Original Caretakers


Indigenous traditions hold important knowledge for the challenge posed by our ecological crisis.

Our Original Caretakers Program supports the work of wisdom keepers from Indigenous traditions. The vast majority of what remains of the world’s biodiversity is in the hands of Indigenous peoples, and their lifeways are under constant assault and threat. CEE supports Indigenous rights to self-determination and is committed to making sure Indigenous voices are heard and heeded in the necessary reorientation of our attitudes towards nature and creation of a new economic development paradigm.

Meet the team


Meet Mona Polacca

Mona Polacca is the Original Caretakers Senior Fellow

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From the blog

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

Watch: Faith + Food Coalition opens dialogues with livestream

The Center for Earth Ethics is so excited about the Faith + Food Coalition Dialogue Series – we hosted a livestream conversation Friday, March 26th! Check out our conversation with CEE Executive Director Karenna Gore, Sustainability and Global Affairs Program Director Andrew Schwartz, Original Caretakers Program Senior Fellow Mona Polacca and Director of… Read more

A World Water Day Message from Mona Polacca

          Taking time out today to acknowledge this divine creation. Water. Where is your water? What is happening to your water? Who is making decisions about your water? Where is the water that you come from? What is your identity in relationship with your water?  … Read more

Restoring Brigid, Restoring Justice

Originally Published as “A Time of Justice, A Season of Renewal” on Jan 28, 2021 before Brigid’s Day Feb 1st by Shannon Michaela Doree Smith.  Updated March 8th.  This piece is re-published on International Women’s Day 2021 with gratitude to President Joseph R. Biden for his Proclamation on Irish-American Heritage… Read more

CEE February 2021 Newsletter

Visit the CEE Blog          CEE in the NEWS            EVENTS   CEE Director Karenna Gore’s video message on faith and climate for the Institute of the Studies of Religion, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Read the complete blog at ISER.org   Value our work?  Make… Read more

Tlazocamati: Fuego de amar / Fire of Loving

Tlazocamati: Fuego de amar (al modo nahua) Traer las cuatro banderas (la roja, la amarilla, la negra, la blanca) y las cinco cuentas (de piedra verde, de oro, de pedernal, de obsidiana, de barro) a esta altura no es fácil. Se marchitan la flores, se desgarran las plumas, se gasta… Read more

Summer News – A Call to Peace, Justice and Prayers for the Earth

Honoring Sacred Sites Day, June 21st A Call to Peace, Justice and Prayers for the Earth June 18th -21st, 2020 Chief Arvol Looking Horse has a vision. “One day I would like to see ‘Honoring Sacred Sites Day, June 21st’ recognized all over the world, when people will finally understand their importance. 2020 is the 25th… Read more

The Spirit is Action: A Call for Justice

Mindahi Bastida, General Coordinator of the Otomi-Toltec Regional Council in Mexico, issued a statement in response to the murder of Maya Traditional Leader, Domingo Choc, in Guatemala. A video of Mindahi reading his response was recorded and can be viewed here. Read the statement below. The Indigenous Peoples of the world… Read more

Mindahi Bastida and Tiokasin Ghosthorse join other indigenous voices contributing to National Geographic Corona Virus Coverage

Traditional indigenous beliefs are a powerful tool for understanding the pandemic Native American spiritual leaders say this is a time to recalibrate for a better future. BY RACHEL HARTIGAN SHEA PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOSUÉ RIVAS Read the complete article at National Geographic online – May 12, 2020 *** ‘Blood memory’ For indigenous people,… Read more

Irish help raise 1.7 million and growing for Navajo and Hopi Nations impacted by Covid-19

In a time when many are struggling, and challenged to summon the will to care for those most suffering, a centuries old bond between nations shines a light on human kindness and solidarity.  Over 1.7 million has been raised so far for the Navajo and Hopi families COVID-19 Relief Fund… Read more

Lighting the Sacred Fire – May Fire Festivals and Prayers in Solidarity

Today we light our sacred fires across the country and indeed across many sacred lands, to stand with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe for peace and right action. During this time of the Coronavirus the Mashpee have received notice of dissolution of their lands from the US Department of the Interior and… Read more

Reclaiming Indigenous Paths to Health Webinar with Tishman Environment & Design Center

Original Caretakers Webinar for Earth Week From the Original Caretakers Blog In Solidarity Mashpee Wampanoag Solidarity Training Learn how to support the Mashpee Wampanoag as they reverse the “disestablishment” of their tribal lands. Sunday, April 19th, 5-7 pm EST  MORE INFORMATION / REGISTER You can also sign the MOVE ON… Read more

What is Ethnoecology?

