In the early 1990s a small grass roots group of residents from the Pinon area of the Dineh (Navajo) reservation in Arizona began meeting. These meetings were born out of what was felt to be an imperative need for Dineh cultural preservation and survival. Following a long period of stagnation prior to the lifting of the Bennett Freeze, growth and modernization was coming to the area. It was and would continue to be a great challenge for the very traditional people of this area to learn and accept many facets and influences of outside communities. It was felt that there was a need to explore the positive aspects of Dineh culture and outside cultures in order to capitalize on growth and modernization without losing ancient traditions. Hence the theme Preserving ancient ways with modern tools was born.
Our history has been typical of grassroots organizations. It is an educational-experiential process. Having limited experience in technical and organizational skills it became an objective to develop the capabilities necessary to run our own organization and lives. Despite minimal success in early development, the community was determined to continue with more aggressive strategies which would lead to later successes (such as this website). As Paul Tohlakai put it Out of need has come some of the greatest human innovations and accomplishments. It is with this notion that we wish to help ourselves and contribute to the greater good of our community.
After consultation with our Elders, numerous individuals, other organizations, research and with community support, the long process of establishing an organization that would have legal recognition in tribal, state and federal law began. In 1996 while founder and Director Paul Tohlakai resided in Massachusetts, many years of learning and work, came to fruition. The organization gained 501(c)3 in 2000 non-profit status and was registered as a tax exempt corporation were secured. In honor of the Dineh Mountain Soil Medicine Bundle, Sacred Mountains Foundation was named. Our Matriarch Grandmother Louise Whitewater Begay,above, is one such Caretaker of this medicine bundle. She is a visionary, elder and herb medicine woman, following many generations of medicine caretakers.
In 2000 Sacred Mountains Foundation, Inc. (SMF) was registered and recognized by the Navajo Nation and the local Pinon Chapter as a foreign corporation entity. This is important as it will allow SMF to maintain a land based business facility on traditionally recognized family land of the reservation. It also allows for fund raising and revenue producing activities on and off the reservation and indeed throughout the world. The organization has since established contacts and connections with native and non-native individuals, communities and organizations nationally and internationally for cultural exchange.
In 2003 Sacred Mountains Foundation made a strategic move to Crestone, Colorado. Crestone is recognized internationally as a community of alternative building, eco-sustainability and spiritual diversity and inclusiveness. These activities and recognition are supportive to the continued outreach to organizations and communities outside the reservation. The location allows for local administrative personnel to easily travel back and forth to the Dineh Nation and tribal lands of the Southwest for ongoing projects, information gathering and fundraising activities. Crestone was chosen as the place to educate foundation staff members utilizing available local resources. It is hoped that SMF will be able to acquire land here for a leadership training program.
The area harbors a rich biodiversity such as elk, pronghorn sheep, mule deer, mountain lions, bobcats, black bears, coyotes, and a variety of fish, small animals, and native birds as well as cottonwoods, aspens, sage, pinon pine and a wide variety of medicinal plants. There is a even large scale buffalo farm and wildlife refuges as well as access to outdoor adventures including hiking trails, camping and National Monuments in the area. Paul Tohlakai explains The land here resonates with history, teaching and tradition of the Dineh and other tribes. What most Dineh only hear and speak of, can be seen and experienced here. Nearby is the revered Sisnajinii (Mt. Blanca) a sacred mountain to the Dineh. It is the sacred mountain of the East, the beginning, the place of creative mind clarity. It makes sense, it is good and it is beautiful. In beauty, it will be done here as we Dineh say.
Today we have the organization, support and network of people to implement more of our objectives. We are coordinating and projecting for the coming spring and summer with other organizations and volunteers. It is not the goal of Sacred Mountains Foundation to become a social services provider, but rather to guide, educate and train people to become empowered to help themselves through traditional community projects. We are seeking funding for land reclamation, permaculture and alternative/sustainable building methods in Crestone and Pinon, AZ. These projects are part of Sacred Mountains Foundations commitment to helping people become empowered and self reliant by informal and experiential education. This will yield practical results, which will demonstrate that there is hope, for those living lives of complacency and despair.
PO Box 1190
Pinon, AZ 86510