just a young deer or some other graceful thing. In short, only a dozen or so people might be camped in the entire backcountry portion of the park on any given night, and Crater Lake is a place where one can go to be wonderfully and spectacularly alone.

Our favorite high-point in the park is called Union Peak.  The remains of an old volcano, it rises up alone in the southwest part of the wilderness and can be seen from many areas along the rim of the lake.  Tradition has been that, after our visit with the old tree on the rim, we begin our hike toward Union Peak in the early afternoon in a footrace with the sinking Sun and with the hope of making it to the 8,000 foot summit in time to see it drop over the far western horizon.  Once we hit the area below the peak where we set up camp, we ditch our bags, and scramble up the steep slope. Along the way, there are incredible views of the park. The final approach tests the legs and the lungs. At the top, we are free to engage the horizon in every direction.  

On our first ascent, we missed the sunset by a matter of minutes but arrived in time to see the fire in the west give way to purple and the rising of the sliver Moon in the east; on our second ascent, we saw the sunset unobstructed by clouds and watched every last drop of light disappear.  On a subsequent trip, we experienced a form of celestial happenstance we had never encountered. Just as the Sun caught the horizon in the west, the full Moon cracked the horizon in the east. And though I couldn’t be sure to any scientific exactitude, the orbs appeared to be exactly opposing each other, both in terms of their 180-degree opposition in the sky and in their timing as they drifted above and below the horizon-line, respectively.  It felt as if the Sun and Moon were connected by a long arm stretched between them, with the heavier Sun dropping and raising the Moon into the evening sky. We stood as fulcrum between the two. These things happen at Union Peak every night.

To the extent there is a common experience for us on Union Peak, it has been to rest, soak up the sky, shelter from the wind, take photos, and let go whatever of life that had been bothering us thousands of feet below.  On our last trip, perhaps expecting more of the same, we got something new again. With the setting Sun, a thin wisp of cloud became visible on the long line of the western sky. As daylight waned and the air cooled, the wisp coalesced, and a string of clouds stormed the hills between us and the coast.  We stood watch, and eventually the clouds spread over the distant parts of the park from the northwest and then sifted through the ridges into the valley below. We waited, [un]knowing. Quickly, the moist air at the front edge of the clouds hit the base of Union Peak and lifted, and as it did, clouds instantly materialized below and rose fast all around us, bathing us in the mist, sweeping us into the fog, and curling down over the south face of the peak.  It came on a striking chill that was one part fear; one part thrill; and one part soft, pink-purple majik. On that mountain top, there was only the fine focus of moment. There were four of us, air, water, and rock. That was all.

These and others have been the gifts of our returns, the subtle differences that have made the trip each time a return home and a journey through the new that characterizes place in and out of time. Such gifts are given on slight shifts of the wind and on the gentle turn of the Earth.  

* * *

Maintaining our wonder is sometimes difficult work, particularly in the mundanity of routine that marks human modes of survival.  There is a certain diligence in finding inspiration, in being amazed, by what seems to be the familiar. For some time, I have been testing the Ritual of Return through my photography, returning to the same spots on repeat occasions and taking photos each time, searching for the inspiration below the hum of assumption, below the false veneer of what I think I know about or have experienced in a place.  The results have been consistent. Each time I revisit places that I feel a connection to, that connection deepens: I see and hear and smell things I didn’t perceive before; I discover new angles, new colors; I entertain the landscapes less and explore the fascinating microscapes more; and my expression becomes more textured as a result. This is a resonance that is enriched with practice.

To be sure, the Ritual of Return is not solely an effort in recognizing change and difference.  For a time, I made a home on the flanks of Mount Hood, a volcano in the Cascades north of Crater Lake that likely bears some similarity to Mazama.  One need not go so far to be reminded of what these volcanoes can do; Mount St. Helens is only about an hour away. Despite the irony, I found a great peace in the shadow of that volcano.  The turn of the seasons, the return of the bears, the repeat cycle of wildflowers from March to October. Each plays its beat in the rhythm of the place that hearkens to that “sameness” Irigaray alludes to in her concept of return as a venture to the same.  In this way, home is the place where wonder is maintained on a cycle of old-new.

At peace on a volcano:  a final tale from Crater Lake takes us there.

* * *

On our latest trip to Crater Lake, we revisited the cinder cone of an old volcano to the south of the lake, known as Crater Peak. Our return had been promised two years before. A close friend and I spent a night in the crater in 2008. We gathered rocks for a small fire pit and huddled close to a fallen giant that made an excellent break from the wind and served as a bit of an entertainment system, holding our gear, our music devices, and providing a little fuel for the fire. We sat in the grass that night in absolute agape wonder at the show the sky put on, the Milky Way brightly splattered across the nightscape. As we prepared to leave the next morning, our return-pact sealed, we stashed the rocks of our fire pit in the crevices of our downed treehome.

