Just Like Grandma Told You

by Nina Rothschild Utne
November / December 2007

Photo by Marisol Villanueva

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The U.S. Constitution is said to be based on the principles of the Iroquois Confederacy. But there was one crucial omission: the role of the grandmothers.

In October 2004 a Cherokee woman named Jyoti (Jeneane Prevatt) brought together a group of indigenous grandmothers from around the world in Phoenicia, New York. All spiritual leaders, they told of remarkably similar prophecies, thousands of years old, from their ancestors. All stated that we are now at a critical point in history, and that if we do not change our way of relating to each other and to Mother Earth, we will face cataclysmic consequences. The prophecies also stated that the grandmothers would come together to light the way for us.

When Jyoti set out to organize the gathering, she didn’t have any particular number of women in mind. But as Rita Pitka Blumenstein, a Yupik doctor from Alaska, introduced herself, she handed out 13 stones and 13 eagle feathers that had been given to her when she was 9 by her great-grandmother. The old woman had told Rita that she would be part of a council of grandmothers and that she was to distribute the feathers and stones when they met.

In all the traditions these women represent, grandmothers were honored as the final authority on most tribal matters, including decisions of war.

In that first meeting, the women talked about the degradation of the earth and of the human spirit and how to use knowledge from their traditions to remedy these ills. They decided to form the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers so they could speak in a united voice about their core principles: the transforming power of prayer, the healing power of sacred medicines, the creative power of women, and the ultimate power of unity.

Rooted in tradition, the grandmothers bear witness to the worst effects of our shortsightedness. And as they seek to create a different path, they embody both urgency and hope. They are also bridges to other levels of reality. Bernadette Rebienot, an Omyene healer from Gabon, believes that invisible secrets “will soon become precious compasses for humanity,” according to World Pulse magazine (Spring 2005). “We must take into account the visible, invisible, and spiritual dimensions of the world because two plus two doesn’t always equal four. . . . The people of the future will no longer be those who believe exclusively in logic, in the reign of numbers and capital, but rather those who have understood that the net of tomorrow’s society resides in respect and consideration for the other.”

In the forthcoming documentary For the Next Seven Generations: The Grandmothers Speak, Rebienot says, “We can’t go backward anymore. We don’t have fear anymore. The time is short. Time is calling us.”

The prophecies state that we are entering the “purification times,” when we will shed all the accumulated negativity caused by a material rather than a spiritual orientation. As the earth goes through upheaval, the grandmothers say, we need to heal ourselves and find peace within. By doing this, we heal Mother Earth herself.

Agnes Baker Pilgrim, the oldest living female member of the Takelma Band of the Rogue River Indians in Oregon, says in World Pulse that prayer is our duty and that “we need not for one moment limit ourselves about what we can do. We must give support and encouragement to each other and to whomever we meet on our path. Love people unconditionally and add their voices and prayers to ours. The creator will hear our cries and turn the dark side around.”

The grandmothers believe that only culture derived from nature’s laws will survive. Without a deep connection to nature, our consciousness and our politics will inevitably be flawed. But when we are connected to the natural world, we cannot help but see the beauty within ourselves and everywhere else.

With the deluge of negative information in the world today, it is heartening to consider the possibility that opening ourselves to beauty, hope, and connection may be the most healing action we can take.

For more information on the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, go to www.grandmotherscouncil.com.


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