Swiss Foundation for Freedom and Human Rights
Year 2000 International Award for Freedom and Human Rights
Laudatory of Recipient Phil Lane Jr.
November 11, 2000 - Berne, Switzerland
Prepared by Dr. Michael Bopp
There is a well known Dakota teaching story called “The Great Wolf and Little Mouse Sister” in which a tiny, insignificant mouse feels compassion for a great wolf that has lost his eyes because of his greed, arrogance and foolishness. As the story opens, the wolf is howling, crying, and flailing the ground in despair. Now he is blind. How can he hunt? How will he survive? The little mouse should have had the good sense to stay away, for after all, she was nothing more than a small bite of food to a wolf. Anyway, what could she possibly do to help? And yet something called her, and she bravely approached the wolf with curiosity and compassion in her heart.
We live in a world in which many of the great wolves of power have lost their eyes. And because they lead nations and powerful organizations, their blindness plunges many others beside themselves into darkness. When these powerful self-centered beasts become desperate and afraid, or are totally absorbed in self-interest, they often hurt vulnerable people within their reach. Sometimes they do it intentionally, in order to deflect opposition to themselves onto a convenient scapegoat. Other times, they simply roll over little people without really even consciously realizing what they are doing. When the great wolves are blind, we are all in danger.
Phil Lane Jr. was born at Haskell Indian Residential School where his mother, Lena Parker Vale and his father Philip Nathan Lane Sr. first met and later married. Having tribal ancestors that made all of North America their home, he is a citizen of both Canada and the United States. Although he considers Canada his home, he is a true North American.
From the European perspective of hereditary leadership, Phil was born of true “royalty” in every meaning of that word; his is an ancient lineage of hereditary spiritual and political leadership, a tribal royalty that has never compromised nor surrendered their age-old promises to serve the best interests of the people with justice, compassion, respect, nobility, love, and courage in the face of the greatest adversities and challenges. Following in the footsteps of those that went before him, in 1992 Phil was formally recognized as an hereditary Chief through a traditional headdress ceremony conducted by respected tribal elders from across North America. This sacred headdress ceremony was performed during the same occasion that Phil received the prestigious Windstar Award, presented annually by the late John Denver and the Windstar Foundation to a global citizen whose personal and professional life exemplifies commitment to a global perspective, operates with awareness of the spiritual dimension of human existence, and demonstrates concrete actions of the benefit for humans and all living systems of the Earth. Other Windstar winners include: Oceanologist Jacques-Yves Cousteau; Yevgeni Velikhov, Vice President of the Soviet Academy of Sciences; Wangari Maathai, founder of Kenya’s Greenbelt Movement.
On his father’s side, Phil’s great-grandfather was Chief Philip Deloria or Teepee Sapa (Black Lodge), who raised Phil’s father during his younger years, after the young boy’s beloved mother died at an early age from tuberculoses. Along with being a hereditary Chief and Spiritual Leader of the White Swan Dakotas, Chief Deloria, without ever rejecting or demeaning Dakota traditional ways, also became an Anglican Minister.
For forty years, Chief Deloria ministered to the spiritual and physical needs of the Great Sioux Nation, as well as representing his Dakota people of the Yankton Sioux Tribe in their on-going treaty negotiations with the U.S. government. In 1936, in honor of his noble character, selfless service, and dedication to uplifting his people, Chief Deloria’s image was included as one of the 60 Saints of the Ages whose statues grace the High Altar of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
A generation earlier, Phil’s Great-Great-Grandfather, Owl Man (Teepee Sapa’s father), was also a traditionally recognized Chief, as well as the leader of his people’s “Holy Man’s Society.” As a Head Chief, Owl Man represented the Dakota people in meetings at the White House in Washington, D.C. and in the signing of treaties with the U.S. Government. It was Owl Man that carefully trained the horse, Eagle Claws, and the rider, Brown Bear, that slayed the White Buffalo, as prophesied, and whose hereditary lineage of leadership is the recipient of the spiritual understanding, power, and vision symbolized and empowered by the prophesied act of slaying this White Buffalo. He was also widely known and respected for his great healing powers as a Holy Man and a Spiritual Visionary.
On his mother’s side, Phil’s great-grandfather was John Wesley Parker, a full-blooded Chickasaw, who was raised by his aunt and uncle (who was the Governor and Chief of the Chickasaw Nation), after his parents died tragically on the Trail of Tears. The infamous Trail of Tears occurred when the U.S. Military force-marched the Chickasaw people over 1,000 miles through the dead of winter from Tennessee to the Oklahoma Territory. Many of the Chickasaws died of starvation, exhaustion, and the bitter, freezing cold.
