Stewardship Council (SC) Retreat Report
Date: November 8-10, 2019
Location: Aletheia Springs, Glen Ellen, California,
traditional territory of the Wappo People
(From left to right) Kruti Parekh, Dayvon Williams, Katheryne Lewis, Darcy Ottey, Marisa Taborga Byrne, Cameron Withey, Luis Rodriguez, Sharon Blackwolf, Hubert Blackwolf, Clement Wilson, Jett Cazeaux, Siri Gunnarson, Tarek Kutay, Dane Zahorsky, Lia Bentley, Sarah Spaeth, Catherina Willard, Vianey Moreno, Atlakatl Ce Tochtli Orozco, Ashanti Branch, Abraham Lateiner.
Remote participants in the retreat (not pictured): Becky Chief Eagle, Sobey Wing, fēnix grace.)
On Friday evening the Youth Passageways Stewardship Council, Leadership Circle, and a few witnesses and volunteers gathered with the intention of nourishing the imagination, heart, spirit, health and effective work of the Youth Passageways’ network. We shared a meal together, then co-created an opening ceremony. We honored the water and activated our altar with prayers and tokens from our home places and our previous gatherings. With permission from the elders present, we placed coins on the altar from a ceremony the previous summer, inviting money to flow like water to the places where it is needed. We shared our first council round of introductions of ourselves, our people, and what brought us to the gathering. Our evening was complete with general housekeeping and logistics, preparing us for a restful sleep and the next two days together.
Saturday, November 9th, began with an overview of our time together and our intentions:
- Begin with the imagination
- Strengthen our core
- Have fun together, in the spirit of gathering as a community
- Practice systems of bringing people towards the center in ways that are welcoming, inclusive, accessible, and organized
- Honor those transitioning into or out of leadership roles
- Celebrate and affirm the work that’s been done this past year, and strengthen momentum going forward
- Join with the Bay Area community to give back to our partners on the ground, reconnect and renew relationships, listen for what is needed in the broader network, and raise funds
We crafted our Gathering Agreements.
Next, we shared in the oral history of Youth Passageways, and made sure everyone was on the same page with terms (we use some strange terms at Youth Passageways!). The Leadership Circle had a chance to share about how the year had gone personally, as a team, and for the network. The Stewardship Council shared their stories and experiences, providing a broader picture of 2019. Witnesses offered comments on what they saw and heard. We ate an amazing lunch prepared by our chef for the weekend, Sarah Spaeth, and volunteer extraordinaire Lia Bentley.
In the afternoon, we went to the sacred waters of Aletheia Springs, where the hot springs flow out of the concrete. The two youngest members of our circle, Vianey Moreno and Atlakatl Ce Tochtli Orozco, collected water in jars from our hosts marked “water is love” and “water is abundance”. These joined the other items on our altar and were released back into the creek at the end of our time together. We gave offerings to the water, including prayers and songs offered by two of our elders, Sharon and Hubert Blackwolf. This ceremony was a gift to the land and to the stewards of Aletheia Springs for gifting this place to us for our Retreat. Much emotion was stirred for many present.
After this powerful ceremony with wide open hearts, it was a quick and disorienting transition for our circle to go from this strongly held container to preparing for the arrival of guests to our evening event with Youth Passageways’ Bay Area Partners.
The Saturday night event was wonderful in many ways, and also challenging. There was a strong impact on participants of the Stewardship Council retreat. Of particular concern was the impact on the youth of color and indigenous elders present when what was a predominantly white group arrived to be hosted for the evening. Through this situation, we were able to see both the growth we have made as a network, and the work still needed to ensure that Youth Passageways is a safe, equitable, and accessible space. The Leadership Circle and Stewardship Council learned more deeply about what is necessary to truly center our members most impacted by systemic oppression: how to continue to slow down and prepare all participants for widening our container. This event deeply informed network priorities moving forward.
The evening also saw Youth Passageways’ first silent auction. Many participants to the retreat brought items from home to contribute, and YPW shirts and bags were sold. We raised a total of $11oo0 for the YPW network, a modest but meaningful start. Pictured above is retreat witness Abraham Lateiner once he arrived home to his wife and daughters in Boston, holding up the Lakota Star Quilt donated to the raffle by former Co-Chair, Rebecca Chief Eagle.
Sunday morning we began with an Opening Prayer & Song by Hubert Blackwolf & Catherina Willard. Much was moving in the circle from the night before, and we sat together to more deeply unpack what had happened. Here is some of what was voiced:
- “Find a way to allow for space & be able to call folks back in. And there are going to be ones that want to burn the whole house down.”
- “ I don’t know how to explain who we are & what is the level of prep needed to invite folks into our family space & not cause further harm.”
- “This work is about reparations, I don’t know why we don’t say it more. White folk have more time to be in process. Black & brown bodies are more in crisis mode.”
- “What does it look like to pause & continue the Gathering Agreements when we open the circle to other folks in the midst of a fundraiser & the chaos of that transition. How do we keep the family safe?”
- “YPW needs to acknowledge they serve youth of color & for white folks to check themselves when they walk in the door.”
Sunday afternoon, we heard from the witnesses present, and took time to honor those stepping in and out of roles. The new Stewardship Council took shape with lots of youthful energy stepping closer to the center. Gifts were offered and exchanged. We wrapped up the weekend with a brief check out round, and a closing of our altar. The water we had gathered the day before was beautifully offered back to the stream by the youngest present, Tochtli (see photo below).
Reflections & Takeaways:
“I felt family immediately, community in action, & beautiful authentic community care for each other and this land.” – New Stewardship Council member Tarek Kutay
“How amazing it is that you invite WITNESSES to be there as you delve into really difficult conversations…I am now asking myself where in my life as an organizer could we be inviting in that type of support? You have disrupted (in the best sense of the word) my understanding of what is possible at a meeting!!!” – Witness Abraham Lateiner
“In 2020, it feels like our “core” is stronger than ever with our largest Stewardship Council to date, actively supporting the Leadership Circle” – Leadership Circle member Darcy Ottey
“We are a diverse, multi-racial, intergenerational, cross-cultural, multi-gender Stewardship Council that continues to grow and learn how to center those most impacted by systemic oppression. Our experiences from Saturday evening are deeply informing our priorities moving forward.” – Stewardship Council member Jett Cazeaux
Thank You to all Stewardship Council members, new and old, & their families; Guardians Gigi Coyle, Orland Bishop, and Dallas Chief Eagle who held us in spirit if not body; and the many YPW supporters in terms of time, money, and in-kind contributions that made the weekend retreat possible, including Grant and Tina Abert, Orland Bishop, Roger Milliken, AnJel Fund. Aletheia Springs, Sarah Spaeth, Lia Bentley, and many others! Thank you to Jett Cazeaux and Darcy Ottey for offering this report.