Two years ago, our intrepid Altai project leader Svetlana Katynova completed a five-year research project to document the wisdom of elders in the Ust Koksa district of Altai. This project prevented the loss of cultural history, which is critical for the recovery of Altai culture. Although Svetlana has had a successful professional career doing similar work, she did this project as a volunteer. Her out-of-pocket costs were funded in part by your contributions.
One year ago, Svetlana completed the compilation of all this data into book form, including an article by me giving a foreigner's perspective on the unique Ust Koksa area. Her goal is to have the book published in Russian, Altaian, English, and German. In one of the most impoverished regions of Russia, finding fundors for such an ambitions project has been a major effort.
We are pleased to announce that the Altai Republic Ministry of Tourism stepped forward to publish and distribute the Russian version of the book. Svetlana is still working away on publication of the translations.
Wholeheartedly, I invite you to support this project.
Since we began building homes for Lakota families years ago, Joe Fast Horse has been on the building sites, working hard as a volunteer. And through the internet, he has educated himself on all aspects of off-the-grid, low-cost, healthy housing.
However, Joe and his family still live in dangerously mold-infested government housing on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Joe and Lena dream of building an eco-sustainable children's safe house and home. They currently have nine children in their home; five are by birth and four by circumstance. Additionally, they work with Lakota Oyate Wakanyeja Owicakiyape (LOWO) as an emergency placement home for children. This summer, we got started on this safe house -- in other words, the foundation for just the central section of this house. Even though most of the building materials are local (read "free"), funds are needed for doors, windows, beams, and generator fuel.
In most of the US, food, shelter, and life's necessities are readily available. Not in Pine Ridge -- "America's 3rd World Country." Everything is used and reused. Please sign up for a monthly donation today. Thank you for caring.
The Altai people deeply spiritual, but they are also semi-nomadic horsemen, so it is fitting that the an object as practical as a hitching post is central to their sacred culture.
The deep symbology of the hitching post serves the Altai people in their efforts to sustain their culture, so that they can continue to care for their traditional lands, which are sacred to them. Even though many Altai families are now living in cities far from their beloved horses, ceremonial installation of a hitching post can serve to tie them to their ancient culture. This is one of the projects which your donations support.
A home's hitching post documents who lives there
As late as the middle of the 20th Century, every Altai home had a hitching post, installed on the right side of the home. Horses were tied to it, but it was also constructed to document information about the ancestral lineage of the family. A similar post was installed inside the yurt, to document information about how many sons and daughters the family had, the year the couple was married, and more.
The symbology of the hitching post
The design of the hitching post conveys the Altai cosmology of the three worlds. The upper part of the post rests against the sky and connects people here on Earth with those in the afterllife. The middle rests on the ground and is the backbone of life on Earth. The buried section represents the underworld -- that which is hidden from our awareness.
Ceremony to maintain the connection between the three worlds
A hitching post is installed is more than a concrete material object. To pay homage to the upper world, people put food at the base of the hitching post to satisfy people in the afterlife. People give thanks, say blessings, sing songs, and conduct other ceremonies. Through the post, Altai people can speak to the other worlds.
When we ceremonially install a hitching post, it is a fusion of the material and the spiritual -- an moment of intimate knowledge about life. Thank you for enabling such joyful rituals to continue.