Ethnoecology is an interdisciplinary field of study that enables a human group with a land-based culture to share how they conceive the ecosystem they inhabit. The root ‘ethno’ points to the native character of the human group; however, ethnoecology is also pertinent to those who are indigenous to a place, meaning… Read more

The Center for Earth Ethics Stands with Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

The Center for Earth Ethics Stands with the Masphee Wampanoag Tribe for the protection of their homelands and all lands, waters and sacred sites of tribal nations and indigenous peoples around the world.  During this time of the Coronavirus the Mashpee have received notice of dissolution of their lands (statement on Mashpee Wampanoag… Read more

“Holy Land, Living Water” – Convening Celebrates UN WIHW 2020

Let the Parliament of the World’s Religions take you on a journey through story, videos and photos of an interfaith pilgrimage to remember the Sacredness of Water & the power of connecting with Sacred Sites of every faith. *** Program Blog Posted In:  World Interfaith Harmony Week 03. 11. 2020 By  Parliament… Read more

CEE Stands with Wendsler Nosie / Poor Peoples Campaign

Rev. William Barber, co-chair of the new Poor Peoples Campaign said, “I really feel that, in some sense, Apache elder and my brother Wendsler Nosie Sr. is America’s Gandhi in this moment. A lot of our struggles start with lone individuals acting in ways that affect the whole.” The protection… Read more

Successful Seminar “Indigenous Knowledge for Integral Water Management in Latin America and the Caribbean”

Report on “Indigenous Knowledge for Integral Water Management in Latin America and the Caribbean ” Manaus, Brazil August 8-9 from CODIA.  CEE’s Mindahi Bastida was pleased to participate (see photo below). CODIA, September 6, 2019 Within the framework of the International Day of Indigenous Peoples, UNESCO convened leaders from Panama,… Read more

Indigenous leaders mobilize in Paris to recognize the rights of “Mother Earth”

biodiversity By  Laurence Dequay Posted on 24/10/2019 at 10:40 Originally published en Français at Marianne.net Invited by the Amazon Planet Association, Amazonian, Mexican, and Maasai spiritual leaders, people who have been protecting biodiversity for thousands of years, come together to convince world leaders and civil society to treat “Mother Earth” as… Read more

Sanctuarizing Forests: report

Originally Published by Normandy Chair for Peace BY CLAUDIA PINEDA CONCHA · PUBLISHED 31/10/2019 · UPDATED 14/11/2019 Event organised by Emilie Gaillard, General Coordinator of the Normandy Chair for Peace (Normandy region, CNRS, University of Caen in Normandy), in collaboration with Nadia Tahir (ERLIS, University of Caen in Normandy) and Vassili Rivron (CERREV, University of… Read more

Indigenous Science of Time

In this video, Jennifer Wemigwans, professor at University of Toronto, and author of A Digital Bundle, Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Knowledge Online, explains Geraldine Ann Patrick’s approach to Maya conception of time and how, contrary to what Maya scholars have said for the past five hundred years, Mesoamerican calendars did have a… Read more

Original Caretakers Director, joined Indigenous Voices in Brazil to support the SDG’s

In the International Decade of Action for Water (2018-2028) and International Year of Indigenous Languages 2019, and coinciding with the international day of indigenous peoples (August 9), the international hydrological program celebrated with a seminar on Indigenous Knowledge for Integral Water Management in Latin America and the Caribbean in Manaus, Brazil, August 8-9, 2019 Following the seminar,… Read more

Statement from the Gathering of Indigenous Spiritual Elders of South America & The Abya Yala

The process of unification of spiritual leaders around the world is taking place. CEE’s Original Caretakers Program Director, Mindahi Bastida recently participated in one such gathering of Indigenous Spiritual Elders of South America & The Abya Yala.  In order to take the next step among the Latin American peoples, native… Read more

A Very Special Evening with Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer: Reflection & Video

“Last night I had the joyful opportunity to interview Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass, Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. She is sweet as the sweetgrass, loving as a mother and attentive as a wise elder. She was delighted to hear that we, from the Center… Read more

Reflections on the Doctrine of Discovery Conference

Attending the conference on the Doctrine of Discovery, provided an opportunity to deepen our collective understanding of these edicts, which are based on the Papal Bulls issued by the Catholic Church in the fifteenth century. I find that I always have to start at the beginning in discussing this because… Read more

Letter to Pope Francis on Protecting Sacred Sites

This summer, Mindahi Bastida traveled by invitation to the Vatican to attend a conference organized by Cardinal Turkson titled “Saving Our Common Home and the Future of Life on Earth”. The conference brought together indigenous and young activists, scientific experts, religious leaders and Vatican officials to assess the impact of Francis’… Read more

Mindahi Bastida Muñoz: The Meaning of Life and Earth’s Sacred Elements

Excellence Reporter is conducting 1000+ interviews on the topic: What is the Meaning of Life? In a time of so much turbulence and seemingly insurmountable challenges, this project is dedicated to inspiring awakening and insight. Contributors to the site include author Rev. John Dear, activist Bill McKibben, yoga innovator Ana… Read more

Eagle and Condor Curriculum: A Visit to the Yánesha, Indigenous Peoples of Central Peru

The sky was black and beautiful. The stars shone above like glistening guardians of the night. Guided only by fire light, we scaled the Amazonian hillside. I yearned to take my shoes off and so I did. I wanted the soles of my feet to touch the silky, black soil… Read more

