INTERCULTURAL LEADERSHIP Institute
The Intercultural Leadership Institute, also known as ILI, is a collaborative effort of First Peoples Fund, Alternate ROOTS, the National Association of Latino Arts & Culture and the PA'I Foundation. These four core partner organizations have a shared commitment to pursue cultural equity and to support artists, culture bearers, and other arts professionals as change-makers in their communities.
Thirty emerging and established artists, arts managers and culture bearers in various stages of career development were selected for the first ILI cohort for 2017-2018. The cohort launched with a convening in Mississippi in March 2017. First Peoples Fund hosted the cohort in Lakota Territory in September 2017 for a week of immersive learning about Lakota history and culture. Learn more about ILI and apply for the 2018-2019 cohort at the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture's website.
Intercultural Leadership Program-LAKOTA TERRITORY September 2017
Images by Shannon Burnette-Meek
ILI fellow Bobby LeFebre, writer, performer, cultural worker and cofounder of Cafe Cultura in Denver wrote and shared #iliLakota with the cohort in September.
This morning, we turned to the east and stared at the rising sun that snuck upward against the silver sky as though summoned.
Together, the drums inside our chests began to sound. The slow rhythmic echo reverberated in concert across sacred tribal lands.
In the distance, the black hills stood like an ancestor unmovable; rocky terrain, constructed by hands that speak the language of earth.
Black Elk Peak, a prayer in an ancient tongue their crosses were unable to convert; an ancestor colonization was unable to kill.
How silly they were to think they could rid the earth of the people who sprang from it. As if the creator was not the architect of the veins cut open to bleed life into existence. As if the spirit of relatives taken is not visible in the swaying of the grassy plains.
When you close your eyes here, the ancestors evoke a stirring inside you. And when you open them, the ash of manifest destiny turns eyes to mud.
Wasi’chu, taker of fat, eater of everything, when will you learn that the sun cannot be stolen? Silly marauders, your bloody hands never learned that real gold rests shining in the sky?
The sons and daughters of broken treaties are tethered to their land. Our brothers and sisters have not forgotten their names. They are etched into the wind. Scribed into the clouds. Written into the fire. Painted into the stars. The rivers still reflect their hearts. Sometimes you remember things, you never forgot in the first place.
Here, the sage and sweet grass still burns. The sacrifice of sun dance still heals. Tobacco still pinched into prayer ties. The elders have protected the sacred songs in the treasure chests of their throats. And we, we stand here grateful.
We stand here, a human altar dressed in flowers holding hands. A popochcomi in the flesh, healing all that ails us; our prayers dance toward the heavens like copal.
We stand here, in the circle of this medicine. In this holy hoop of decolonization. Both code switching and unflinching. With the wings of yesterday and the legs of tomorrow.
We trust in all we know. Our leaves and roots are inseparably entwined.
Let our hands become blistered from the work. And our blood be the life that shifts the wind in the direction of collective liberation.
Written by Bobby LeFebre