John Wesley Parker spoke 17 different Native American languages and served as the Official Translator between the many different tribes who lived in the Oklahoma Territory. He was also Commissioner of the Chickasaw Nation, a Senator and President of the Chickasaw Senate, and a representative to the Chickasaw Legislature. He was known throughout the Oklahoma Territory as a man of great integrity and wisdom.
Phil’s beloved parents have continued this age-old traditional lineage of spiritual leadership and service. Over the years, they both have been publicly recognized through various prestigious awards and honorary positions for their lifetime of dedicated service to indigenous people. They both are regarded as among the most respected and well loved tribal elders of North America.
At 85 years of age, Phil’s father still loves to ride and train quarter horses and along with Phil’s mother, who is 82, is still very active at home and in serving the community. Phil’s beloved Sister, Deloria and her husband Jacob Big Horn have also, dedicated their lives in service to the people.
From his childhood, Phil’s father and mother never let Phil forget that he inherited an important legacy of responsibilities for service and leadership among his people from the lineage’s of both his father and his mother. As well, Phil’s Chickasaw grandmother Ella Parker Vale and his Chickasaw aunt Marlema Vale Dugan were particularly influential in instilling a sense of destiny and a deep connection to his indigenous cultural roots. On his Dakota side, Phil’s grandmother Ella Deloria and grandfather Vine Deloria Sr. and his uncles Vine Deloria Sr. and Samuel Deloria also served as inspirational role models. His father sometimes reminded him of an old Dakota teaching that said,
Friend, do it this way.
When a man stands in the hoop of the people,
he must to be responsible
because he does not stand-alone.
Many others stand behind him,
depending on him, praying for his success.
Not only his living relatives but also
those who have gone on to the spiritual world
and those who are yet unborn;
all of these stand with him.
And so when a man stands in the hoop of the people,
he must be responsible.
And when he has need and wants to serve the people
he must ask for what he needs
with a pure heart of the Creator.
And when he asks what he needs in that way to serve the people,
he must have no trace of doubt
that what he has asked
will be given to him
according to his needs.
Then exactly as he has asked,
that is the way it will be.
True to the inner meaning of his sacred Dakota names (Shungmanu — a Leader of Warriors Who Takes the Enemies Best Horses, given when he was 12, and Chanupa Sapa — A Sacred Black Pipe of Peace, Born of Thunder, Lightning and Rain, given when he was 25) Phil was eventually to travel to many lands and peoples in order to gain further knowledge, wisdom and understanding that would be used to bring healing, peace, and development to Indigenous people.
When Phil was eighteen years old – having just graduated from Walla Walla High School (in Walla Walla, Washington) as senior class president, an award-winning football, wrestling and track champion, and all around wild character – he decided to “see the world.” So he and a friend hitchhiked to New York City and worked their way on a freighter across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe. They then hitchhiked across Europe and eventually were drawn to East Berlin. Phil felt led by a powerful curiosity to understand who the real people were behind the “Iron Curtain,” and “the Soviet Menace” he had been taught were the enemy for most of his life.
And so one day he went across “Checkpoint Charlie”, walked up the steps of the Embassy of the USSR in East Berlin, and rang the bell beside the huge double doors. His ringing echoed within hollow and long. He waited and rang again. A voice spoke through the speaker beside the door, first in Russian, then in German (presumably asking who he was and what he wanted.) When the voice stopped, obviously expecting an answer, Phil gave greetings in English. There was a long pause and then someone said very loud in English, “Who is this?” Phil was so surprised he blurted out “Hello. It’s Phil from Walla Walla. I would like to speak to someone.” After some time, one of the big doors opened, and a Russian who spoke perfect English invited Phil to come inside the Embassy. They talked for more than three hours about why the United States and the Soviet Union saw each other as enemies, the politics of Cuba, and how they all wanted the same things for their children, and how perhaps one day the walls would be taken down. They had tea and parted as friends. Phil learned from that experience that every issue has many sides and that each perspective must be carefully and respectfully considered. As his tribal Elders taught him, you should never judge another human being until you have walked at least a mile in their moccasins.
Remember the little mouse? The great blind wolf? The story says the wolf lost his eyes because he was very selfish, arrogant, and foolish (another story tells how he was tricked out of them by four weasels and that they were able to trick him because he was already blind in his heart).
Well, our story goes on to tell how the little mouse felt great compassion for the wounded wolf, once so noble and proud and strong. She marched right up to where he was laying with his face on the ground and she stood before him. “Great Wolf, why are you crying?” she said. “Because I lost my eyes and now I cannot see,” answered the wolf. “Don’t cry,” she said “I will help you.” “You?” he said, “What can you do? You’re just a little mouse.” “My mother taught me always to give my very best,” she said, “I will give you my eyes.” And before the wolf could even respond, she popped out her eyes, and placed them gently in the sockets where the wolf’s eyes had been. And suddenly, he leapt into the air, and whooped and howled and danced for joy. “I can see,” he said. “I can see.”
