Friends of Prairyerth

Saturday, May 18, 2019
Northeastern Illinois University
5500 North St. Louis Avenue
Chicago, IL 60625

 Dale Nowaten Thomas            Grandmother Kee

The Prairyerth 2019 Living Treasures of North America Heritage Award recipients were selected for their dedication and service to their Elders and keeping the traditions and teaching of the Anishinaabeg People alive for the next Seven Generations.

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Van (2).jpg

       Bruce Hardwick                 Pat Hardwick                    Judith Meister                   Duane Kinnart             Van Archiquette            

Bruce & Patricia Hardwick

Following in the Footsteps of Dale Thomas, Nowaten - He Who Listens

The journey started in 1980 when Bruce Hardwick placed his first offering of tobacco down on a patch of ground covered with garbage. Bruce and his wife, Pat, had just purchased the Hillcrest Motel located on US Highway 2 in the small town of Rapid River, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. At the time, they had no idea the little ten room motel would become a gathering place and sanctuary for seekers from all over the world for the next thirty-five years. That offering was the first of many prayers what would eventually become sacred ground as The Wabeno Lodge would be built on that very spot. 


In 1990, Bruce, Muk ta the’ - Black Striped Wolf, and Pat, Miskwa Geezik Quay - Red Sky Woman, struck the first of what would become hundreds of sacred fires, as people from all walks of life, backgrounds, religions, and races found their way to the sacred circle.   Bruce and his cousin Duane Kinnart, Mukwa O’Day- Bear Heart, are members of the Sault Ste. Marie band of Chippewa. Soon with Pat the "ripple effect" was put in motion and they would be invited to many ceremonies to share the teachings and wisdom of what would become known as "The Rainbow Lodge" where the lesson of "4-All" was grounded in the truth that humans, no matter race, creed or color, can put differences aside and find common ground at Grandfather Fire. For three decades, Bruce and Pat opened their doors to all who sought shelter from the difficulties of the world, those in search of their higher selves, those who brought great teachings and songs from as far away as Ireland, England, The Netherlands, Australia and Tibet, along with educators, authors, performers and others from every corner of The United States.  


From the past, we create a future. Our honorees follow in the footsteps of their Anishinaabe Elder, Dale Thomas “Nawaten - He Who Listens”. Bruce Hardwick feels the Sacred Fire is for all people. It keeps them strong and vibrant in this modern world and so he freely shares his teaching and understandings with everyone, expanding the circle. He honors women as equals and empowers them as the hearth of the Fire starting with his strong wife, Pat, who in turn teaches him.



Duane Kinnart

Following in the Footsteps of Dale Thomas, Nowaten - He Who Listens

Duane Kinnart, Mukwa O’Day- Bear Heart, firekeeper, singer, and drum leader, speaks about how he came to the Fire wanting to be a better man so he could be a better father. The seven teachings relate to all human beings. Through them, we learn to live in harmony with the Earth, and the Earth itself begins to heal. When Duane speaks he connects because he speaks from his heart and all listen. His impact on the children who come to him shines in their eyes and changes their lives. He is a very generous man.




Van Archiquette

Following in the Footsteps of Dale Thomas, Nowaten - He Who Listens

Van Archiquette, Gitchi Waub Mukwa - Great White Bear, of Wisconsin is a Oneida elder who brings an incredible sense of love, caring, and belonging to all. Van has worked and taught alongside the other Firekeepers for many years, traveling to many of the same places. He is known for his quiet wisdom and presence and is rightly honored with them. He is a healing presence for many and lends his ear to all.




Dan Creely, Jr. reminds us of these words from Nowaten Dale Thomas, the old Fire Keeper, “You cannot find spirIT, spirIT finds you. Most people do not listen.” Teachings need to be shared and spoken and passed along to live. Bruce, Pat, and Duane have shared their teachings in The Soviet Union, The Hague, Peru and Paris along with schools, colleges and universities, conferences, and gatherings too numerous to count. They have been honored by Native Elders and former Living Treasures recipients including Grandfather Jim Gillihan, Tatanka Ska, Keeper of Sitting Bulls’ Pipe, and Anishinaabeg Grandmother, Keewaydinoquay Peschal, now passed. Navajo Code Talker John Brown, himself a Living Treasure recipient, shared that in all the times and ceremonies where he had been honored for his service, it was at the Sacred Fire at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago with Bruce and Duane that he felt truly honored.


On 12/12/12 Bruce and Pat purchased property adjacent to the Hillcrest Motel and named it "The Dale Thomas Center" out of reverence and respect for their teacher. Many hands converted the building into a cultural and spiritual center for programs, teachings, and events that continue to this day.