On the hike up and around the side of the volcano, Union Peak towers over the park toward the western horizon. Crater Peak is a stark contrast to Union Peak. It is covered in trees, softer and more squat, and the top is a huge, pleasant grassy bowl with a few epic trees keeping vigil. When we first saw the cinder cone, we immediately identified it as a playground of eternity, a rare stadium or amphitheater for the greatest spectacles of life. We meant to headline a show there someday.

That someday came on Sunday, September 5, 2010. As we entered the field of play, we felt almost as if we crossed over some threshold into an old, perhaps eternal, home. A place to which it had been foretold we would return. We made our way across the depression to the fabled downed tree to set up the entertainment center for the night. We pulled the rocks of our fire pit from where we had left them just over two years before and reassembled it. We made ready.

I leave much of the rest to the memories of those involved. We ran and played and watched the drift of the cosmos, which seemed to press itself in all around us, covering us in a sparkling velvet blanketsphere. I simply cannot describe the feeling of walking up to the lip of a volcano, the threshold of the crater gripped by the most vivid night sky I’ve experienced. It felt like we traveled across the galaxy in a bowl-shaped meadow cradled inside a crystal dome. At least, that is how I recall it.

I can close my eyes and return there. It will suffice until we can reassemble that fire pit.

<Back to the Issue

A reading from the Gospel According to John:

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

I built the closet at age six… I started after I told my dad not to paint over the wallpaper in my new bedroom… It had yellow flowers that matched my wicker lamp and wood cut butterflies my mom had made.  

The look in his eyes, a visceral sadness; a confirmation that describing his son as “sensitive” was not sufficient, that look gave me the material to build closet. Dad had taught lessons with words, hands and a belt, but it was his eyes that day that taught me to hide.

A year later, he died unexpectedly and I locked myself inside the closet and prayed to be “normal.”  I tried to avoid anything that might have earned that look. I hid the yellow wallpaper and the wicker lamp in my closet and painted my bedroom grey. That fall, when the kids named me “faggot”, I searched my behaviors for the most offending and tried to hide those too.

I found that as much as my love of opera and antique silverware might have appealed to my kindred Auntie Mame, those interests were less endearing to the Boy Scouts of Northwest Missouri.

Desperate for affirmation, I found the Church, where a little Midwestern boy can sing in a foreign language while wearing a costume without being afraid. Not having a father to come home to, I found solace in God the Father. Dogma and ritual provided cold, disimpassioned mercy counterbalancing my family’s disapproval. The confessional mirrored my closet, and the pretense of holiness masked the sins I imagined for myself.  

As I got older, the closet became less of a hiding place and more of a camouflage. I hid parts of myself in the closet I closed it and hung a crucifix outside as a diversion. By the time I got to college, the closet was mostly forgotten; the name-calling and judgment from my peers had quieted enough that through practice I was able to craft a new image. The “faggot” of yore was replaced by the image of a witty and faithful man. “Sure”, I could hear people say “he likes art, music, and design… perhaps his clothes match too well, but look at how well he sings and prays!” For the first time, I was able to pass as “normal.” It felt good and, to be honest when you have been pretending that long it can be hard to determine what is real.

I thought I would be a priest, devoted to service… Instead, my best friend, a beautiful and talented woman said she loved me.

I didn’t set about lying but I didn’t tell her about the closet, but, in my defense, I had distanced myself from the experiences that had pushed me inside that I had really forgotten that there had ever been a closet. As a matter of necessity, my life had been isolated; homosexuality was hypothetical and antithetical to the façade I had built.

I didn’t try to lie, I thought mutual care would be enough. We married, had three kids, and embarked on a largely happy life as newlyweds.

The turning point came three years into our marriage when in quick succession, my younger sister was murdered and my mother was diagnosed with cancer. The blunt force of these experiences was beyond my ability to cope and instead of opening to my wife, I closed myself. I retreated, finding the closet and hid what I felt instead of sharing my pain. I focused on my career to the exclusion of my family quietly maintaining 10 years of white-knuckled sanity before my marriage dissolved, as my wife and best friend couldn’t live with a husband so distant.

She left and in the moment I was shocked, devastated. I tried to establish a new sense of “normal” throwing myself into the practices that had given me purpose. But was confronted by the inauthenticity of these practices. One by one I stopped. Stopped church, stopped praying, stopped looking for my sister. I quit my job; I drank gin, and numbed what I could.

I wasn’t enough, there were too many pieces missing… I wasn’t man enough, I wasn’t holy enough, I wasn’t handsome enough, or smart enough… Unmoored from the Catholic doctrine that had stopped me earlier in life, I was presented with a previously unthinkable choice: acknowledge the things I had hidden from for virtually all of my life, confront all of the things I was hiding, or chase a bottle of pills with an expertly-mixed cocktail and pray for mercy from a God I didn’t trust or fully believe in.

