Mending the Sacred Hoop:
A Gathering of the Five Colors
Is a conference planned for October 13-15, 2000 (following Columbus Day). It will be held at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, hosted by the College of Public and Community Service. The intent of this event is to bridge the spiritual and the political communities, bringing together anti-racism activists, community groups, youth, spiritual teachers and elders of many traditions, and interested individuals of all five colors to share and learn from each other in the quest for reconciliation and healing.
This project is being initiated and produced by Earth Drum Council (EDC), an unincorporated organization founded and run by Jimi and Morwen Two Feathers (about which more information below). EDC is working in affiliation with Community Change, Inc (CCI), a 501c3 not-for-profit organization whose mission is networking to end racism.
In the summer of 1997, Jimi and Morwen were hired by Spirit of Change magazine to co-coordinate its Harvest Gathering in September 1997. An integral part of the Harvest Gathering was a Council on the Rights and Rites of Indigenous People with regard to the cultural appropriation of indigenous spiritual practices. Using the council process that they had developed within Earth Drum Council, inspired by Native American council processes and modified with techniques adapted from business facilitation practices, Jimi and Morwen facilitated an exchange between Native Americans and (mostly) white "new age" teachers of shamanism, witnessed by the gathering’s 225 attendees. According to the Native participants, this was the first time that red and white people had ever sat in council together to discuss these issues.
The Five Colors
Following the Harvest Gathering, Jimi and Morwen began talking about extending the Council process to include the Four Colors of humanity (red, white, black, and yellow, from the traditional four colors of the directions), and addressing the broad topic of reconciliation and healing the wounds of racism. In discussing this idea with many people, it soon became clear that it is important to acknowledge multi-racial people, and so a fifth Color, brown, was added to the model. The Five Colors are symbolic of the diverse totality of races and cultures on Earth. We have drawn from Native American prophecy with the image of Mending the Sacred Hoop, acknowledging the indigenous tradition of the land on which we live, and affirming the vision of bringing all the colors of humanity together in one circle.
The Sacred Hoop
Many indigenous peoples the world over have creation stories about a Sacred Hoop that originally encircled the world and all the creatures, rocks, and plants within it as Relations. Through human actions including enslavement and exploitation, forced relocation of whole populations, pollution of water, air and earth, pillage of natural resources and indiscriminate destruction of animal and human habitats, the Sacred Hoop has been broken. Today our world faces a crisis as never before in human history. Everywhere people are hurting and killing each other because they are different colors, speak different languages, follow different religions. In addition, because of our technological "advances," we are literally capable of making the planet uninhabitable for ourselves. Many people are working to address pieces of the problem, but few (other than indigenous elders) are asking the question: How may the Sacred Hoop be mended? We suggest that the spiritual perspective of the Old Ways is an important resource for people working to effect change, to help us see how our pieces of the work are connected in a larger framework, and to support healing on both personal and societal levels.
This work is very ambitious, and indeed it is unprecedented for elders of all Five Colors to come together in council to listen to each other in the quest for solutions to the racism and injustice that plague our world. In bringing together this wide variety of people, and by including music, the arts, and the creative imagination, we hope to stimulate deep and far-reaching transformation of the way in which, constrained by history, these issues have been addressed, and in so doing awaken the hope of true healing.
Mending the Sacred Hoop conference
Elements of the event will include:
- Keynote address by Babatunde Olatunji
- Council of Elders of the Five Colors
- Small talking circles involving all participants, organized in the Open Space format
- Cultural performances (music, drumming, and dance)
- Participative music-making (including a drum circle)
- Closing Ceremony of the Four Colors with Tlakaelel
Goals of the Project
- To foster healing the wounds of racism and social injustice by creating a space for deep listening and acknowledgment of each other's truths.
- To bring together people who are not now working together on these issues, across racial/ethnic lines, across political/spiritual lines, and across generational lines.
- To create a space where innovative ideas, new conversations, new working relationships, and collaborations can be nurtured, and to support community members to take these forward into action.
- To explore the relevance of spiritual wisdom of the Old Ways of all Five Colors to the work of creating political and social change.
- To celebrate the universal heartbeat and the connections between all people, as expressed in music and dance – both performances to showcase the rich traditions of the Five Colors, and participative music making and drumming bringing everyone together.
The Organizations and People
This project was conceived by, and is administered by Jimi and Morwen Two Feathers, co-directors of Earth Drum Council. Earth Drum Council was founded in 1990 in order to create opportunities for people from all walks of life to experience the spirit of the drum. EDC organizes events, classes, workshops and councils that explore the diversity of drumming traditions around the world, and focus on community-building.
Jimi Two Feathers is a skilled teacher, facilitator, and public speaker, experienced working with groups ranging from school children to elders in many different communities. A drummer and dancer for over 30 years, he is co-founder of Dance New England (as well as EDC), and has organized many complex events. He has a professional background as a producer, sound and light technician, stage manager and tour manager. Of Wampanoag and African-American heritage, Jimi has also been an anti-racism activist and networker for many years.
Morwen Two Feathers is a teacher, writer, producer, event organizer, and musician. Formerly known as Paula Swilling Two Feathers, she is the former executive director of the Support Center of Massachusetts and has over 20 years of experience managing and leading organizations and groups, with particular emphasis on managing nonprofits. She is a widely respected teacher who has served the adjunct faculties of Clark University and Tufts University, among others. Of Jewish heritage, Morwen has worked for many years on behalf of efforts for women’s rights and social justice.
Community Change, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization based in Boston which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. CCI is a small organization which has accomplished big things through the power of networking: bringing people together in service to its mission to promote social justice and end racism. Community Change is more than just a fiscal agent for this project; the affiliation between EDC and CCI represents an active collaboration.
A Steering Committee has been formed for this event
- Nanatasis Bluto-Delvental, Abenaki community activist and teacher
- Elaine Fong, artistic director of Odaiko New England
- Jerrie Hildebrand, member, Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans
& First Universalist Society of Salem
- Marilyn Middleton, artistic director of Bamidele Drummers and Dancers
- Horace Seldon, founder and long-time executive director of Community Change, Inc.
Expenses for this event include the costs of bringing the Council of Elders together (transportation and accommodations), honoraria for the Elders, and administrative expenses such as printing, postage, telephone, facilities fees, security and maintenance personnel, etc. We would also like to show our appreciation with payment to the performing artists who have committed to the vision. Some revenues will be generated by registrations for the event; however, it is important that attendance be accessible to all and we intend to keep registration fees low. To date generous individual donations to support this project total nearly $8,000. We have received a challenge grant from the Greeley Foundation for Peace and Justice, and a matching grant from the Fetzer Institute. We have also received funding from the UMass Student Senate. Complete financial disclosure and budget available on request. Please click here for a list of the generous people who have supported this work.
The Potential Impact of this Project
To our knowledge, the core goal of this project has never before been accomplished: bringing together elders of the Five Colors in council to discuss Mending the Sacred Hoop, and bringing communities of the Five Colors together to create practical strategies for doing so. It is our intention that this project catalyze a major acceleration in collaboration and creative energy for solving problems and envisioning our common future.
There is much more we would like to share about the vision and background, principles and tools behind this project, each of the elements of the project (Council of Elders, Open Space, cultural performances and sharing, the people who have pledged support, etc.), and our goals and vision of potential impact. Please contact us for a more detailed information packet.
Donations to support this project are tax-deductible. Please make checks to Community Change, Inc. marked "MSH" in the memo area, and send to Earth Drum Council, PO Box 1284, Concord, MA 01742. Thank you!