As a child and as a young man, Phil Lane, Jr. was taught his tribal traditions and responsibilities by his mother and father as well as his grandparents and extended family. As well, he served as an altar boy in the Anglican Church. His parents never let him forget that his legacy of leadership and service among his tribal people carried great spiritual responsibilities. As a young boy, his parents and elders filled his heart and mind with the courageous stories of the sacrifice, dedication, and selfless service of those loved ones who had gone before him. He learned to respect, appreciate, and practice the traditional teachings of his people as well as to respect and appreciate the other spiritual and cultural traditions of the human family. He also learned that if he was to ever fulfill his destiny as a servant to his people, he first had to learn many hard lessons, and to acquire both spiritual and material disciplines that took years to acquire. From early childhood, Phil developed an almost insatiable thirst for learning. He listened intently to the Elders. He read and studied everything he could find about the history and life of the indigenous people of the Americas. He also studied western science and technology. His parents were outstanding role models in this regard, constantly learning themselves, and never afraid to build bridges between their traditional identity and all the best learning and technology the non-Native world had to offer. Phil’s father was one of the first Native North Americans to ever receive a university degree in forestry and he eventually became an award-winning environmental engineer who was given a Presidential Citation by President Lyndon B. Johnson for his design of fish ladders that enabled spawning salmon to travel upstream past hydro-electric dams and, he received, as well, the prestigious Eli S. Parker Award given to him by the American Indian Science and Engineer Society for his lifetime of distinguished work in the fields of Science and Engineering.
Phil was also very industrious as a young person. He sold newspapers, magazines, and Christmas cards. He raised cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens, and rabbits and beginning at age 12 until he was a young man, he spent long hours working every summer as an agricultural worker to help pay for his education and clothing.
So, try to picture it. Here you have a boy of 18. He’s a young man, a Native North American who grew up in a deeply prejudice white America in the 1950’s and 60’s where Indians were considered second-class citizens, if anything. Their tribal communities, in most cases, were almost completely socially and economically devastated.
On the other hand, he has been told all of his life that he comes from a noble lineage, and that one day he must take up the mantle of leadership and service on behalf of his tribal people. Well, maybe so, but right now its 1962. In order to survive, Phil has become as tough as a sack of nails. He is an all-around champion athlete, and he is angry. Angry at how he knows Native North Americans have been treated; angry at the injustices of an America that was beating up and killing black people for trying to exercise their right to vote in the South; angry at the materialistic system that had so thoroughly crushed the spirit out of so many Indigenous communities, leaving them in grinding poverty, dependency and alcoholism.
And so after high school, Phil Lane, Jr. joined the ranks of other angry
young men of color in North America. He drank a lot of alcohol, he
used drugs, he fought at the drop of a hat, he had unhealthy relationships
with women, and he hated the materialistic system that surrounded his tribal
people and himself and was determined to find a way to weaken its strangle
hold on Indigenous people. In years to follow, Phil often commented on
that “wild” period of his life. “I am very thankful for my experiences
with alcohol and drugs,” he explains. “Those experiences have given
me some humility not to judge others, as well as a deep compassion and
understanding for others who suffer from the hurts of the past, because
I have been there myself.”
Phil did, however, go on to university, eventually receiving Masters degrees in both Public Administration and Education. During that time he excelled as an athlete, and he actually did quite well academically, for someone who rarely studied, and whose life focused primarily on sports and on unhealthy ways to kill the hurt and anger he carried during those days. Like many of his generation, Phil was deeply troubled by the ugliness and cruelty of the racism and injustice Indigenous people were forced to live with in their own homelands. And despite his anger and pain during all this time, there was also another kind of fire that burned slowly in Phil’s soul.
Remember the little mouse who gave her eyes to the wolf? Well, the story goes on that she just stood there, listening to the wolf as he whooped and danced around the meadow. But now she was blind, and it gradually dawned on her that she had done a very, very foolish thing. She waited, her little brow furled in worry and fear, fully expecting the wolf to discover her, and to eat her like a kernel of popcorn. She had given her eyes because her heart prompted her to do so. She had listened to the voice of spirit. But now she was exposed, helpless, and vulnerable.
To her surprise, the wolf quite suddenly stopped his celebration and walked quietly over to where she stood in the grass. For a long time he said nothing; and she waited in fear. Then he bent down and said in a very gentle voice. “Little Sister, how could you do such a thing for me? Now you are blind.” All she could say was “My heart told me to do it.”