In the end, it was my children that stopped me from destroying myself.

After 36 years locked away I told my friends and family what I had been hiding: – “I’m GAY!” True story: people aren’t surprised when a male, Catholic, interior designer/opera singer, who tap dances, and once considered becoming a priest, tells them he’s gay.  

Having informed the world and thinking the work was done, I quickly fell in love and ended up living with a charismatic artist, thinking that I had “come out.”

It took me nearly a year to realize that these were just actions. I said the words: “I’m gay” but had not acknowledged what those words meant or what that label had done to me.

I was still in the closet, but this time, I was pretending that all the missing pieces had magically reappeared! I imagined a beautiful life with the artist and my kids, ignoring a reality that was just as dysfunctional as my earlier life had been.

He loved my kids but when they weren’t there he belittled me. The career I had worked so hard to develop was largely supporting his career.

Honestly, I’m not sure that I would have acknowledged anything had the artist not tried to hit me.

It wasn’t even a one-time thing, or even remotely the worst thing that he had done, but for whatever reason it was the thing that made me recognize that I was letting him treat me like my dad had, like the kids in school had… The ridiculousness of the situation unbolted my closet.

Seeing his raised hand, my brain opened, I remembered all the things that had been done, that I had accepted from this man who said he loved me: being pushed, hit, drugged and worse. His actions, the broken glass and destruction of my things helped me see the closet and to remember what I had hidden inside.

As the closet fell apart, I remembered my dim adolescence and the chants of “faggot,” the pain of a fist in the eye, and being rolled around in a trashcan.

As the yellow rose wallpaper was exposed, I felt my stepdad picking me up, shaking me, and hitting me. I heard a litany of names that no 7-year old should know… Every slight, every bruise, the rocks thrown and each name not my own, became real again. The hours sitting and crying unable to fathom what was wrong with me became tangible. The hypocritical religious-indoctrination that I had clung to hoping to be good enough to see my dad and sister in heaven.

Finally I remembered my dad, his disapproval, synthesized by my 6-year old self and eternally misinterpreted. I started to recognize how his look, some 30 years earlier invited me to become something less than what I was created to be. I thought I had come out but instead I recreated the same disapproval.

I’m not sure why, but that last time he tried to hit me, the stupidity of my predicament became apparent… I wasn’t enough because of what I was lacking, I wasn’t enough because I couldn’t accept the substance of my own experiences.

I’m starting to grasp that admitting my sexuality wasn’t coming out. Maybe it was a step, but without introspection, it was just another distraction.

Now, instead of accepting that I am gay, I’m trying to learn who I really am which is so much more than “gay.”

A year after the artist tried to hit me I find shards of glass hiding in my living room. I still fight invalidation that helped me build the closet. I’m trying to acknowledge that it, like those pieces of glass; are just a ruined thing that no longer serves any purpose. On the occasions I’m able to do this, I walk away from it and take some of the power that I had given away.

Every day I come out a little more and in doing so, am confronted by the “me” I really don’t know. Each day I’m a little more gay, a little more artistic, a little more musical, and on the best days a little more dad to the children who saved my life. There is no finish line, but I’m not in the closet and that is a start.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Zakk Hoyt – November 6, 2017 © 2017, all rights reserved.

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What happens when a story is forgotten?

I started this film at 17, because I had a fear that part of my identity, my native Prairie Band Potawatomi heritage, would be inevitably lost in time. Through music, dance, and color, I’m inviting others to become immersed in the thoughts, histories, and emotions I grew up with.

During the creation of this personal film, I had the intention for this to simply be a time-capsule for myself and my baby brother to look back on in the future, as adults. Little did I know that upon it’s release, this film would take me on a journey for over a year. I got to meet indigenous communities from around the world – from the Sami of Scandinavia, Ainu of Japan, and many more – who were all dealing with the same struggle to preserve their language and culture. I felt so lucky to hear their stories and for the first time, experienced the power storytelling has to connect us to each other as human beings.

Watch Kayla’s Ted Talk at: 

Or learn more about Kayla’s lineage project by clicking the image below:

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“And I said to my body, softly. ‘I want to be your friend.’ It took a long breath. And replied ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this.’”
–Nayyirah Waheed

My artistic explorations of self are fueled by my experiences as a person who has struggled in the past to acknowledge a facet of my identity. Consumed by questions and doubts I’ve rarely wanted to accept the different truths of who I am. I often feel in conflict with myself and sometimes I feel it might always be this way. The struggle is always there until it’s not but when will that be?   

There are two parts of me: my physical exterior body, the part of me wanting to connect, to share; and then the abstract emotional interior, the part that doesn’t feel valid enough to do so. This duality of self has emerged as inventive visualizations and variations as drawings. The drawings represent my struggle, the two selves fighting each other.  My struggle to find balance was destructive. I have not been kind.

