Tour of India by SD Youngwolf, December 2002 to February, 2003
I was invited to India to attend the Janajati Faith and Culture Conference in Guwahati, Assam, Dec. 14-15, 2002. After accepting, I was also invited to a conference near Mumbai, "Children of the Mother Earth Unite", sponsored by Elders of the Ancient Traditions, Feb. 4-9, 2003. I planned my trip to India to include both of these conferences. I was also asked to attend the Thinkers Meet, in Hyderabad, Dec. 6-7, 2002.
I arrived in Delhi on Dec. 6, and stayed overnight with Mr. Jagadish Kumar. The next morning, I flew to Hyderabad for the conference, which took place at the Tulip Manohar Hotel. While there, I mostly listened and observed, but also attended meetings of the Vedic Friends Association and the formation of the Indic Journalists Association International(IJAI). Following the conference, I travelled by train to Vishakapatnam, where, along with Mr. Andrew Foss and Mr. Vrin Parker, I addressed meetings of the Pragna Bharati and the Vigyana Bharati, on the preservation of Indigenous culture.
We then flew to Guwahati, by way of Kolkata, for the Janajati conference, where we were joined by Ms. Yvette Rosser, Mr. David Frawley, and Mr. Stephen Knapp. Although time did not permit reading my paper, I gave two short speeches to the assembled delegates, which included representatives of many Northeastern tribes. I also was asked to perform at the cultural event, which I did, singing Native American/Cherokee songs, and doing a blessing ceremony.
Following this convention, I spent eight days touring Arunachal Pradesh, with Gauri, of the Vivekenanda Kendra, as my guide. We visited Daporijo, Along, Ruksin, and Pasighat. At each of these places I gave talks to the tribal people there assembled on the importance of preserving their culture. We also visited, and stayed at, Vivekenanda Kendra Vidyalayas at Sher, Kuparijo, Jirdin, Ayom, and Tinsukia(Assam), where I interacted with students and told Cherokee stories, which were received with great enthusiasm. At some of the town meetings, an interpreter was available, which helped considerably. I also visited and stayed with an Adi family at Pasighat, and visited Mishmi people at Wacro. I had expressed a desire to stay longer in the Northeast, so after returning to Guwahati, another tour was arranged for me, to attend the Mass Prayer Meeting (Brai Shibarai) of the Dimasa people, in Haflong, Assam. This involved a fourteen hour bus trip to the Cachar Hills, where I gave a short speech, again on preserving Indigenous culture, which was interpreted for the people. Before leaving Assam, I also gave a lecture on Cherokee Art and Culture, at the Vivekenanda Kendra in Guwahati.
In Guwahati, I was invited to attend the Youth Convention at Kanyakumari, Jan. 22-24. So, after two weeks on my own, I arrived there, and gave talks and interacted with both the delegates, from all over India, and staff of the Vivekenanda Kendra. The students were very enthusiastic, and my stay there was delightful.
I then flew to Bangalore, where a program had been arranged for me by two groups,Heritage and Madhyam. I spoke at the Krishnamurti Rishi Valley School, BNM College, and Mt. Carmel College, as well as to a smaller group at Madhyam.
Afterwards, I returned again to Hyderabad, to address a meeting of about 200 Government Tribal Administration employees. I also travelled to Bhadrachallam and Vidyanagar, accompanied by Mr. Venugopal Reddy, a principal at a tribal school. At Vidyanagar I visited with the Konda Reddy people. At Bhadrachallam I visited a tribal girlsĘ school and spoke to them, and also visited with a local tribal administration official. After returning to Hyderabad, I was driven to Karimnagar, with a student named Rakesh, where I addressed a meeting of the Pragna Bharati. There was an audience of about 300 people, including a group of children, which I interacted with separately. After returning once again to Hyderabad, I gave a talk at the National Institute of Nutrition.
The final event on My tour was the six day conference of Indigenous people from around the world, "Children of the Mother Earth Unite", First International Conference and Gathering of the Elders, which was organized on the theme, "Mitakuye Oyasin"(Lakota saying meaning "We are all Related"). The conference took place on the grounds of Rambhau Mhalgi Prabbodhini, near Mumbai. There were 164+ delegates, from all around the world, with many more coming and going during that time. While there, I read my paper, part of which was published in the book, "Sanskriti Sangam", volume 1, which was compiled from the papers presented at the conference. I also gave two talks to the students of the school on the grounds, and ran a "sweat lodge' (Native American traditional ceremony) for 33 people. At this conference, I met many wonderful people and established a basis for further interaction with them.
Overall, I would have to say, my tour of India was stimulating, enlightening, and educational, for me as well as for the audiences I spoke to. The interaction of tribal people, of India and the world, in the preservation and celebration of their cultures, is an endeavor well worthy of support and encouragement .I am grateful to have had this opportunity, and look forward to further interactions of this kind in the future, in other countries as well as India.
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