And then the wolf wept the weeping of regret, loss, and shame. He wept a long time, and the little mouse could only wait and be with him while he wept. And when his heart had been washed clean of the anger, fear, pride, and selfishness that had for so long covered up his true nature as a noble being, he stopped weeping, and after a time he said, “Little Sister, do you remember the old teaching about a Sacred Lake high up in the mountains?” “Yes,” she said, suddenly filled with hope. My grandmother told me that whoever prays on its shores and drinks of its waters will be healed of any infirmity. But do you think it really exists? Maybe it’s just an old story.”
The Great Wolf was quiet a moment, and then he said, “Little Sister, if a tiny mouse can make a blind wolf see, maybe there is such a thing as a Sacred Lake. We will look for it together.” And so the Great Wolf lowered himself to the ground, and invited his Little Mouse Sister to climb up on his back; and together they set out on a long, long journey.
I was telling you that when Phil was a young man, he went through a
period of rather wild and self-destructive behavior. He was angry;
he was hurt; and by his own admission, he would sometimes hurt others.
But all through this time, he never really lost his connection to the Creator,
and he never really forgot (for very long) that he had a destiny to fulfill
that was connected to his lineage. The heat of the fire of search
burning within him began to rise. Increasingly, he found himself
spending time with elders and spiritual teachers, always searching for
answers and a spiritual way out of the hurt and pain of the past and present.
The laser searchlight of his soul began to seek out and explore spiritual teachings from around the world. The more he searched, the more it seemed to him that the spiritual foundations of all the diverse religions and great traditions (including his own Dakota traditions) are really one.
It was during the darkest hours of this search and struggle to walk the path of his traditional spiritual teachings, free of the destructive forces of materialism that Phil had a spiritual awakening. This awakening in 1968 filled him with a burning love for the Creator and a great desire and energy to serve the people and to fulfill the vision of the future given to him by those who had walked the path of service before him. A great and abiding faith was born in his heart that the time, long prophesied by his tribal elders, for the spiritual and material rehabilitation of all the peoples of the world has come; and that it is the responsibility of everyone who believes in the Creator (by whatever name we call our Creator), to build bonds of trust and collaboration with other races and nations, and to work with all of thestrength and capacity of one’s being to bring justice, unity, peace, and well-being to the people of every race and nation.
And that is exactly what Phil Lane, Jr. began to do. For more than thirty years Phil has worked unceasingly, often to the point of total exhaustion, for the upliftment of the human family, and especially of Indigenous people. He has continuously sacrificed personal comfort, income, professional advancement, old age security and even the simple pleasures of spending time with family and friends or taking a vacation. Following are a few highlights of his early years of service.
- Presented Native culture and history programs at elementary schools,
high schools, colleges and universities.
- Guided the development of rural community development and basic literacy programs for Quechua and Aymara Indians across Bolivia.
- Developed and managed programs for single parent Indian mothers and their children from across North America.
- Led education program development initiatives for many schools and programs across North America.
- Served as the founding Director of the Native American School of Government at the Graduate School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington.
- Started the first native cultural education and self-help program for Indian men in the North American prison system. This kind of programming for Indigenous inmates has now spread to most prisons in Canada and the United States.
- Served as the Director of Planning, the Director of Education and the Assistant Director of the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation in Seattle, Washington. This organization grew from a staff of three to a staff of more than one hundred, through Phil’s guidance and irresistible energy and the support and inspiration of his Executive Director and beloved mentor, the late Bernie White Bear. From this work, the 24,000 square foot Day Break Star Arts and Education Center was built, the first ever Native American film festival was launched, a host of innovative education programs ranging from curriculum design and development, to adult education, to early childhood education were developed and delivered. These education programs became a model, in their time, for Native education programs across North America.
As valuable and impressive as these contributions were, they were only a prelude to the work which has made the name of Phil Lane, Jr. known and deeply respected in hundreds of Indigenous communities across North America and around the world. This next phase of Phil’s life began when he accepted a position in 1980 as an Associate Professor of Education at the University of Lethbridge, in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.
In the 1970’s and early 1980’s, Indigenous communities in Canada and the United States had sunk into a black pit of despair, poverty, alcoholism, violence, abuse, and misery.
In the late winter of 1982, Phil called an historic meeting of respected Indigenous elders and spiritual leaders from many different tribal groups across North America. The purpose of this meeting was to look deeply at the dilemma of everyday life in native communities, to find solutions that would actually cause an awakening of the spiritual power and greatness that was hidden deep within the heart of Indigenous nations, and to establish a foundation for rebuilding healthy and self-actualizing communities.
