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Native Voices



2003 (Aug)

2003 (Oct)

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2007 (Nov)

Indigenous Peoples Exchange - Native Voices



"For me, [being in Siberia]  has been an incredible experience and my heart is more intertwined with nature…and I am with this family [of indigenous Altai] and they brought us to many sacred places. They are…gentle people… civilized people, respectful smiling people. We are here as part of Mayan prophecy to continue on the road to arrive at the city where you come from…the prophecy says let’s wake up, let us rise up, it is time for the dawn, and the hour runs out…the urgent work is to communicate, unite with all the people of the world…and for us to say let us love the Earth, let us depend on our Mother Earth, say no to violence, no to contamination, no to destruction of sacred sites… and to forge together a healthy future, without contagious illnesses like what we see today… "

-Don Alejandro Cirilo Perez Oxlaj, a thirteenth generation priest from Guatemala and head of the Quiche Maya Elder Council

In the Altai region [of Siberia] I felt a closeness and spiritualness in the land that I'd never felt anywhere else before. In my home I feel it in the sacred sites. When I was in the Altai it was just shown to me, because I didn't know where to go to find it. It gave itself to me. It was winter there, and everything was bare. I saw Mother Earth as vulnerable as she can be. It was as if she were saying, “Help me.” We are all children of Mother Earth, and I am also a mother. When Mother Earth asks me to help her, she is asking other mothers to help her, for the sake of the Earth itself but also for the people of the Earth and all other beings, her children. We all must respond.

         -Beverly Billie, Taos and Acoma Pueblos



“The knowledge we are gathering is part of the preparation for the next stage of human development with Mother Earth, after the time of purification. The trip in June to the Altai changed my life and I can now see more clearly my path. Working with the Siberians is a definite part of it.” 

-Kelvin Long, Dine (Navajo)    



During my travels, I was amazed at the similarities between my own Pueblo culture and that of the Altai people.  More so, I was struck by the similarities in our struggles.  Struggles that both cultures are now facing: alcohol abuse, loss of language, wandering youth.  Struggles that Pueblo people faced long ago that Siberians are now facing: destruction of their sacred sites, disruption of ceremonial grave sites (the infamous Ice Maiden), and pressure from a capitalistic government to move away from traditional ways.

Because of our experiences, as Natives in North America, with dealing with the colonizers, being relocated, fighting to preserve our language and our traditions which are connected to the land, we can help the Altai people and other indigenous Siberians from our history.  This will help them to secure their right to their land, to their heritage, their spirituality, their way of life.

The indigenous people need to build alliances as caretakers of this earth.  We are on two different sides of the world- we share the belief that mother earth is alive and we need to take care of her.

-Benjamin Jojola, Isleta Pueblo




The importance and necessity of this exchange have perhaps been dictated from above, and you (Bill) have been chosen to serve as a Guide. You have been greatly successful!

Long ago, the spirits have dispersed the mosaic of sacred power, and it got scattered among all corners of the globe. The present time is a period of transition: when one earthly cycle has ended, but another has not yet begun. Consequently, now, it is imperative to put the pieces of the puzzle back in order. This is precisely the reason for the coming together of people with sacred power, who use their wisdom and strength to create anew the original picture of the mosaic. Hence, the right time is coming back, and new prophecies are being born.

The spirits understand and interact with each other very well, they are not bound by time or space. As people, we interact by exchanging our cultural values, opinions, experiences, wisdom; and as a result, many things become clear. In the modern world, everyone reads books, watches television, invariably contributing to opinions that often do not reflect reality. However, when two cultures, two peoples come face to face with each other, and look each other in the eye, a powerful truth is born. Especially, when it is possible to touch and hug each other.

-Tatiana Kobezhikova, Hakassian shaman



There is a great importance in carrying on this type of encounter because it is in these gatherings where ancestral wisdom is deposited, where we can find past, present and future.  To these gatherings we don’t come looking for social classes or money; we come looking for understanding to bring forth harmony. It is in these encounters where ideas are unified, and the knowledge is strengthened and the spirits are fortified.  We the indigenous people do not think only about ourselves, we think about the environment, the animals, the planet, and the future generations. Again, in these gatherings and exchanges we strengthen one another, expanding each others knowledge, and we can see how are we going into the future as a group and what we need to do, always in benefit of humanity and Mother Earth.

-Elizabeth Araujo,  Maya/ Mestizo from Guatemala



"I have received a tremendous internal boost from this exchange. In our culture, which is being reborn after stagnation, there is now a very strong egocentric pressure. Like "this is not allowed, this can be done only by this particular person" etc. This phenomenon is particularly strong among reviving shamans of Altai.  And in this trip I have discovered one thing that is not only important for myself but also for the whole Altai nation, which is the principle of individuality and functionality of each particular indigenous person and each shaman."

