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/ A W A R E N E S S M A G A Z I N E
J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 1
16 / A W A R E N E S S M A G A Z I N E
J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 1
"It will be the feminine en-
ergy that helps usher in the new
age," Grandfather Warren told
us. "I give you my blessings to
awaken the teachings within the
Pacific cultures."
These were the words of a re-
spected Native American elder to
Grandmother Susan Stanton and
myself in the summer of 2009.
Little did we know what work
was ahead of us as we started
preparing the way for the first 13
Grandmothers Gathering on the
Big Island of Hawaii in February
of 2010.
After the initial 2004 Inter-
national Council of Thirteen In-
digenous Grandmothers came
together, other grassroots grand-
mothers circles began to spring
up around the United States.
Susan Stanton of Illinois and
Gail Whitlow of Ontario, Can-
ada formed such a council and
began to assist grandmothers in
many states to form their own
"We use the number thirteen
because of the sacredness of it,"
said Grandmother Whitlow. "It
is twelve plus one, and it is the
power that comes along with the
number that will restructure our
nations again, to get back to the
natural way of being."
By creating the independent
grandmother circles in different
areas, Whitlow and Stanton hope
to empower various communi-
ties to assist with the present-day
issues that may affect them.
After setting up such a grand-
mothers circle in Mimbres, NM
in 2009, Stanton and Whitlow,
along with two other grandmoth-
ers on their council, Elizabeth
Babin and Corinne Tooshkenig
began gathering nine other
Grandmothers to meet in Ha-
The purpose of this first gath-
ering in the Pacific Region was
to share indigenous teachings
with a new circle of Polynesian
Grandmothers or Tutu Wahine as
they are called in the Hawaiian
Although there are many
South Pacific cultures that have
been able to retain much of their
indigenous teachings, other cul-
tures, such as the Hawaiian cul-
ture suffered greatly due to the
influx of Christianity and west-
ern influence. Ancient wisdom
once lived by the people on a
daily basis was made taboo,
almost wiped out and keepers
of knowledge had to go under-
ground in order to
preserve the knowl-
edge of their ances-
This loss of cul-
ture affected almost
everything; the an-
cient art of naviga-
tion by stars was
forgotten, hula ka-
hiko (ancient hula)
was forbidden, the
Hawaiian language
almost completely
obliterated, and
indigenous ways
of the people were
Only since the
late 1970s has there
been a resurgence
of interest in the
ancient Polynesian
way s . H awa i i a n
Immersion Schools
have cropped up
to teach the new
generations their
H a w a i i a n l a n -
guage. Seafaring by stars and
nature has been renewed, and
strong cultural traditions in the
arts are being revitalized.
Yet, the loss of identity among
the pacific indigenous peoples
has had a detrimental effect, and
many of the Hawaiians and Poly-
nesians face the same problems
that our sister cultures in North
America face.
"Gathering of grandmother
circles allows us to begin sharing
knowledge," said Grandmother
Whitlow. "It is time. We need
to find out what our medicines
were before we chose to accept
our western options."
C a l l e d Ko n t i ya 't a r o : r o n
(meaning Women are Gather-
ing,) the 13 Grandmothers and
13 Tutu Wahine (representing
cultures from Hawaii, Tonga,
Fiji, Tahiti, and New Zealand).
assembled on the Big Island of
Little was known about how
the three-day gathering would
flow; organizers felt strict out-
lines would not allow for organ-
ic development. There had been
no time to meet before the gen-
eral gathering to discuss what
would be shared. Yet, as attend-
ees and grandmothers gathered,
a strong sense of sisterhood was
The mission statement for
gathering of the Pacific Grand-
mothers read: Working through
indigenous Grandmothers to
bring teachings and ceremony
from all directions together. To
put in place a spiritual plan for
the next seven generations and
to define and implement indig-
enous philosophies for all five-
fingered people. To develop a
strong network of resources to
support, share and implement
and unite our peoples. (Sustain-
able communities, bartering,
trading, language preservation,
indigenous knowledge sharing,
medicines, healing, etc.)
Ultimately over 300 people
attended the 13 + 13 gathering,
represented by women and men
in a very wide age range, all
of different cultures and back-
grounds. As the February gath-
ering progressed, it became very
clear what issues most needed to
be discussed.
Break-out sessions formed,
and solutions were shared by
both attendees and the Grand-
mothers/Tutu Wahine in four
focused areas: 1) ancient wisdom
and teachings, 2) environmental
issues, 3) drug abuse issues and
4) finding ways to support our
Tutus, many of whom are pri-
marily raising their grandchil-
A movement was started and
all were inspired. Attendees gave
input, many offered to volunteer,
some came forward to assist in
grant writing, and ideas were
generated and shared.
Grandmother Marjorie Wright
who joined the 13 Grandmoth-
The 13 Grandmothers Circle
Moves to the Pacific
by (Grandmother) Ma'ata Tukuafu
Closing ceremony honoring Pele at the edge of Kilauea Crater. From left to right:
Grandmother Robin Youngblood, Tutu Wahine Nahi Guzman, Tutu Wahine Ma'ata Tukuafu,
Grandmother Elizabeth babin, Grandmother Ojate Debbie bono and Grandmother
Marjorie Wright.
Photo courtesy of Tiffany hunt