The fact that these distinguished leaders came at all (despite traditional rivalries and pervading community despair) speaks eloquently of the impact Phil had already made in “Indian Country,” and to the genius of his leadership. It is important to bear in mind that when the human rights and freedom of people are systematically violated for generation upon generation, there is a tendency for those people to internalize that oppression, and to turn against each other. This paralyzing phenomenon routinely undermines the capacity of oppressed people to sustain their own healing and development processes.
This historic four-day meeting took place in Lethbridge and at the Blood Indian Reserve on the high plains of southern Alberta, Canada in the week between Christmas 1982 and the 1983 New Year.
With the utmost skill and wisdom, Phil orchestrated a gathering, the like of which had not occurred for hundreds of years, if ever. The importance of this gathering was that forty of the wisest, most experienced and influential people of many tribes of North America came together to deliberate about problems and challenges that were destroying every one of their communities, and required common effort to overcome.
Invitations were sent using high plains traditional protocol, which
requires that tobacco and cloth be sent, and if accepted, signifies that
the process to follow would take place on spiritual grounds (beyond politics
and personal interest). The meeting itself was held in traditional
Council fashion. A buffalo robe filled the center of the great circle
around which participants gathered. Sage was burned. Songs
were sung. Prayers were offered, and an eagle fan (i.e. wing of eagle)
was passed from person to person, the elders speaking first, each delegate
speaking in turn, and everyone else listening respectfully.
From that meeting, a bold project was conceived to build an instrument for the healing and development of Indigenous communities. That instrument, in the form of a research, technical assistance, and capacity building program, became known as “Four Worlds.”
What the elders said at that meeting was basically the following.
1. It was prophesied a long time ago that Indigenous people would go through a long wintertime of oppression, sickness and suffering. This period, some said, would last for “seven generations.”
2. That the condition of native communities, beaten down by centuries of oppression, abuse and deprivation, was neither inevitable nor necessary. Healing is possible. Transformation is possible.
3. That the process of bringing healing and change to Indigenous communities needed to be guided by principles that reflect who we are as whole human beings (mental, emotional, physical and spiritual) and whole communities (political, economic, social and cultural).
4. Foundation principles were given that became cornerstone of all of
Four Worlds work; principles such as development comes from within , no
vision, no development, authentic development has spiritual and moral foundations,
and no participation, no development, shaped the way Four Worlds
approached every community and every problem for years to come.
Phil emerged from this meeting with the solid mandate of respected spiritual leaders and elders from many tribes to build programs and eventually a movement that would serve as a catalyst and support for healing and development processes in native communities. But moving from talk to action is never easy. There is an old proverb that says “Whenever the cry of truth is raised, so also is the cry of denial.”
Phil worked tirelessly and with great courage to build Four Worlds and to serve communities in the face of tremendous criticism from many people, including some native people. For example, when (in 1983) he articulated the goal of “the elimination of alcohol and drug abuse in native communities by the year 2000,” he was condemned and attacked by people who were working in the treatment of native alcoholism (of all groups!). Privately, they actually said, “If this goal is realized, we’re all out of work.” He was criticized for involving non-natives as members of his inner working group, even though the elders had clearly advised that it was critical to work with people of “all four directions” (symbolically, black, white, yellow and red), and to bring together the gifts of each of these peoples in the work of uplifting tribal communities. He was attacked for seeking spiritual understanding and wisdom from teachers and traditions around the world that seemed “strange” and “foreign” to his attackers. He was, also, attacked (often by jealous program leaders) for his insistence on integrating traditional cultural wisdom and modern science and technology. But through it all, Phil kept his attention focused on working toward the accomplishments of the positive goals of community healing and empowerment. This he did despite the fact that the attacks (especially in the early years) were so treacherous, mean spirited and hurtful, that he would sometimes weep with pain and frustration when he thought nobody was watching. The fact that the most painful attacks came from other native people was perhaps the most difficult thing of all to bear.
Following is a list of some of the most important contributions that have been made to the upliftment and empowerment of Indigenous people as a result of Phil Lane Jr. and the work of Four Worlds.
1. When Four Worlds began visiting native communities in 1983, few in those communities believed that healing (from the massive levels of alcoholism, abuse, oppression and poverty) was even possible. “This is the way we are now,” people would say. Indeed, people could not imagine anything different. But gradually, in community after community, a healing movement was born, and Four Worlds was certainly one of its primary originators.
2. From Four Worlds came a language, principles, models and an integrative scheme of thought for reflecting on and talking about human and community development in an Indigenous context. The models and approaches developed by Four Worlds are rooted in Indigenous cultural perspectives related to who we are as human beings, about the interconnected and wholistic nature of living systems, and about the dynamics of healing, transformation and development. The Four Worlds approach addresses both the spiritual and material dimensions of life, and is expressed in symbols, metaphors, and a language that resonates deep within the heart of native cultures, largely because it comes from that indigenous heart itself. What Four Worlds developed has now become a primary Indigenous people’s development paradigm in North America and internationally, and constitutes the only comprehensive approach to people-centered development that can be said to be a truly Indigenous model of development theory and practice that, also, draws upon, where supportive, the best development thinking and experience of other members of the human family.