-Arzhan Kezerekov, Altai kaichi




"We are one people. All that separates us is miles."

-Lisa Gover (Comanche/Pawnee)



"When any people create opportunities to learn about each other, to examine what matters to them most and to be deliberate about incorporating those shared lessons into their lives, I think we advance the cause of peaceful co-existence and mutual respect that much further."

-Bruce Duthu (Houma), Professor at Vermont Environmental Law School




"My experience [during the exchange] was very positive and I gained a lot of useful information. I explored the museums of Navaho and Hopi tribes and I would like to adopt many ideas for my future museum in Russia. Indigenous people of Russia and America have the same problems of preserving language, culture and religious traditions. During our meetings with Navajo, Hopi, Tlinket, and others, we came to an important conclusion, that we need to correct this situation together."

-Valentin Hagdaev, Siberian Buryat shaman






"This is an historical moment. Something very important is being built by our people.This kind of exchange is vital because it increases the energy lines of understanding on the planet."

-Ven. Dhyani Ywahoo, Tsalagi (Cherokee)





"As we travel together and meet our Native American brothers and sisters, there is something greater happening between us, something of deep meaning, that is not immediately apparent. We may understand it at the end of the trip or it may take the rest of our lives."


-Danil Mamyev, Altai, director and founder of Karakol Nature Park "Uch Enmek"






"Upon spending just a little bit of time with the Siberians, I was not surprised, but amazed, at the similarities with our culture and tradition."

-Medicine Story, Wampanoug elder





"It's no accident we [came] together. All the indigenous prophecies talk about a time when the five fingered ones (humans) would be so caught in the illusion of separation that they would forget their Original Instructions. This forgetting has caused terrible suffering for everyone and everything... It is very important for us to re-connect our life and ways."

--Leon Secatero, Headman, Canoncito Band of Navajo





"I really want our Tuvan traditions to help alleviate the global ecological catastrophe that worsens daily and for my people to have the endurance and stamina of Native Americans who have survived conquest these last 500 years."

-Milan Kynyraa, Tuvan, manages the nature reserve "Azas Zapovednik" and is establishing an Ethno-Cultural Center to support the rebirth of culture and spirituality of indigenous minorities and their traditional use of natural resources.




"When it comes to development, official policy makers do not take into consideration the values of indigenous peoples or their attachment to the land. The destruction of sacred sites, places of especially significant cultural and natural importance, threaten our identity and our existence as a people. It is urgent that laws be passed now to protect such sites. A gas pipeline proposed for Buryatia will destroy many of our sacred places."

-Erjen Khamaganova, Buryat, of southern Siberia is the coordinator of the NGO "Light of the Ancient Lands" which is devoted to the rebirth of indigenous culture in Siberia and the Russian Far east.


"Exchange trips are very important: 'Better to see once, than to hear a hundred times' I had never been to America and after the trip my knowledge of it increased and changed greatly. I heard the thoughts of Indigenous Americans, their hopes and longing to survive in the same difficult conditions as here in Russia, and their ancient wisdom. The problems we face are so numerous that perhaps only a spiritual approach to problem-solving is appropriate. The whole world is one organism and if some part of the organism is suffering then the whole also suffers. Each nation must feel the suffering of others, help each other, and heal the world."

-Lyubov Krivileva, Evenki, is the only indigenous representative in the National Hural (similar to state government in US) of Buryatia. She is working to strengthen legislation for the rights of indigenous minorities



"In spite of many years of isolation and informational starvation, it was very important for me to find areas of common interest, "build bridges" and try to find ways of further cooperation. I saw a brother or a sister in each native American, who live, feel, and think the way we do. Now it is very important to develop these relations at a qualitatively different level, to do our best so that all these relations and contacts are not broken after our returning home, but become the beginning of a great joint work."

-Gulvaira Shermatova, Kumandin, is a founding member of the Kumandin Cultural-Ethnic Rebirth center, and a regular participant in UN Indigenous Working Group sessions.


"The exchange between indigenous peoples of Siberia and the USA was fantastic a kind of vision that unfolded before us. We, the participants of the exchange program, highly appreciated the importance of the program for our further work. Every meeting left an everlasting impression in our souls; we understood that to create balance in the world it very much depended on us, indigenous representatives. I grasped that this was some-kind of covenant for my future work with our indigenous people...I am still guided by my strong impressions [of the exchange] in a way I cannot quite understandit's as if someone is really helping me.. in all the things I'm working on, a kind of confidence has appeared in me, and I think it must be something I received from meeting the Native Americans."

-Lyudmila Ignatenko, Yupik Nation, directs the Union of Kamchatka Aboriginal Communities and is fighting for the establishment of Territories of Traditional Nature Use in the Russian Far East.

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