|IWN's Movements of the Year|
|Wednesday, 18 April 2007|
2005 at IWN: Introspection & Passing the Torch
2005 was a very exciting albeit challenging year for the Indigenous Women’s Network – a year in which the Founding Mothers heightened the leadership role of young, Indigenous women in the organization and began to implement a strategic plan that would give voice to Indigenous women around the world through four signature programs, the Emerging Activist Leadership Program (EALP), the magazine Indigenous Woman, the Women’s Gathering and the Alma de Mujer Healing and Retreat Centre located in Austin, Texas.
The Founding Mothers transferred decision-making responsibility to new board members, many of whom had participated in the EALP and in networking and training sessions. They also worked with staff and a global team of volunteers to establish goals, objectives and work plans around each signature program. The sessions themselves as well as subsequent follow-up work generated a huge amount of discussion, excitement and perhaps more importantly clarity around the role the Indigenous Women’s Network fulfills as a global voice for our people and the forms in which we could fulfill that responsibility. The tasks for 2005 were outlined in a strategic planning document that provided the Indigenous Women’s Network with concrete recommendations around streamlining the administration of the organization and building up the four signature programs through the establishment of training goals as well as program development and evaluation frameworks. The focus of the Board and staff of IWN for the year was to strengthen the capacity of the organization to deliver the four signature programs identified through the consultation process. Ann Batisse – (Algonquin/Ojibwe) was hired on a contract basis as the Program/Executive Director in the summer of 2005 to carry out the capacity building exercise and to plan for program delivery toward the end of 2005 through 2006. Ann has extensive experience in the non-profit sector which includes more than 25 years in developing, delivering and evaluating programs for Indigenous women. She actively participated in the planning sessions that set the goals and objectives of the signature programs and was part of establishing the over all vision and direction for IWN.
Ann focused on Alma operations over the summer months, which included hosting the Reproductive Rights Roundtable that was held at Alma by the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center with over twenty Indigenous Women from across North American in attendance. The staff at IWN provided technical as well as logistical support for the meeting and has made a commitment to assist the Women’s Resource Center to follow up on a number of national strategies around the issues that were identified at the roundtable. The Indigenous Children’s Summer Arts Camp followed the roundtable with Aboriginal Traditional Elder teachers as well as local Indigenous artists and musicians providing instruction to the children. The Program Director as well as two Interns who assisted with the camp revamped the camp structure to include an increased level of interaction between Elders, children and parents. The new camp structure will include an increase of an additional two weeks of summer activity next year with additional activities held throughout the year with various components geared to various age groups.
The Emerging Activist Leadership Program had a new intake of interns in December. Their work experiences will focus on reproductive rights, environmental justice, protection of traditional and cultural knowledge and development of sustainable communities. Five interns were selected to take part in the EALP program for 2006. The interns started by working at partner host sites. Their work focused on soliciting input from Indigenous women for the Women’s Building Sustainable Communities Project that will take place during the World Urban Forum that is scheduled for June 19 – 23, 2006 in Vancouver, Canada. They will continue in their internship until December of 2006.
In September of 2005, IWN held a Circle on Sept. 7-8, 2005 preceding and in conjunction with the International Grandmother’s Gathering which was held on Sept. 9-10th, at the Lummi Nation, Wex’liem (House of Frogs) near Bellingham, Washington. The IWN Circle was a separate event with the goal of bringing the IWN leadership together to honor one of our founding mothers, the late Janet McCloud and to invite her family to take an active role in IWN. We also used the opportunity to affirm our work as IWN and our plans for the coming year. Once the IWN Circle was completed, IWN Board members attended the
The Indigenous Women’s Network, Alma de Mujer
Grandmother’s Gathering, introducing themselves to those present and taking an active part in all of the activities. The initial discussions for the next IWN Gathering was one of the many positive things that came out of the circle. The next gathering is being planned now for September of 2007. The Gathering will be held in the Pacific Northwest at Sapa Dawn or Tulalip communities. The tentative theme will be “Healing and Wellness”. A planning committee for this event has been established and are currently holding planning meetings. In summary, 2005 was a year of growing strong together, focusing inward on ourselves as Board/Staff members and volunteers and what we can contribute to our organization while at the same time focusing outward to our communities, the individual members, the families, the reason we exist. The result is that we as a Board and Staff have a good sense of what each of us bring to the IWN team and where we are going as an organization. We are grounded in the direction that has been provided to us from our founding mothers, some of which are no longer with us but who provide us with everything we need to move forward.
