Gathering in Gratitude travels to Pine Ridge

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BRATTLEBORO — Building on the success of last year's collaboration with teens and elders from the Oglala Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, the Brattleboro-based Mahalo Art Center's 10th Annual Gathering in Gratitude will lead a Vermont-based delegation to join Pine Ridge locals at Singing Horse Trading Post on the Pine Ridge Reservation from June 26 to July 3.

Mahalo Art Center founder and director Luz Elena Morey, who created the GiG process, invites interested youth and adults to travel to South Dakota as part of this delegation. This group, the Lakota teens who came to Brattleboro last year and new participants from the reservation and beyond, will co-create another Gathering in Gratitude, a fully original, life-affirming and transformational happening, culminating in public performances both on and off the reservation.

A portion of GiG proceeds from the presentations will go to the Pine Ridge food bank managed by the BEAR Program and Project Feed the Thousands in Brattleboro. This summer's facilitation leaders will include GiG founder, Luz-Elena Morey; peacebuilder, Rupa Cousins; master musician, Bill Shontz; Lakota teen mentor, Tony Ten Fingers; and Yvonne "Tiny" DeCory, director of the BEAR Program, which builds awareness, self-esteem and leadership with Lakota youth through reading and expressive arts programs.

"Come and spend time with us," said DeCory. "Listen with your heart. Then, you will know what to do."

As documented, native teens experience the highest rates of poverty and suicide of any population group in the United States, at more than double the national average. In June 2015, Mahalo Art Center worked with the Pine Ridge Ambulance Service, local sponsor Brattleboro Savings & Loan Association and other sponsors from across the U.S. to bring the Oglala Lakota teen leaders and mentors from Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to Brattleboro. Here, they joined a multigenerational Vermont-based group at Mahalo Art Center in West Brattleboro for a week-long Gathering in Gratitude workshop. These groups came together in response to what has been called a teen suicide epidemic at Pine Ridge and other Native communities across the U.S.

A documentary filmmaker will accompany the Vermont delegation to South Dakota and a film about the Pine Ridge exchange will be shown in Brattleboro in the Fall of 2016.

"The Gathering in Gratitude experience was great, it helped the teens build resilience, self confidence and the outside-world relationships they really need," says 2015's Lakota Delegation Leader Tony Ten Fingers, author, teen counselor and former head of the Pine Ridge Ambulance Service. Ten Fingers participated in a statewide symposium on teen suicide while in Vermont. "We agreed last year we all wanted to bring the Gathering in Gratitude workshop to Pine Ridge so the teens' peers at home could benefit from this fun, creative and very therapeutic process."

"GIG builds on the strengths each participant brings, and reinforces connection with self, peers and adults," said JoEllen Tarallo-Falk, director of the Vermont Suicide Prevention Center, executive director of the Center for Health and Learning and last year's host of the Lakota women. "These are the underpinnings of resiliency and move people away from despair and crisis."

"Last year the Lakota teens broke my heart wide open and I knew we had to do the next GiG at Pine Ridge," said Alyse Landis, a 28-year-old Brattleboro native who interned as a co-director of the 2015 Gathering in Gratitude and is co-producer of this year's GiG. "Here in Brattleboro there is also a problem with addiction, overdoses, and suicides. Going to the reservation and showing these teens that they are not alone and that their voices matter is a great mission for me."

"Gathering in Gratitude helps people connect with the power of nature, spirit, the imagination and community to access a deeper sense of aliveness and creativity in the world," said Morey, creator of the process, which is featured in the film, "The Source," as well as in the book, "The Heart and Soul of Psychotherapy." "GiG participants learn ancient and cutting-edge techniques that can help them stay in tune with their inner wisdom long after the workshops are over."

In addition, Morey has also been asked to facilitate a mini Gathering in Gratitude at an annual summit of native leaders and participants from around the world: the Spiritual Unity of Tribes — Gathering of Eagles, taking place this year in Hill City, South Dakota, from June 21 to 25, just prior to the 2016 Pine Ridge GiG workshop. This four-day celebration will feature teachings from indigenous grandmothers and is co-produced by Susan Stark Christianson, author of "Women's Voices: The Wisdom of the Grandmothers" and the documentary "The Wisdom of the Grandmothers."

Gathering in Gratitude delegation members wishing to attend this prayerful intensive must register directly at the Gathering of Eagles site.

GiG 2016 is being sponsored by Brattleboro-based Mahalo Art Center and Bellows Falls' DCM Electric. From South Dakota, Canyon Calm Learning Arts Center of Custer, as well as the Bear Program, Singing Horse Trading Post of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and Spirit House of California are also sponsors.

Project directors are grateful for the guidance we have received from In-Sight Photography Project founder John Willis.

Details on how to get involved as a participant or sponsor, and to learn more about Gathering in Gratitude visit the Mahalo Art Center website or contact Luz Elena Morey at luzelena@mahaloartcenter.com for more information.


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