3. Four Worlds designed and piloted a large collection of prototype learning materials and programs for Indigenous schools and for adult learners. These materials and programs became the international standard for culturally based curriculum that places human development and well-being in the center of learning processes, and reflects the cultural knowledge and wisdom of Indigenous people. Well known examples include the “Sacred Tree” (now in its 21st print in English, and also translated into German, Spanish, Norwegian, Italian, Icelandic, French, Thai and Braille). The award-winning video series “Walking with Grandfather” and the film that helped give birth to the native healing movement “The Honor of All: The Story of Alkali Lake.” A recent example of this work involves the design and implementation of a fully accredited university Masters Program in development leadership.
4. Four Worlds also piloted many prototype community based programs designed to model how to address critical healing and development issues facing native communities. A few examples include, programs related to youth development, cultural recovery, women’s empowerment, alcohol, drug, and sexual abuse healing and prevention, community development, restorative justice, health promotion, elder health, leadership development, civil society strengthening, teacher education, and economic development and trade.
5. Four Worlds was originally core funded by the Canadian government, but since 1994, has received no government funding for it’s core funding, choosing instead to survive on it’s own economic enterprises and revenues received for services it provides to contracted partners. The intent has been to model self-sufficiency to the communities being served.
6. Through Phil’s leadership and tireless efforts for more than twenty years, the devastating issue of the physical, sexual, psychological, spiritual and cultural abuse of five generations of native children in residential schools run by the Canadian and U.S. government and various churches has become an international concern. The Four Worlds film “Healing the Hurts” (1989) was one of the primary catalysts that ignited the Residential School Healing Movement in Canada. Four Worlds has single-handedly guided and helped to fund the initiation of one of the largest legal actions ever to be filed in Canadian history on behalf of residential school victims, comprised of more than 600 individual plaintiffs from the Blackfoot Confederacy in southern Alberta. The purpose of this legal action is to secure resources for healing and development, and for individual compensation that will help the victims of the residential schools to move beyond the crippling trauma of the past that has for so long plagued native families and communities with a legacy of shame, suicide, violent death, personal dysfunction, and social paralysis.
One of the consequences of Phil’s efforts to bring the residential school issues to public attention, healing and resolution is that he has been severely attacked by people and interests who want the residential school issues covered up and forgotten. These people are presumably acting out of fear that their own culpability, and legal, as well as, moral responsibility for what happened in their schools will be brought to light. The most severe of these have come from other native people who were physically and sexually abused as children, and who then bullied and abused, sometimes sexually, other (usually younger and weaker) children in the residential schools. As adults these same people have continued the cycle of physical and sexual abuse and other oppressive behavior and are now doing their utmost to prevent their predatory behavior from being exposed. Some of them have even become leaders who continue to oppress their own tribal people through fear, intimidation and bullying learned through their own abusive residential school experience. Phil’s only response to their attacks has been to explain over and over again, that “only hurt people, hurt people; only people who have been abused, abuse others”.
On the Canadian National front, the work of Phil and others to address
the issue of residential schools continues. The Canadian Government
has come forward with $350,000,000 (about $217,000,000 US) Residential
School Healing Fund to be spent over a five-year period. Although
this amount falls far short of the 2 billion per year called fair and needed
by the Canadian Royal Commission on Aboriginal People in its final report
(1997) “Gathering Strength”, it is a beginning.
Currently, more than 8000 individual legal cases have been filed by Residential School survivors, and more are being filed every week. It is saddening to note that as the residential schools issue finally comes to light, it is too late for many of the former victims of residential school abuse who have already died of alcoholism, suicide or violent deaths. Phil’s focus now is to find alternative ways that the legal issues can be resolved in a manner that is just, as well as, healing for all concerned, rather than being forced to use a legal system that is adversarial, demeaning, and disunifying in nature.
In 1994, Phil left his job as a tenured professor of education at the University of Lethbridge, and set up an economic development arm of Four Worlds called “Four Directions International.” The purpose of this initiative was (and is) to create viable businesses and sustainable economic enterprises in partnership with Indigenous communities (and other partners) that will eventually provide economic opportunities and generate prosperity for those communities, while at the same time, providing revenue to Four Worlds that can be used to fund humanitarian work. This effort has concentrated on the information technology sector (such as the manufacture of made-to-order computers, and the development of a computer managed learning platform for distance education to Indigenous communities around the world), and advanced environmental recovery and agricultural technologies (such as the use of natural enzymes for environmentally safe road construction and cutting-edge technologies for water remediation and purification).
