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American Indian millennium: a marker in time

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We are pleased and proud to be partners in a circle of American Indian thinkers and doers who will gather at Cornell University in late November. The idea is to begin the process of laying down a marker in time for the next seven generations. At the beginning of this new century, what are the Lifeways that define us and give us strength?

As one of the first circle of organizers expressed it: "Now, at the beginning of a new century, we want to assemble American Indian leaders from various fields to share their experiences with each other and with the youth."

An event two years in the making, Cornell's American Indian Program, LifeWay and Indian Country Today teamed up to help organize it; the National Museum of the American Indian was an early supporter.

The Cornell University gathering this November is offered, in part, as the beginning of a search for the best possible cultural practices and solutions to problematic trends in our communities. The process intends to continue to gather expression and representational voices for the next few years. Thus the organizers have asked thinking people everywhere, from distant districts to universities, their thoughts on the present moment, how we got here and how to face the next several decades of human activity on earth.

Expressed another early organizer, "We are asking all leadership people: How will our families, communities, tribal nations and our environments endure now, and over the coming generations? How can our distinct cultures, linked by our Indigenousness, our Indianness, inform and guide people in these times to achieve survival, peace, prosperity and spiritual happiness?

What have you learned through your own struggles? Why have you dedicated yourself to your people and community? What hopes do you hold dear for your children's children?

A great roster of individuals including Vine Deloria Jr., Wilma Mankiller, John Mohawk, Daryl Kipp, Keller George, Jim Enote and another 20 American Indian leaders and educators from national universities and tribal colleges will share their stories while others can also join via Web site or video feeds.

This is a serious dialogue and the gathering and subsequent network of dialogue is meant to help fill a well from which clear water can be tapped. Given the range of Native experience and wisdom in so many fields, Indian country does not lack for ideas and resources on leadership.

With some diligence and dedication, the local-regional-global experience ? the worldview ? of leadership thinking and values can be gathered. It can and will be documented and shared through the generations.

Pulling from some early activist thinking on sovereignty and the several areas of nation building that it depends upon, the gathering group will be asked to address personal, tribal and professional themes. They, and all audience participants (who are welcome to share their contributions in writing), are being asked to consider and address these three topics:

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Sharing: Tell a personal story, your personal story, of growth and development. What motivates you to do for your people?

Essential: Give your assessment of Indian World realities today. What challenges and opportunities exist today?

Wisdom: Send your message to the Seventh Generation. Write an inspirational letter to your descendants, in which you communicate with your future children, families, communities and nations. What would be your hopes? What would be your concerns? What would you want them to know about your generation? What would be your dearest advice? Each presenter will provide specific information about current realities, state of their peoples, using social and economic documentation, and by analyzing cultural and political trends.

Five areas of sovereignty have been identified as those that a people must sustain, control and improve upon. Each of the conference presenters has been identified for their experience in one or more of these areas: Governance and Leadership, Land and Economy, Education and Socialization, Health and Reproduction and Psycho-spiritual. Considering your area of experience, tell us your story and share with us your advice.

A curriculum is under discussion as are numerous publication venues. The premise: indigenous intelligence exists ? Native world-views are of great importance. There are Native Lifeways, legacies of our ancient realities and cultures, tested and true, and there is the modern world that redefines itself daily.

The questions: Where are the dangers? Where is security and achievement? What makes us American Indian peoples? What takes us away from surviving as American Indian peoples?

We are happy to take part in this exciting initiative to encourage, focus and concentrate intergenerational expression, in what will perhaps become an ongoing dialogue through this first decade of the new century and millennium.

Just imagine what we could have learned from our ancestors had they the opportunity and resources to gather together in the year 1901, to advise, caution and cajole their future generations.

Indian Country Today encourages all concerned people to join the dialogue in 2001. Look for the opportunity on our Web site at indiancountry.com.

Here is a unique opportunity to create a marker in time. What would we say to our next and third and fourth, our seventh generation?