Grandma Aggie was one of 13 indigenous women from cultures around the world who founded the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers in October, 2004. Grandma Aggie served as Council Chair for over ten years.
The Grandmothers are both women of prayer and women of action. Their traditional ways link them with the forces of the earth. Their solidarity with one another creates a web to balance the injustices wrought from an imbalanced world, a world disconnected from the fundamental laws of nature and the original teachings based on a respect for all of life.
“We are at the threshold. We are going to see change. If we can create the vision in our heart, it will spread. As women of wisdom, we cannot be divided. As bringers of light, we have no choice but to join together.”
– We’Moon 2009 Calendar: At the Crossroads, dedicated to the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers.
The first Council Gathering in 2004 was held at Menla Mountain Retreat in upstate New York. The Grandmothers and their translators arrived from all over the world: the Arctic Circle, North, South and Central America, Africa, and Asia. Within a few days of meetings and ceremonies, the Grandmothers agreed to form a global alliance to serve both their common goals and their specific local concerns.
In May 2005, their second Council Gathering was hosted by Mayan Grandmother, Flordemayo, in Pojoaque Pueblo, New Mexico. They solidified their alliance, created a mission statement, voiced prayers at sacred Pueblo sites, and approved projects to further their vision.
In October 2005, the Grandmothers Council sent a letter to the Vatican urging the Pope to repeal the Roman Catholic Papal edict of 1493, which granted dominion to European nations over lands occupied by tribal peoples for thousands of years. This edict still serves as the spiritual, legal, and moral justification for the exercise of jurisdiction over tribal peoples by nation-states. [They pursued this repeal for years, without success.]
At the May 2006 gathering, near Oaxaca, Mexico, the Council continued their mission for global peace. They were hosted by Mazatec Grandmother, Julieta Casimiro, at her home in the Sierra Madres.
In October 2006 the Grandmothers Council reunited in the exiled home of the Tibetans, hosted by the Tibetan Grandmother Tsering Dolma Gyaltong. They met with His Holiness the Dalai Lama to strengthen their prayer for global peace and to acknowledge their solidarity with the Tibetan people to reclaim their homeland.
In June 2007 the fifth Council Gathering was held in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
The Grandmothers gathered in the home of the Oglala Lakota Grandmothers, Beatrice and Rita Long Visitor Holy Dance, on southwest corner of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The theme of the event was “We Are Again One People.”
In July 2007, Council representatives attended the National Organization of Women Conference in Detroit, Michigan. They passed a resolution to “Restore Peace and Dignity to Indigenous Women,” in order to protest uranium mining on indigenous lands.
At the October 2007 Bioneers Conference in Marin County, California, the Grandmothers were honored and made presentations via satellite to 18 remote conference sites across the U.S. Another Bioneers broadcast aired on Link TV to 23 million homes around the world.
In October 2008, during the Heartbeat for Peace Conference in Washington D.C., the Grandmothers joined with Turtle Women Rising in a Drum Gathering for Peace in front of the White House.
In 2009, the Grandmothers Council was featured in an 88-minute documentary about their travels and public gatherings. The film, For the Next Seven Generations: The Grandmothers Speak, was produced by Carole Hart and won four awards at film festivals around the U.S. Thousands of people around the world viewed the film at theaters, schools, community centers, churches, and fundraisers.
In August 2009, Grandmother Agnes Pilgrim hosted the sixth Council in Lincoln City, Oregon, near the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indian Reservation. Close to 500 people convened around the theme of One Chance, One Life, One Tribe. Ceremonial prayers were offered mornings and evenings on the beach, around a fire that was tended continuously for 5 days. At the conclusion, the Grandmothers were honored at the Nesika Illahee Pow-Wow on the Siletz Indian Reservation.
In December 2009, Hopi/Havasupai Grandmother, Mona Polaca, hosted the next Council gathering in Sedona, Arizona. Over 500 people joined to Honor Creation and Celebrate Community in Prayer for a Global Future, with a focus on Water, Air, Fire, and Mother Earth. Havasupai wisdom keepers shared a sunrise ceremony on the rim of the Grand Canyon as the moon set and the sun rose.
