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2017 Stewardship Council (SC) Retreat Summary

Date: November 10-12, 2017

Location: Estes Park, CO

In Attendance:

Dane Zahorsky (Staff)

Darcy Ottey (SC Chair)

Kruti Parekh (SC Vice)

Marisa Taborga Byrne (Current SC)

Sharon Blackwolf (Current SC)

Sobey Wing (SC Secretary)

Clementine Wilson (Current SC)

Ramon Parish (Current SC)

Grant Abert (Current SC)

Jaime Carrillo  (Prospective SC)

Michelle Katz  (Prospective SC)

Rebecca Chief Eagle (Prospective SC)

Cameron Withey  (Prospective SC)

Sharon Shay Sloan (Prospective SC)

Brendan Clark (Prospective SC)

Hubert Blackwolf (Advisory Council)

Dallas Chief Eagle (Prospective Advisory Council)

Orland Bishop [Guardian/Advisory Council Member]

Gigi Coyle (Advisor/Guardian)

Win Phelps [witness/guest]

Narrative Summary:

This retreat marked the fourth birthday of Youth Passageways. It was held at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. This year, Darcy Ottey and Ramon Parish facilitated the retreat, supported by YPW guardians Orland Bishop and Gigi Coyle.

This year, a larger than usual group gathered, including several prospective Stewardship Council members and advisors as well as several of their spouses. It was a gift to have a strong collection of elder and “yelder” (young elder) couples present and solidified a sense of family and partnership in the work we are doing.

As always, it was an enormous relief to gather in person after a year of conducting our work remotely.  The named intention for our time together was to “nourish the heart of Youth Passageways, and the hearts of each person present.

Participants arrived Friday afternoon, including two guests there for just the evening, Pinar & Sophia Sinopoulos-Lloyd (members of the Cross-Cultural Protocols Working Group). Our opening ceremony and council included acknowledging the lands on which we gathered, called Heetko’einoo’ (“where it is a circle”) by the First Peoples of the place, the Arapaho. The Arapaho were removed from the lands during the bloody 1800’s, and now primarily live on two reservations, one in Oklahoma and one in Wyoming. We began with building an altar together, which grew over the course of the weekend. Many of us offered prayers into our circle. We concluded our long travel day with a round of council in which we each shared our reasons for being there, and anything we wanted to share to bring us fully present in the circle.

Saturday morning, Dane shared a heartfelt, impassioned report on how the last year has gone, and where he sees Youth Passageways at now. After he shared, we broke into small groups, where each person had a chance to share their experience of what’s unfolded at Youth Passageways, where they see us at, and how they see themselves fitting in.

We then heard report-backs from each group and built on the list of questions we’ve holding and wishing to explore during our time together, in order to build the plan moving forward. Here is the list of questions/topics that emerged:

  • What’s our Theory of Change?
  • Our financial situation, how do we shift how we are relating to money. “Who’s Going to Pay For This?”
  • Staffing roles–what is the best system for now, and who are the right people?
  • How is is the working of the SC going to get done most effectively?
  • How do we hold social identity? What is the impact of social identity/positioning on our recruitment/decision-making process? How are we holding diversity & inclusion moving into 2018?
  • How are folks engaging with YPW that we don’t even know? What are the tangible services that we provide?
  • What is it we’re trying to do?
  • What is it we want/expect out of doing those things?
  • What’s happening with the Front Range gathering? Is it the right place, and the right time?
  • How do we gather in a way that not only builds relationships within our network, brings light to important work but also truly serves to advance how rites of passage are being held in the world?
  • Who’s Telling the Story and How Are They Learning It?
  • Are We Actually a Family?
  • Where Are the Young Folks?
  • What Are We Actually Doing to Advance this Field? Is This Even the Right Frame?
  • What’s actually happening right now, in communities with our youth?
  • How do we build in relation to inclusivity?
  • What is changing/changed?
  • Who do we serve?
  • How are we compensating BIPOC (black/indigenous/people of color)/queer folks for their emotional labor in building the network?
  • What conflicts arose this year, and what is there for us to learn from them?
  • Rites of passage: are all ROP today either traditional or appropriative? How do we move beyond this binary?
  • Is Youth Passageways as an organization: white-led, multi-cultural, grounded in indigeneity? other?