7. In 1999-2000, Phil and Four Worlds became a catalyst and one of the prime movers in the development and negotiation of inter-continental Indigenous to Indigenous trade and social development agreements between Indigenous nations of Canada and Indigenous nations of Latin America and the Caribbean. This movement to reunite the Indigenous peoples and First Nations of the Americas in a comprehensive trade and socioeconomic development network is called “The Reunion of the Condor and the Eagle.” Indigenous spiritual leaders and elders in both the North and the South say this is the fulfillment of ancient prophesies that foretold that after a “long wintertime” of oppression, suffering and decline at the hands of other nations, the Indigenous peoples of the Americas and eventually around the world would unite and one day become strong and healthy, and would eventually take their renewed spiritual wisdom and strength to the whole world. This ancient prophecy is so strong that in 1970, the elders of the Otomi Nation in Central Mexico told their people to build a sacred ceremonial center carved out of solid rock in the ancient Toltec and Aztec tradition, and to dedicate this center to the “Reunion of the Condor and the Eagle,” because, they said, in the future the actual fulfillment of the ancient prophecy of the formal reunion of the Condor (Indigenous people of the South) and the Eagle (Indigenous people of the North) would begin at that sacred site. With the guidance of the Otomi elders, more than 30,000 Indigenous people of Mexico worked for twelve years to complete the Center located in the mountains just outside Mexico City in 1982.
As instructed, the ceremonial Center is built on the side of a mountain, and is beautifully carved out of solid rock integrated with stones gathered from sacred places from all over Mexico. The Center holds more than 40,000 people.
As prophesied, on May 5, 1999, at this sacred ceremonial center an International Indigenous Trade and Social Development Agreement and Unity Pact formalizing the “Reunion of the Condor and the Eagle” was signed by leaders of Indigenous people of Canada and Mexico. Since this historic event, another comprehensive agreement has been signed with the Carib First Nation in the Commonwealth of Dominica and processes leading to similar agreements have been initiated in other Indigenous areas of Latin America.
These Indigenous trade and social development agreements are connecting hundreds of thousands of Indigenous people in Central and South America and the Caribbean, with their Indigenous relatives across North America. The first fruits of these international agreements are already ripening in the form of projects now being planned for Dominica, and Mexico that will see development assistance and business opportunities exchanged between tribes in the south and those in the north.
While the governments of Canada, Mexico and Dominica have indicated their support and enthusiasm for this bold undertaking, the animating vision, as well as thousands of hours of negotiations and support building work and the initial cost of that work has been carried by Phil Lane Jr. and Four Worlds.
On a more personal note, Phil has a wonderful wife (Suthida), four daughters, an infant son, and two young grandsons. His three oldest daughters are all professional health care providers and are happily married. His youngest daughter, Deloria Lane Many Grey Horses has already emerged at the age of eighteen as a future Indigenous leader following in her father’s footsteps. She is a North American Indigenous Games track and field champion, Captain of her cross country team and is currently featured in a new film, A Place At The Table, about transcending racism and prejudice being produced by the South East Poverty Law Center, a group well known in North America for its constant battle against such organizations as the Ku Klux Klan, and for its tireless defenses of oppressed peoples. As well as receiving her father’s hereditary lineage of leadership, Deloria, through her mother, is also a direct descendant of spiritual leaders and hereditary chiefs of the Blackfoot Confederacy, including Many Gray Horses, Black Bear, Long Time Squirrel, Riding at the Door, Red Crow and the Spiritual Visionary, Seen From A Far.
Remember the little mouse?
She was blind and yet somehow there was greatness within her. She had made the Great Wolf see, and she brought him to his knees, with tears in his eyes, ready to dedicate himself to helping her find the Sacred Lake.
The two of them traveled a long time, and met many interesting characters along the way. There was owl, who thought their search was a foolish waste of time. He was sure the idea of some “sacred lake” that could bring healing and renewal was nothing but superstition. There was coyote, who sensed something of value in the little mouse, and hoping to gain something for himself, tried to poison her relationship with the wolf with mistrust and lies. There were the otters, for whom comfort and enjoyment were reasons enough to look no further in life, and to avoid difficult challenges. And all of these for their own reasons, tried to persuade the travelers to change their goals or to give up their journey all together. But the little mouse and the Great Wolf were friends now, and they did not give up. They traveled on, believing deep in their hearts that they would find what they were looking for.