I am developing my work from the energy of these experiences, which manifests as figures that make reference to my own body. Forms are composed of delicate veils, gridded dots, engulfing smoke, doorways/portals and geometric hard edges. Some of these motifs visually describe a means of concealing, whether it’s a thick smokescreen billowing out of a figure, delicate draping of a thin veil or doorways to escape. Some describe a surface, something hard-edged, protective, impenetrable. When I approach the drawing surface, I consider these motifs carefully in terms of what’s being revealed and what’s still hiding in the smoke or concealed in a veil. I have created a dynamic arena – a back and forth between concealing and revealing.

While I have codified my imagery, these drawings do not reveal the whole truth because the allure of mystery is more interesting to me. It’s that mystery of how a billowing smoke cloud can coalesce into two arms holding each other or how three doorways veiled in a transparent network of curtains can imperfectly describe feelings that are experiences of being human. The mystery drives me to make, and it is vitally important because I don’t want to be defined by my past or by my struggles. This work is intended to move beyond, to describe the multi-dimensions of the human condition to which everybody, whether they want to or not, submits.

Additionally, these drawings are a space for me to be vulnerable, yet, at the same time, they are never a complete disclosure. There is a satisfaction of projecting my own emotions onto a surface that wholeheartedly accepts it without judgement. In transferring my identifying actions onto the surface, through mark making, graphite powders, erasures, and engraved marks I am expressing the tension and release I feel.  The substrate receives the transference of the mark making from the body to the paper.

I am still contending with my identity and have made great strides at understanding who I am and what I want, but I was expecting so much more. I thought resolving my issues on my identity would change my outlook for the better and they have not quite reached those initial expectations. We will all hurt, we will all long for more and because we acknowledge these things, we can begin to use this energy in a positive way, for making, for connecting, for sharing. We can build on these experiences and find contentment and absolution. I think my sense of body will endure but I find myself acutely more frustrated. I am still hurting, I am still longing. My body and the multiple dimensions it’s composed of will always be in some degree of contention and I think that’s part of the reality of being human.

It will all hurt until it doesn’t.

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This month, join Emily Frost, Marisa Taborga Byrne, and Dane Zahorsky as they discuss Whole Person Sexuality and how to support youth in empowering themselves and their communities towards equitable intimacy and healthier relationships.

About This Month’s Guests –  Emily Frost

Emily is an artist, girls empowerment coach and contemporary rites of passage guide working with youth and families around the Bay Area of California. She is also a devoted mother, wife, sister and daughter. She is the founder of LOVE YOUR NATURE, a movement devoted to girls and women awakening to their inherent wisdom, power, and purpose. Emily works with young people and adults, in groups and individually, as a counselor, rites of passage guide, experiential educator and consultant. She facilitates programs that develop social, emotional and spiritual intelligence, with a focus on girls coming of age.

Emily is also the co-founder of Real Talk Events, designing events to inspire learning, honest sharing, and authentic connection about what it’s like to be alive in these times. Her ‘Real Talk Curriculum’ is specially designed for teen girls to talk openly about sex, sexuality, intimacy, and other “risk taking behaviors”. She is a is a certified facilitator with Prajna Consulting, at the crossroads of youth advocacy, gender, sex and sexuality. She has trained in the work, philosophy and practice with Prajna’s founder, Charis Denison. Their partnered events address the questions: What are teens doing, what do they want, what do they need, and how can we support them.

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Sexuality Doesn’t Develop in a Vaccum – About This Months Topic:

Whole Person Sexuality, or holistic sexuality, is a expansive topic that encompasses values, relationships, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, experiences, self image, communication and socialization. Healthy love and sexuality emphasize the relational and interpersonal aspects of self-inquiry as an integral part of a thriving community. Holding these conversations with youth in strong and healthy ways can help cultivate the interdependent sexual health of the entire community, as well as be a preventative measure of sexual harm and misconduct.

Whole Person Sexuality is the open acknowledgement and discussion of one’s sexuality and gender not just internally but as an integral part of healthy community, that includes one’s spiritual, bodily, emotional and intellectual connection to their sexualityBy sharing our self perception and esteem, as they relate to other individuals and the community, we can become more sexually and emotionally literate, engendering healthy intimate relationships with self and others.

As seekers ourselves, our goal is to help cultivate the interdependent sexual health of the entire community.

Initiation as Prevention

Preventing sexual assault is one of the greatest and most important challenges in our lives today. The key is to be proactive and not reactive.  Of fundamental importance is holding space to explore healthy personal and interpersonal practices. The more one can build off of the existing sexual health education (or lack-thereof) in intimate and public discussions, the more it will reinforce a culture of healthy sexuality, create a feeling of invitation and investment, and aid in preventing sexual misconduct in the various places we frequent from our bedrooms to our workplaces.