Eagle and Condor Consciousness: Three Thinkers in a Native Way

Please enjoy the Program Description and Video below. February 21, 2018 7:00 – 8:30 pm Union Theological Seminary James Chapel 3041 Broadway New York City, NY 10027 The “Original Caretakers Program” of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary; The Contemplative Alliance, an Initiative of the Global initiative… Read more

Indigenous Peoples’ Voices at the World Urban Forum 9. UN-Habitat

Original Caretakers Program – Center for Earth Ethics participation at the Ninth Session of the World Urban Forum. Kuala Lumpur, 7-13  February 2018 Mindahi Bastida-Munoz participated in the Stakeholders’ Roundtable – Indigenous Peoples Session, which focused on the problems that indigenous peoples face as migrants and as citizens in the cities.… Read more

The Inquisition in Yucatan, Mexico: Mistreatment of Mayan Priests

Last December 15-19, I attended a Symposium on Mayan History and Religion in Malmö University, Sweden.  One of the most outstanding components of the program was the offer of three-day courses, among which featured one on Paleography of Colonial Texts. It was offered by John Chuchiak, Director of both the… Read more

Ethiopia, Land of Origins, Hosted Interfaith Event for a Culture of Peace, Harmony and Human Dignity

By Mindahi Bastida Let us be the change we want to see in the world by living according to the teaching of the Golden Rule as stated in different religious holy books, which says “Treat others the way you want to be treated”, was the call of the organizers of… Read more

Climate Crisis Asia…..Thailand

Traveling through Asia this Dec – Jan, visiting Thailand, Hong Kong and Japan, traversing throughout city and mountain terrain, observing climate conditions of rain and drought through floral growth in Nature, opened dialogue with park rangers, farmers, students and Buddhist monks on the effects of Climate Change in their lives… Read more

Lyla June on the Power of Music & Poetry in a Life of Prayer

BY CHICAGO ‘N BEYOND JANUARY 16, 2018 Read the Full Article at No Depression   ———– What role did music play in your upbringing in the Diné tradition?  In the Diné language (Diné Bizaad) Hataałii means both “singer” and “doctor”. Also, in our language Sodizin means both “song” and “prayer.” So in my upbringing, music was… Read more

Sacred Sites – Setting Sun

Protecting Sacred Sites

The Spirit is love Protection of Sacred Sites in the World Indigenous Peoples around the World are the caretakers of Mother Earth. It is the time of the New Dawn, it is time for the acknowledgement of their Biocultural wisdom to protect life and we need to pay respect to… Read more

CEE Original Caretakers Fellow Recognized for Inspiring Others in 2017

We’re so proud to be celebrating CEE’s Lyla June Johnson as one of AJ+ 9 most inspiring women of 2017! She is named alongside other incredible women including Park Ranger Betty Reid Soskin, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, and Representative Ilhan Omar. Congratulations Lyla June! Read more

Lenape Clan Mother Calls on Governor Cuomo to protect Bald Eagles’ Nesting Area, Stop CPV

Thursday, December 21, 2017 – Winter Solstice Deer Clan Chief of the Ramapough Lenape Calls on Governor Cuomo to protect Bald Eagles’ Nesting Area and Stop Pipeline in Orange County, NY Indigenous leaders present letter to Andrew Cuomo; Pipeline initially blocked by State regulators, OK’ed by Trump federal agency (FERC)… Read more

CPV Power Plant begins construction despite Bald Eagle’s nest and rejection from NY State

Winter Solstice Update: For Immediate Release FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—Lenape Clan Mother Calls on Governor Cuomo to protect Bald Eagles’ Nesting Area and Stop Pipeline Letter from Clara in PDF SIGN ON to show your SUPPORT here! https://centerforearthethics.org/clara/ Competitive Power Ventures has been attempting to build a power plant on 60… Read more

Collaborations Across Borders: Human Impacts

December 6, 2017, CEE had the pleasure to co-host Collaborations Across Borders in New York City with the Human Impacts Institute. This one-night Human Impacts Salon featured live performances by Lemon Guo, Angel Nafis, and Lyla June Johnston, exploring how we are working together in innovative ways to take climate action.… Read more

Mungo Man: The Journey Home

This week, Australia welcomed home its oldest known human, 43,000 year old Mungo Man.  CEE’s Original Caretakers Program Director, Mindahi Bastida, traveled across the globe to be a part of this historic event.    Dean Sewell documented the long journey home for The Guardian. Mindahi, what was the purpose of your… Read more

Meeting on Water and Spirituality – Spiritual Reserves of Humanity Workshop of Walkers

A snapshot of Mindahi’s work in Brazil Read more

Dear Pope Francis – Please Help Us Protect the World’s Sacred Places

“We want peace, we want dignity, we want life, but we also want future generations to have life to take care of.” There is real fear in people across the planet that their children and their children’s children will not have much of a planet to inherit. This is not… Read more

Time Space: The Return of the Days of the Sun and of the Mesoamerican Calendar

We are living in a time of renewal, preparing our communities to enter a time-space of wider consciousness. The calendars of our ancestors were mistakenly read since the colonial takeover and five centuries years later we have finally learned how to read them. This is perfect timing, because Mesoamerican calendars… Read more