Phil Lane has been a midwife to the birth of dreams. For more than three decades, he has labored unceasingly toward the fulfillment of ancient prophesies that say that Indigenous people would experience a long wintertime of oppression, suffering and misery. It was foretold that this dark period would eventually be followed by a beautiful springtime of healing and renewal. The prophesies say that not only would indigenous people recover the spiritual and material greatness of bygone ages, but also that they would contribute to the healing of the whole world.
The elders and spiritual leaders who gathered at that first historic meeting in 1982 fully confirmed that the time for the fulfillment of the prophesies had come. What was needed, they said, was the creation of effective processes and mechanisms for making the vision a reality. It is to this work that Phil Lane, Jr. has dedicated his life.
In summary, Four Worlds has developed and refined a comprehensive and
uniquely Indigenous approach to community healing and development; an approach
that has been successfully tried and tested in many parts of the world.
In Phil’s own words,
“What is now needed is the sustained resources that will allow us to actually implement this approach in partnership with Indigenous nations and the other members of the human family. It is as though we have been preparing a sacred feast for 30 years. Now is the time to serve this spiritual food on a worldwide basis.”
Phil is now working to develop a coalition of donors and Indigenous communities to (collectively) undertake an international campaign of development assistance for Indigenous people focused on the well-being of children and young people, guided by the love and wisdom of the elders, and the transformation needed to ensure that the poverty, abuse, and oppression of Indigenous people ends with this generation.
In order to achieve this, the following immediate steps will be taken.
1. The establishment of an international technical assistance and training team that can work with (selected) Indigenous nations to build internal capacity for the fostering of sustainable social and economic development; and
2. The establishment of training and development centers in the heart of Indigenous nations. These centers would serve as a vehicle for capacity building, institutional development and leadership training, and would foster trade and development initiatives aimed at bringing sustainable prosperity and well-being to the people it serves. These centers would have their own Indigenous teams of trainers, and the international Indigenous development team would work with the regional teams to develop their capacity to work effectively with the communities they serve.
3. Collectively, this initiative will be known as the Four Worlds College of Indigenous Development. “Indigenous people are beginning to fulfill their promised destiny everywhere,” says Phil, “but they need capacity building and technical support that is specifically designed to fit within an Indigenous context. Four Worlds and other Indigenous organizations are ready. Indigenous people are ready, and we believe that with the Creator’s help, and the support of others who understand this critical crossroads of human history upon which we stand, all the sacred prophecies will be fulfilled.”
The Great Wolf and his Little Mouse Sister climbed high into the mountains, and one day, quite unexpectedly, they came upon the most beautiful lake they had ever seen burning brilliant turquoise in the morning sun, and they knew they had found what they were looking for.
The Wolf began to describe the beauty of the scene to his Sister, but she interrupted him. “I can see it with my heart,” she said. They fell silent. Then the wolf took out tobacco and prayed to the Four Directions thanking the Creator for bringing them to their goal, and asking the Creator to bless and protect the Little Mouse whom he loved.
“Little Sister,” he said to her, “we have found the Sacred Lake. What shall we do now?” “I cannot thank you enough, she said, but now I must ask of you a difficult thing. Leave me. The rest I must do myself.”
And so the wolf placed his Little Sister gently at the water’s edge,
kissed her good-bye, and set out down the mountain.
The little mouse felt strangely at peace, and yet she could not imagine what to do next. Suddenly, a voice boomed from the sky. “Little Mouse, jump and reach for the heavens.” So she jumped. “Jump higher,” said the voice. So she jumped again. “Jump still higher,” the voice commanded. And she jumped again still higher. “Little Mouse, jump as if life depended on it. Jump as you have never jumped before. Jump and touch the sky.” And she jumped like she had never jumped before, and she felt herself soaring, floating dizzily, flying and swooping, and she could see a great distance. The sun poured yellow warmth upon the land. The Sacred Lake below shone like a jewel. And she could see her Wolf Brother far below, making his way down the mountain. And she heard the voice again but now like a whisper within her.
You have given much, Little Sister, and you have traveled far. Because you have given your very best to help another life, and because you have continued on your journey to find the Sacred Lake, and because you have asked of me a healing, and I have heard you, for now and forever more, you have become the Sacred Eagle and when the people see you, they will remember me, and you will guide them.
We are here today to honor an Eagle among us, not only for what he has
done, but also because of the future toward which he guides us. If
honoring Phil Lane Jr. is to mean anything beyond words, then our admiration
and our respect for him must be backed up with our deeds. Indigenous
nations everywhere are awakening, and Indigenous peoples in their millions
are ready to step out of the shadow of oppression, and the grinding burden
of poverty and powerlessness that has for so long held them back.
It was for this that Phil Lane Jr. was instructed by Indigenous elders
and spiritual leaders to reach out to the world. Phil is doing his
part. It now falls to us to do ours.