Practicing Community holds consent based openness and access to relevant information  as paramount values. One of the most common experiences of rites of passage for many youth is sexual exploration.  Without guidance or dialog this natural threshold can often manifest dysfunctionally. Whether the topic is emotional, verbal, or sexual abuse, free and open information and dialog regarding natural curiosities, taboos, and desires will build respect and mindfulness in maturing youth.  

We encourage practitioners and caring adults to create situations in which peers are guided by mentors to explore healthy and responsible sexual literacy. Consider a viewing of Al Vernacchio’s TED talk entitled ‘Sex Needs a New Metaphor.’  He promotes moving away from a winner/loser dynamic regarding sex and towards a collaborative model of sexual interaction among youth.

Here are a few discussion topics that can start you off in addition to the many wonderful resources below.

Discussion Topics:

  • Common assumptions about sex, sexuality, and taboos.
  • Sexual awakening as a rite of passage.
  • Appreciating sexuality as vehicle for spirituality.
  • Seeking mentors or trusted peers to rely on for sexual advice, accountability, and support.
  • Sexual and physical insecurities and fears.
  • Gender Identity, expectation, and inequality; the restrictiveness of gender roles.
  • Developing and enforcing physical and emotional boundaries and safe words.
  • Clearly defining and practicing consent and requiring it for every step of a sexual interaction.
  • Understanding and defining red flags or danger signs in relationships.
  • Awareness and history with STD’s and normalizing testing.
  • Understanding male and female responsibilities and options for birth control.
  • Ensuring access to a trusted OBGYN or primary care doctor.
  • Becoming familiar with turn-ons and offs and clearly articulating what is wanted and   not wanted
  • Appreciating individual differences and preferences.
  • Differentiating online from face to face courtships and relationships.
  • Dealing with social pressures and anxieties.
  • Normalizing sexuality conversations and articulating fantasies to avoid suppression or maladaptation.
  • Understanding the ecology of sexual relationships and all their variations, including monogamy, polyamory, bisexuality, etc.  
  • Coming to clear agreements in relationships: what it means, how it is respected, what constitutes cheating, etc.
  • Jealousy, obsession, and reactionary behavior in and outside of relationships.
  • The different love languages.  The differences in expressions of love and affection.
  • The regular practice of check-ins. Encouraging strong and honest intimate communication.


For Youth:




  • LGBT National Help Center Youth Talk Line 1.800.246.PRIDE (7743)


  • Camp Victory : a private nonprofit organization that strives to create a special place for child and teen survivors of sexual abuse

For Parents and Guardians:

How to talk to your children about sex

For parents of sexual abuse survivors


For Adults:


Body Love Resources




  • Wild Feminine, Tami Lynn Kent
  • Vagina, Naomi Wolf
  • Cunt, Inga Muscio
  • The Joy of Sex, Alex Comfort


For Survivors of Sexual Assault:


  • Bay Area Women Against Rape 510.845.7273
  • San Francisco Women Against Rape 415.647.7273
  • GLBT National Help Center Youth Talk Line 1.800.246.PRIDE (7743)
  • RAINN- 24 hotline 1.800.656.HOPE


Trauma Work

Transformative Justice


  • The Survivor’s Guide to Sex, Staci Haines

Sexuality Health Education & Trainings:

Prevention and Healing Work with Youth:

International Work:

YPW Partners Doing the Work:

This was a trip with two primary focuses that tied to each other, first on behalf of YPW to deepen relationship with All Nations while getting a working understanding of the place, its capacity, and ways of collaboration between our two organizations. Secondly, I went as an individual with my partner to deepen relationship with Becky and Dallas personally and in response to the start of our relationship at the Los Angeles gathering, and in gratitude, for the grief ceremony they provided for me on behalf of my mother.

In keeping in integrity with our core value of not simply seeking permission but grounding and offering gratitude to the place and the people in which we seek to gather, upon arriving we offered Becky and Dallas gifts of tobacco as well as a bundle of cedar and a talisman I had made by a local artist in Kansas City out of Tiger’s Eye, gemstones, bones, and driftwood from the Missouri River. Before arriving Melissa and I wrapped these in one of my mother’s scarves and prayed into it for protection and love for the folks that they had lost recently and for protection on their community. We presented it to them from us as individuals but also in honor of the invitation to YPW from All Nations.