It was a long and rich list, and we knew we wouldn’t get to everything over the weekend!

Saturday afternoon, two fishbowl councils were held with our prospective SC members & guests serving as witnesses.  The first dialogue began with the Leadership Circle (Dane, Ramon, and Darcy) sharing about the draft YPW Theory of Change, and speaking about how they see the YPW mission, what’s been happening over the last year, and where we seem to be getting stuck.  The second council focused on how we are using our resources: who’s in what role, how our tasks are getting done, and how to work with our financial challenges as we build for the future. Our witnesses mirrored back the ways we’ve continued to be stuck with conflicting visions, and the need for clear and shared vision of where we’re going and how we fit into the larger cultural shift we’re working for. Maybe more than anything else there was a call for simplicity.

We then were joined via Zoom by Sam Bull, Melissa Michaels, and Pegi Eyers, three of our advisors. We shared briefly what was happening at our retreat, and they brought their voices into the circle, sharing why they were part of Youth Passageways, and what was alive for them in that moment. A few notes from other advisors were shared into the circle as well. While brief, it felt good to continue to build connection between the members of our family, and stay connected with the large circle that is holding Youth Passageways.

Saturday evening, we had a strong truth sharing around where we were individually and as group, naming key missteps and hard moments and feelings. We honored Dane for his work over the last year, and supported him in grieving the loss of his mother and his challenging role in midwifing her death in October. We washed away what was ready to be released from the last year with snow, and shared song together. Some folks met late into the night in healing ceremony, others in playful decompression, others in the dreamtime.

Sunday morning was centered around creating space for what came through the day before. We honored Grant Abert who has been a long-time SC member, major donor, and involved in any way he’s been asked over the last four years. With gifts and words we marked his transition out of one role (on the Stewardship Council) and into another as an advisor.

Over the course of a deep listening, all other SC members affirmed their renewed commitment to continue on, and were joined by new SC members Cameron Withey, Jaime Carrillo, Rebecca Chief Eagle, and Hubert Blackwolf. Supporting that circle were the rest of the retreat participants, including several folks who put a foot or toe in yet still unsure what the right seat might be. We continue to listen for how they will serve the vision. Orland and Gigi continue to support as Guardians while also recognizing that they may step back even further in coming years.  All officers remain in their roles, except Clementine Wilson, who gratefully stepped back as Jaime Carrillo stepped in with knowledge and experience to fulfill the role. The Leadership Circle (Ramon, Darcy, and Dane) continue on, joined by Marisa Taborga-Byrne and Kruti Parekh.

As we moved towards closing, we spoke of the role of the Stewardship Council in fundraising, and the spiritual dimension of gathering resources for our work. Each of us made our own pledges for the year. An interesting moment occurred when the bag containing pledges and donations was placed on the altar. A request was made to move the bag, to separate the profane of money from the sacred of our altar. Another voice spoke of the ways that money is sacred, and the concern of separating the two: how key reuniting in this way is to the cultural shift we are working towards. Collectively, we figured out what to do: place the bag half on the altar? We quickly found our way: the donations were placed on the altar, small stones holding it in place, and a prayer was offered that it may come back one hundred fold, toward the health and wholeness of our youth, our communities, and the land.

After our closing as a small community, we traveled from Estes Park into Denver, and re-convened with folks from the Front Range at Four Winds American Indian Center for an evening of meeting one another, exploring a Front Range Gathering for the Youth Passageways community. As we shared a simple potluck together in a Christian church reclaimed for First Nations peoples, we spoke of Youth Passageways’ history, what our gatherings are about, what has happened in the Front Range so far in preparation, and what we collectively heard is needed at this time. People spoke of the need for something, but perhaps it is a smaller gathering focused more regionally rather than serving the broader Youth Passageways community, or perhaps more time and local community building is needed first. We left inspired by the work happening at Four Winds, and renewed in our commitment to listening together to what is needed, and offering our gifts in service to the whole.

Thank You to all Stewardship Council members, new and old, & their families, Gigi Coyle, Orland Bishop, Grant Abert, Kailo Fund, Kalliopeia Foundation, Roger Milliken, AnJel Fund, Four Winds Indian Center, Estes Park YMCA, and many others!

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