In October 2010, the Grandmothers gathered in Krishima, Japan, hosted by Brazilian/Japanese Grandmother Clara Shinobu Iura. The theme was New Time, New Life, New World, New People, New System. They participated in a citizen-sponsored program associated with the United Nations COP10 Summit on Biodiversity and made prayers for peace at the site of the atomic bombing in Nagasaki.
In May 2011, the Council gathered in Anchorage, Alaska, hosted by Yup’ik Grandmother, Rita Pitka Blumenstein. The theme, Healing the Spirit from the Light Within, manifested through prayer ceremonies, healings, and cultural exchanges.
In October 2011, Brazilian Grandmother, Maria Alice, hosted the Council at the University of Peace in Brasilia, Brazil. With a focus on Grandmothers’ Voice: In the Flow of the Water, they prayed and discussed issues related to water.
In July 2012, the Grandmothers gathered at the Northern Cheyenne Reservation near Lame Deer, Montana. Hosted by Margaret Behan, the theme was Gratitude Brings Freedom. Thirteen tee-pees encircled the sacred arbor where prayers and teachings took place.
In November 2012, Grandmother Aama Bombo, of the Tamang tribe of Nepal, hosted the Council in Kathmandu, Nepal. The theme was Praying for Peace in the Land of the Buddha. Each day included prayers at the sacred fire, council teachings, and special guests.
In December 2013, a full council gathering was held in Aotearoa, New Zealand, by invitation from Maori Ambassador, Pauline Tangiora.
In September 2014, Oglala Lakota Unci Grandmother, Rita Long Visitor Holy Dance, hosted the Council in Spearfish, South Dakota, in the ancestral lands of the Lakota Nation. The focus of the event was on The Sacred Hoop of Peace and Compassion.
In July 2015, the Council’s 13th gathering was hosted by Grandmother Bernadette Rebienot in her home village of Oyenano, Gabon. The theme was Echoes of the Grandmothers: Roots of Humanity.
In August 2016, upon completing a full cycle of Council gatherings, at each home territory, the Grandmothers came together for a circle of prayer in their Creation to Completion celebration at Menla Mountain Retreat in New York (where their worldwide path began in 2004).
Here is the Council’s mission statement:
We, the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, represent a global alliance of prayer, education and healing for our Mother Earth, all Her inhabitants, all the children, and for the next seven generations to come. We are deeply concerned with the unprecedented destruction of our Mother Earth and the destruction of indigenous ways of life. We believe the teachings of our ancestors will light our way through an uncertain future. We look to further our vision through the realization of projects that protect our diverse cultures: lands, medicines, language and ceremonial ways of prayer and through projects that educate and nurture our children.
The International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers – Their official website has detailed information about each Grandmother, upcoming events, Council projects, and items for sale. (Sadly, the site seems to be down.)
Here is the 2020 tribute honoring Grandmother Agnes on the 13 Grandmothers Council website:
https://www.grandmotherscouncil.org/in-honor-of-grandmother-agnes-taowhywee-baker-pilgrim/ (Sadly, the site seems to be down.)
For the Next 7 Generations: The Grandmothers Speak is the feature-length video beginning with the first 13 Grandmothers’ Council in Phoenicia, New York, and continuing through their international efforts promoting peace and prayer over the next 5 years. Also see a 2013 Leading Edge video interview with Producer/Director Carole Hart.
To learn even more about the Council, visit Upriver to Morning.
The Center for Sacred Studies, founded by Joyti, initiated the creation of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers in 2004 and coordinated Council projects and travels worldwide for 15 years.
The following books and DVD about the 13 Grandmothers are available at the Council’s website:
Grandmothers Wisdom: Reverence for All Creation (2019, hardcover and softcover)
Carole Hart’s 88-minute documentary, For the Next 7 Generations (2009, DVD)
Grandmothers Counsel the World: Women Elders Offer Their Vision for Our Planet (2006, softcover)