The first day Becky took us on a journey across the breadth of Pine Ridge all the way to Rapid City. We started by visiting KILI Radio, better known as the voice of the Lakota Nation that reaches the Porcupine Butte, Pine Ridge, and Rosebud Reservations before heading to Wounded Knee and offering gifts and prayers to those buried there and again seeking permission to be in and work among the people there. We then stopped at the border of Nebraska in a town known as Whiteclay. Last November, after a decade of advocacy the state Liquor board revoked the licenses of the four liquor stores there. On top of that just four months ago now a Dollar General was opened providing easy and affordable access to food and supplies. Across the street is Camp Justice, where a group of Lakota who were tired of the police not investigating alcohol-related deaths would watch over the twenty mile stretch of road leading back across the border. Next, to the camp, a long tunnel-like permaculture and housing project bears a large painted sign that simply reads HOPE. We ended in the day in Rapid City by meeting one of Becky’s daughters, who is a community liaison for a CDC pilot project focused on surveying young people to inform state agencies what they actually need or want in the aid of creating better communities and she is actively working to raise awareness around traditional teachings as integral to that process.

The next day Dallas and I walked the grounds, learned about the land that All Nations rest upon, the history and life of the practices and ceremonies held there, and various plans and collaborations moving forward. Every other Tuesday in response to the politics of the tribal government, they host a get together of over 30 organizations working in areas ranging from economic justice to energy efficiency, that in coming together are building community in ways that address both the past and the present of their people, it’s a truly inspiring thing. Several youths from the community were there that day to sing traditional songs for a documentary being made on 5 Lakota women at 5 different life stages and after they were finished we sat and ate together and talked about the state of things in their home place. What came out of that conversation was that of the 30 organizations (and more) that are working together across the reservation, many of which have youth involvement, but not one of them is youth-led, nor is there a youth-led movement known by any of the elders, middlers, or young people I talked to.

One of the youth, a 21-year-old Lakota man named Jaylin, who is also a state representative for the Native American Church and I got deep into a dialogue about it and the potential for inviting young people across the 9 districts of Pine Ridge into the question of generational change. A large part of the conversation has been about what YPW can offer, as opposed to take and it seems there is a question there about what those young people want to see changed and what support be that financial, organizational, etc YPW could provide not as a facilitator of that change but simply in support of an effort facilitated and envisioned by them, for them. We were joined in this conversation by Naomi Lost Horse, a teacher at a Lakota language grade school dealing with an epidemic of youth suicide and both have since expressed interest in joining our organizing team.

We ended that evening by talking late into the night with Becky and Dallas about preparation and my overwhelming takeaway is acknowledging that these are not fragile people, but fierce and grounded ones who know who they are, what their ceremonies are, what they mean, and in clear rejoinder of the invitation to come and be with them in it. They have their own protocols that are offered to non-native folks when engaging in ceremony or traditional teachings, agreements about what is to be experienced as opposed to taken and recreated and just aren’t in the mindset of that being volatile of controversial, but instead, spirit led and rooted in a process of tust-building.If anything, it seems our work in preparation is to be with what it means to come into their place and in honor of their protocols while doing the work we need to do to make sure we are also mindful of our own, in trust of each other.

There is so much more both in my the connections I learned about leading up to the SC and those moving forward both personally and professionally but the gist is simple, it was fluid, of ease, it felt like family. They have a facility that can easily house who we would like to bring but that’s for us to decide and in collaboration, they invite us to be with them, as family with the love and also the dysfunction that entails and feels like a perfect next step for us.

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I was lucky enough to have been blessed to meet Becky Chief Eagle in late 2016 at the Youth Passageways gathering in Los Angeles, and soon thereafter, her Wasani, Dallas. We were introduced by way of the man who knows everyone, Frederick Marx, who invited her to our circle. I’ll be forever grateful for that gesture.

Over the past couple of years, Becky has come closer into the YPW family, most prominently jutting to the forefront of my awareness when she, alongside Hubert BlackWolf, performed a grief ceremony for me in Estes Park, a month after my mom died. It was there that Becky and her husband invited Youth Passageways to come to her and Dallas’s home, the All Nations Gathering Center on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The 9 months leading up to that gathering have been a slow and organic process of building trust, of deepening relationship, and of preparing myself, as a child of the western dominant culture, to give into the mystery, to be as Becky and Dallas say…spirit-led.

There is much story to tell and other places to tell it in, but after 10 days in South Dakota, working, dreaming, truth-telling, praying, unburdening, breaking down, building up, and healing, one of my most vivid memories is the end of our time together on a Sunday afternoon when I was honored to stand among 7 others and send our combined prayers by way of arrow into the lands below.

Some of you may know that I’ve been teaching myself traditional archery, with the intention of hunting by the fall of 2019, so as to place at least some of the responsibility for my animal consumption, on my own hands, to take that life with integrity, and in honor of the life ended. So I’ve been practicing as often as I can and showed up to All Nations with my bow and set to practice when a fee moment arose. As it would happen, Dallas had a whole collection of bows and we got to talking about archery and ceremony. He excitedly proposed we all get together with the bows we had and end by making prayer ties, affixing them to arrows, and shooting them out into the land.

