This fire was started in the Uluu Ot ceremony in Kyrgyzstan in 2006. May we continue to build this sacred fire of unity and healing for Mother Earth.
“We make fire with our thanks." ~ Credo Mutwa
It was only fitting that the first official Global Gathering for Big Cat Conservation convened on the ancestral homelands of the White Lions, king of kings, and in the spot on earth on which humankind originated. Shamans, elders, and scientists traveled from the four corners of the Earth to meet, pray, and share ideas about conservation throughout the week together. The 17 souls in attendance represented white lions, snow leopards, leopards, and tigers, as well as the sacred wolves of France.
The gathering launched at sunset on Ingwavuma (Lion) Day with a fire ceremony guided by the drums of local healers and was followed by a traditional poike meal around the fire. Throughout the week, participants shared with one another formally, through presentations, and informally, through ceremonies, at meals, and during other activities, including a visit to a local school during which local learners performed, danced traditional dances, and recited poetry for us. The group also traveled to Kruger Park, one of the largest biospheres in the world, to see additional African wildlife.
Participants woke up each morning to the sounds of the grey loeries and other birds and had the opportunity to spend time with the White Lions each day. They gave in depth presentations throughout the week, sharing about their cultures and organizations, and giving a voice to the species they represented.
The week concluded with breakout groups and brainstorming sessions during which the group discussed how to technology could serve efforts to conserve these sacred species, and the group also outlined next steps for the Alliance (below), including concrete action items that can be taken before our next gathering.
The shadow showed up as well. Two elders—one representing the Jaguars of Mexico and one representing the Black Lion of Ethiopia—were unable to join the delegation at the last minute. Also, one elder arrived to the gathering quite ill. Others within the group subsequently fell ill during the week. However, everyone was feeling stronger and better by the conclusion of the gathering.
Highlights of the gathering:
- Big cat shamans who would not otherwise have had a chance to meet were brought together and encouraged to participate on their own terms, fully supported by Western-oriented conservationists.
- Those who had previously been working in isolation were able to share challenges, struggles, and successes with others who truly understand.
- Through discussions of oral histories and language, ancient ties were remembered among cultures separated by vast expanses of geography.
- The diversity and multiplicity of training, culture and language were accorded respect. Western oriented presentations and discussion were counterbalanced with cultural protocols and ceremonies; as a result, relationships emerged based in common understandings and trust, critical for moving the Alliance, with its far flung membership, forward.
- Sacred species were given a voice. Dreams, visions and cultural understandings complemented the “facts” of Western conservation.
- Concrete action steps were discussed and outlined creating a foundation to move forward in unity and strength.
We are immensely grateful to all who helped make this gathering possible; to the sacred species and the Ancestors who brought us together; to the foundations who provided financial support; and to those of you provided individual financial support.
Presentation about the state of the Kalahari lion
Kyrgyz elders meet with students at local school
Attendees at opening ceremonies
Chinese participant discussing South China tigers