Mona Polacca

Senior Fellow, Original Caretakers

Mona Polacca is an educator and facilitator whose knowledge, empathy and values motivate others to speak and act. She has a special interest in older people and youth, and has led or participated in many effective initiatives related to Indigenous water issues and culturally appropriate health treatments for Native Americans.

Mona has held posts of responsibility within her own community, such as Treasurer for her tribe (the Colorado River Indian Tribes). She earned a masters in social work and has over twenty years of practical experience working, presenting and publishing on health and social issues affecting Native American peoples. She is the founder, President/CEO and faculty member of the Turtle Island Project, a non-profit program dedicated to promoting a vision of wellness and providing trans-cultural training to individuals, families, and healthcare professionals, and she is an active member of the Healing the Border Project of the Indigenous Alliance Without Borders. Mona is a founding member of the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, which is an alliance of Indigenous women from around the world who are upholding, preserving and protecting Indigenous practices and ceremonies, including the right to use the earth-based medicines.  

Mona is a longtime active participant in the United Nations Permanent Forum of Indigenous Peoples Issues and has been invited to speak in global forums and assist in drafting declarations. In December 2008, Mona had the distinguished honor of being the representative of the Indigenous Peoples on a panel of world religious leaders. These panelists drafted and signed a statement, “Faith in Human Rights,” in commemoration of the 60th Year of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In May 2013, she and others presented an intervention at the UNPFII, “A Call for the Indigenous World Forum on Water & Peace.” Her efforts have included providing support to First Nations to build capacity to take action on climate change, build sustainable communities, protect lands and waters, and  conserve biodiversity. 

Mona is motivated by her belief that climate and our future and sustainability are not just admirable goals for peoples all over the globe, but rather objectives that are attainable through dialogue among today’s leaders of spirituality and science. Her spiritual practice is grounded in the Havasupai, Hopi and Tewa Original Instructions and the Native American Church. 

Mona’s Work

Indigenous Water Ethics: A Traditional Dialogue  October 7, 2022

Mona Polacca, senior fellow for CEE’s Original Caretakers Program, assembled representatives of different Indigenous cultures to present their diverse perspectives and lived experiences stabilizing, protecting and creating resiliency for their communities’ water sources. Speakers include: Betty Lyons (Onandaga), Austin Nunez, chairman of the Wa:k, and Rāwiri Tinirau, co-director of Te Atawhai o Te Ao Māori research institute.

Water and Spirituality for Climate Adaptation 

CEE Senior Fellow Mona Polacca and Austin Nunez participated in this contribution to the UNFCCC COP26 being held in Glasgow, UK (November 2021) and to kickstart the Community of Practitioners on Water and Heritage. This will be a precursor to the dialogue among spiritual leaders to be held at the UN Water Decade Mid Term Review to be held in New York (2023).

Faith + Food Coalition Interfaith Statement: Mona Polacca brings Indigenous wisdom to the Faith + Food statement launch for the UN Food Systems Summit.

The virtual launch of the Faith + Food Coalition’s “Interfaith Statement” is the culmination of a months-long engagement in the formal process leading up to the United Nations Food Systems Summit on September 23, 2021 during the UN General Assembly in New York.

Notre Dame Law School Religious Liberty Initiative

Mona Polacca speaks on the theme of how Religious Liberty protections can empower women. Her talk includes reference to Oak Flat, traditional ancestral knowledge, rights of passage, and the importance of continuity of connection to the land for our sense of belonging and place.

From the Blog

CEE Senior Fellow Mona Polacca Joins Inclusive Conservation Academy’s Steering Group

Senior Fellow Mona Polacca has joined the inaugural Steering Group for the Inclusive Conservation Academy, a recently developed, international capacity-building project. The ICA is envisioned as a vehicle for building the capacities of and expanding the support network for all relevant stakeholders, including representatives of Indigenous peoples and local communities,… Read more

Meeting the Moment: Earth Day 2022

The climate crisis is a present, existential threat, yet there’s still time to change course and genuine reasons to be hopeful. That was a central message at the “Earth Day 2022: Life Force” celebration on April 22. This unique gathering, organized by the Center for Earth Ethics in collaboration with the… Read more

The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival

The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival will take place online on Cork Community Television from Thursday 25th November 2021 until Sunday 28th November 2021. There will be live events, including Q&A’s with the interviewees as well as some live music at the Maldron Hotel in Shandon, Cork, Ireland during the… Read more

Aliou Niang to Discuss Postcolonial Biblical Criticism on November 5

Postcolonial Poetics: Aliou Niang on the Human-Nature Relationship Friday, November 5, 2021 – Online 9 a.m. Los Angeles | 12 p.m. New York | 4 p.m. Dakar | 5 p.m. Paris REGISTER TODAY How can we understand the Bible and other faith teachings in the context of today’s ecological crisis?… Read more

Indigenous Leaders to Discuss Water Ethics on October 7

Indigenous Water Ethics: A Traditional Dialogue Thursday, October 7, 2021 9 a.m. Los Angeles | 12 p.m. New York | 6 p.m. Paris REGISTER TODAY Water is fundamental to all life on Earth. Protecting water is essential for ecosystem restoration, biodiversity, food justice and calming the climate crisis. As we… Read more

This is a Good Day – A Message for Summer Solstice

“This is a good day,” says Mona Polacca. “This is a good day to come together.” In this blessing recorded to mark the summer solstice, Polacca, a senior fellow at the Center for Earth Ethics, reminds us of “the many blessings that the summer season brings to us.” “We are… Read more