So it was that on the last day of our gathering I was gifted the honor of standing among 7 others (Lakota and non-Lakota alike) in representation of each of the 7 generations, and at Dallas’s count, we loosed our combined prayers into the treeline below. As a young man, I sought adrenaline in a great many places, many of which, were destructive and dangerous. Yet, as those arrows flew out into the sky aimed at nothing but the unknown place where they’d find their ground, I felt a rush unlike any before, a sense of reverie and joy in the sheer act of being alive at that moment.

Part of my leaving the land before reintegration home was walking the land and forest line below, finding our arrows, collecting the 35 prayer ties and bringing them together, binding them with Sage and Palo Santo, Becky and Marisa gifted me before departing for safe travel in a new prayer, that whatever may come next, maybe in the spirit of the proverb that has been a core message in Youth Passageways as long as I’ve been a part of it, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

I stand today as I did then, in gratitude and awe of the human, animal, terrain and cosmic spirit. I also stand in the intention that we go far.

*Thanks to Sobey Wing for the video!

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*These are just some of the many voices that were present. We’re looking for more, please send your reflections or experiences HERE

Delacina Chief Eagle

The youth gathering held at the All Nations gathering center was an empowering experience within a safe & nurturing environment. I felt free to express who I choose to be all while being comforted with encouragement from those surrounding me. Pilamiya, thank you, to everyone who blessed us with the medicine of their spirit.

Siri Gunnarson

The healing balm of generous invitation and gifting supported a cross-cultural contact beyond my expectations… it felt like all participants showed up having done ‘their homework’ to be able to listen, honor and celebrate differences and breathe new understanding into our network and our individual and collective work with youth.

Akicita His Horse is Thunder

It was a great opportunity to meet kind and open-minded people. 1 word is awesome

Marisa Taborga Byrne

What brings together a diverse network? Shared time on the land, stories from elders, ceremony, games, and intention for healing. The gathering at All Nations Gathering Center was joy-filled, soft, and deep. Having been invited by Becky and Dallas, of the Lakota people who first stewarded those lands, created a holistic welcoming feeling, and the Lakota youngers and elders who joined us nourished that sentiment. Such deep gratitude for the invitation, and for how we all showed up, ready to listen, to share, to love.

JO Jett Cazeaux

What stood out for me from the beginning was the strong representation of Queer, Trans & gender non-binary folx in attendance, including myself. There were many moments I recall from our time that, in my opinion, led to mutual understanding and growth edges, safe space to be one’s authentic self and opportunities for allies to carry the labor of advocating for Queer/Trans/non-binary visibility at the Gathering. What stands out for me, personally, began our first night with the sweat lodge when we were instructed that women go in first, then men. Feeling the crux here and the support and opportunity to arrive in this sacred space empowered. Following the women & leading the men, landing in the hottest “seat” in the circle, with grace, humility and strength, set the tone for my time at All Nations. Learning from the Creation Story that the Half Moon is traditionally the time when Two-Spirit members hold ceremony was special to hear. And recognizing that the Lakota people, just like some cis settlers, are open and learning a language that does not erase the visibility of the community members that do not fall into the binary of brother or sister, but that we are all kin. And finally, those cis comrades that went to the table to advocate when erasure was happening, I am eternally grateful. With all that said, reflecting on our follow up call when Becky told us that those Two Spirit community members of Pine Ridge that were in attendance at the Gathering shared that they felt “seen” and saw others “like me”, meant the world to me and lots of relief & joy. A testament to not only those of us showing up authentically but a direct reflection to how our cis friends, mentors & elders elevated our presence and voices.

Lastly, I’d like to acknowledge the courage it takes for those of us who show up in these spaces that still, despite best intentions, face language, history & structures that are visibly binary. Advocating for our visibility to be spoken, incorporated into stories & weaved into ways we move forward in our gatherings is the hope. That the labor is carried by all of us- honoring our ancestors & future generations with clarity, kindness & kinship for all of the YPW family.

Dave Moskowitz

Read Dave’s Reflections HERE

Dane Zahorsky

Read Dane’s Reflections HERE

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This month, join Becky and Dallas ChiefEagle, Marisa Taborga Byrne, and Dane Zahorsky as they discuss Whole Person Wellness and how their work is to sustain and reconnect spirit in peoples lives is impacting and transforming their community!

Read the Transcript

You can read and download the full transcript in PDF format HERE

About This Month’s Guests –  Becky and Dallas ChiefEagle

Becky and Dallas Chief Eagle are co-founders of the All Nations Gathering Center on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Both do work that’s hard to contain to any short intro, a few of the things we might mention are Dallas’s work as an artist-in-residence in schools across the nation since the mid 1980’s using Hoop Dancing and other techniques to teach the lessons of the Lakota Way or Becky’s work as the compliance officer of the Oglala Sioux Lakota Housing where she helps manage 1500 low rent rental units across the 9 districts of the reservation.