News from Alma De Mujer Home of IWN We are currently working on an updated web site for Alma De Mujer – www.almademujer.com. The new website will assist us in marketing our programs at Alma as well as provide up to date information for our members, funders and others. The new website will be completed by the end of August, 2006. We invite you all to take a tour of the website and provide feedback on what you think of it.
Marsha Gomez Healing Gardens Project With approximately 15 acres of undeveloped land surrounded on three sides by a nature preserve and a major urban centre adjacent to its fourth border, Alma de Mujer has been the perfect site to pilot a sustainable permaculture model that can be replicated in Indigenous communities around the world.
Marsha Gomez, a previous Board Member of IWN and a respected Indigenous woman from Austin, Texas as well as other Indigenous women Elders adopted land management practices that protect the Earth and tended the land to create a healing garden for the purpose of producing alternative, affordable medicines for traditional health practitioners. Through her research and development work, Marsha identified and catalogued a massive amount of medicinal plants native to south Texas which were grown and harvested on Alma de Mujer. Ms. Gomez shared her love of the land, concern for the growing health care crisis in our communities and knowledge of traditional medicines and health care practices with other women elders, young Aboriginal women and youth who attended the annual summer camp at the retreat centre.
Unfortunately, her endeavor to expand upon the network of alternative healers and the inter-generational transfer of traditional knowledge ended prematurely with her untimely death. Significant steps have been taken to maintain Alma de Mujer as an on-the-land classroom and healing center for Indigenous women and youth in honor of Ms. Gomez, however her research has been largely under-utilized and the transfer of traditional knowledge has been inconsistent.
After the death of Ms. Gomez, an local Alma Land Management Committee was established chaired by Cynthia Perez to re-examine the role Alma de Mujer fulfills in meeting the needs of the Indigenous community. The Team concluded the mission of Alma de Mujer had not changed. It remained an ideal place to deliver informal or non-academic, earth-centered, healing and artistic education programs to Indigenous women and youth. It was felt that Alma de Mujer would have a long-term, positive effect by serving as a focal point for like-minded organizations and expanding its educational programs through sustainable partnerships. As a result, the “Nurture Our Women” program was established to improve environmental awareness and build the skills of Indigenous women and youth so they can determine their own future. The program focuses on herbal gardening and traditional medicine as well as holistic health and traditional health care practices. It includes an artist-in-residence component and annual on-the-land summer youth and women’s camp that presents a venue for cultural arts presentations and environmental education from nationally respected Native American artists and elders.
IWN has began to develop a Land Management Plan focused on the healing garden, solar power, green building, water collection and natural land preservation techniques. We have also worked on strengthening our community network and identifying the components required to develop sustainable partnerships with like-minded organizations. At this juncture, IWN must hire a staffing complement with expertise in the field of traditional medicine to maintain the healing garden at its optimum state and to harvest the medicine for production and distribution. As well, IWN must have the resources to create a computerized compendium of the research compiled by Ms. Gomez for publication as a teaching tool so it is more easily accessible and available to a broader audience.
Plans for 2006-2008
The Marsha Gomez Healing Gardens Project is specifically focused on the growth, harvesting and distribution of natural medicines and in the development of a core team of local, Indigenous women who can act as a sustainable resource to provide on-site training around traditional health care practices to our youth. The objectives of this project are to:
IWN has been offering the Indigenous Arts and Youth Leadership Program to the local Indigenous community for the past eleven years. The camp provides traditional and contemporary cultural arts opportunities through instructional classes, workshops and community events rooted in Indigenous customs for up to 2500 youth people of Austin, their families and visitors.
Based at Alma de Mujer, northwest of Austin, the Alma Artists team outreach to Austin area schools as well as community gatherings and cultural events to provide presentaions and mini workshops. The presentations and workshops will generate interest among youth, their parents and extended family in attending the summer arts camp which is held in June of each year. An average of 80 students and families out to Alma for art classes, cultural teachings and a summer immersion experience.
Plans for 2006 – 2008
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 25 October 2011 )|
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