Over the more than 10 years they along with a growing team of folks have impacted and transformed many people’s lives. The Center blends modern practices with the beautiful traditions of the Lakota Way in the lush and vibrant Yellow Bear Canyon just outside the Black Hills south of the Badlands in South Dakota.

From getting out of unhealthy relationships, stopping suicidal intentions to healing bodies and minds, their healing has been a powerful catalyst for many men and women of all nations to heal and live healthier lives.

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Health as a Whole Journey

Whole person Wellness is much more than the health of our individual mind, body, heart, and spirit. Yes, it’s all of those things, and also it is interrelated to place and community. There is a continual mutual exchange between our place on this earth and our unique way of being in the world. Expanding our view of Wellness can open a deeper connection with ourselves, with the land we call home, with the communities we are surrounded by.



Approaches / Tools




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Join Kruti Parekh, Marisa Taborga Byrne, and Dane Zahorsky as they discuss Transformative Justice and how Kruti’s work is expressed throughout her life and how it shows up in our community!

Read the Transcript

You can read and download the full transcript in PDF format HERE

About This Month’s Guest –  Kruti Parekh

Kruti Perekh

Kruti Parekh has been working synergistically with young people and families in the most marginalized communities in both New York and Los Angeles for 18 years.

Kruti’s experience includes adult ally at the Youth Justice Coalition, organizing to transform the juvenile and criminal injustice systems; director for youth programs, including YouthBuild, Teen Court, and Workforce Investment Act Programs as well as domestic violence accountability, workforce development, youth empowerment, youth leadership and wellness programs.

She would like to use her experience to help create the necessary infrastructure within Los Angeles City and County to prevent harm, death and incarceration for youth and increase graduation rates, financial independence and positive social contribution. Kruti has a Bachelor’s Degree from Brandeis University, Masters Degree in Social Worker from Hunter College and a self-proclaimed PhD (People’s health Degree) from the Youth Justice Coalition.

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Resources and a Personal Narrative on Transformative Justice

In a time when we are faced with the disheartening truth that our government and society have often neither been righteous nor equitable, how do we rebuild relationship, repair harms caused and return to trust? “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” Many of us have heard and even used this quotation attributed to one of the greatest icons of peace of the 21st century, Gandhi. Even so, somehow in our society, when conflict arises, we blindly follow the “justice” systems in place that present and promote punitive consequences, criminalization, and cycles of oppression. What is an alternative? Transformative justice.

Finding transformative justice, or TJ, changed my life and made the seemingly impossible possible. It was a light in the void, gifting hope after a lifetime of desperation. At a young age I was harmed by an adult in my family. I disclosed this harm to my mama, and she immediately sought help with the “authorities.” The police, Child Protective Services, and the public defender were all involved, with the promise of “justice.” It took over a year to go through all the legal battles, which of and in themselves were traumatic, and in the end, the harm was dismissed and the perpetrator found not guilty.

Our government system failed my family and me, “victimized” us, tore us and our community apart, and uprooted every belief I’d had injustice. A deep mistrust of our government and how wrongs were “righted” was seeded. The adults around me followed the system like sheep following the herd off the cliff.  There were no other models to help us move towards a deeper, more holistic kind of justice, forgiveness and reparation based on love.

After wandering in a field of pain and mistrust for over a decade afterwards, I still had the longing for peace and chose to reconnect with the one who had caused me harm. I thought that love and determination for healing would be enough to repair the relationship and the pain. I was wrong. The renewed contact was hopeful, but I felt unable to address the harm and work toward the repair needed. A stronger container was needed with witnesses, companions, allies who believed in us and the re-union we hoped for.

And then the way of transformative justice came to me and the teaching that harm (like most things) has to be held within a community for transformative healing to be attained. It is a model where each has an understanding of both the effects of the harm that was caused and the history or story of the harm. Through using TJ, I have felt empowered. Conflict still has not been easy, but at least it’s easier. And in the rebuilding of my relationship with that loved relative, TJ has given the opportunity for a greater healing within our community as well, as they have taken their part in our conversations. It does take a village!

In our times, TJ is regenerating in many places, and there are increasingly more resources. Below are organizations, links, books and articles I’ve found or been gifted along the way. My prayer is n all relationships we can begin to open our eyes, our hearts and open up the possibility for true healing. Let’s practice and live in what justice truly is, simultaneously empowering and strengthening individuals and communities!

YPW Partners Doing the Work:

Youth Justice Organizations:

*Many of these were found at


*Many of these were found at


    • Ruth Morris, (2000) Stories of Transformative Justice
    • John F. Wozniak, Michael C. Braswell, Ronald E. Vogel and Kristie R. Blevins. (2008). Transformative Justice: Critical and Peacemaking Themes Influenced by Richard Quinney.