The enormous impact these people have made in the world is measured in part by the love that is evident in the gatherings they attend, the letters they continue to receive about how their path has touched the lives of so many, and the ongoing efforts of multitudes of people who carry "The Rainbow Lodge" and its teachings with them all over the world. In short, these four remarkable people have changed the world for untold numbers of their brothers and sisters and the generations that follow them. It is for this that the Prairyerth UU Fellowship recognizes them as Living Treasures of North America in the 2019 Heritage Awards.







Janet Seville

Judith Meister, Osahmin 

Following in the Footsteps of Grandmother Keewaydinoquay Peschal 

​Apr. 4, 1943  - Mar. 26, 2019


Taking Flight; One Devoted Voice Reaching and Influencing Many 

Judith Meister is known to most people as Osahmin, the shortened version of a Spirit name which means, "She who hears the sound of great and many wings.”  We cannot know exactly what the Spirits meant in giving her this name, but it is true that her life was one which took flight, taking her to many places to meet many people, all of whom have been touched by her presence, her humor, and her respect and devotion to the protection and preservation of our Mother Earth.


Born and raised in Fond du Lac, WI, Judy Meister was married with four children when she decided to return to school at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. With an inquisitive and eclectic mind, she took classes in many disciplines, enrolling in whatever courses interested her. As a result, she earned degrees in English Literature, German, Botany, and Zoology, along with a minor in Philosophy. During this diverse education, she also pursued classes in the Native American Studies department and met ethnobotanist Keewaydinoquay - Woman of the Northwest Wind Peschal, a legendary herbal Medicine Woman of the Anishinaabe, and became Kee’s teaching assistant. When Kee left the UW, Judy Meister formally became one of Kee’s apprentices, as well as a lifelong friend.  


Trained to have the keen powers of observation of a field biologist, Osahmin learned to listen to the Plant People and to use their medicine to heal mind, body, and spirit. She learned the ways of the People, their sacred teachings, and the preparation of good medicine, becoming a strong Medicine Woman in her own right.  Osahmin took vows as an Oshkebewis, devoting herself in service to the People, becoming a respected herbalist and teacher.  Osahmin’s preparations are sought out treasures including the complex sacred cedar oil used to anoint newborns, keeping them firmly and strongly on this planet.  Working alongside Grandmother Kee for almost 20 years, she became a respected Elder in the Miniss Kitigan Drum (MKD). After Kee’s death, she continued Kee’s legacy, leading botany and philosophy camps on Garden Island, assuring that the ceremonies, traditions, and teachings continued. She became a vital resource to the people of the Great Lakes region, as well as influencing and collaborating with people of different cultures and beliefs from around the US and the world.


For 15 years, Osahmin participated in the annual T.E.A.M. conferences at Northeastern Illinois University, holding workshops for teachers in herbalism, philosophy, and representing Native traditions in sacred ceremonies.  In 2010, for her devotion and excellence, the T.E.A.M. committee presented Osahmin with the Jim Gillihan Service and Leadership Award.


For 10 years, Osahmin also presented at the Wisdom of the Elders conferences in Kentucky in collaboration with her good friend Momfeather Erikson. During this time she also turned her environmental focus to helping others understand the essential role of clean water to us all, participating in the Water and Fire Conferences at Northeastern. Here her outreach led her to work with Dr. Natsadorj, the spiritual leader of Mongolia, launching clan boats together on Summer Solstice.


Osahmin has collaborated with people of many different cultures and philosophies.  She traveled to China with a student of Chinese herbalism to learn more about their ancient studies. She has sought out, and been sought by Elders of various Native groups, and is honored to call many of them friends. She has traveled the North American continent from Florida to the Canadian west coast to learn from the land and the animals that populate these landscapes so she could understand better their problems and their perspectives.


One of her favorite memories is being asked to teach at a Roots and Shoots conference where Jane Goodall was the honored guest.  Osahmin drummed and sang for the renowned anthropologist, delighted to lead her in a circle dance along with the attending children.


Osahmin never stopped learning and discovering wonderful things and gathering new experiences.  She has spent her life guiding others in plant identification, gathering, and preparation, but she could see that her classes, teachings, and preparations were not going to be enough to meet the needs of the many who sought her wisdom, so she began writing that the teachings may live.  Much of her deep understanding of sacred philosophy is passed along in her fictional biographical novel, Their Time of Learning.  Her almost encyclopedic knowledge of plants and plant medicine are in the useful and highly readable non-fiction ethnobotanical, The Spirit of Healing: A Journal of Plants and Trees.  In 2018, Osahmin released her highly anticipated book, Earth Councils, the beginnings of a worldwide eco-consciousness through the eyes and spiritual insight of a Native American Woman.  In her life and in her writing, her wonderful sense of humor shines through.


Osahmin reminds us that, “For the People of the Great Lakes there was only one Law, ‘Do Not Waste’.”  This is true about being respectful to the plants and using what is gathered is a good way.  This is also true of the lives we live.  We are not to waste our days, our talents, and what is provided for us.  Grounded in humility, Osahmin recognizes the endless potential of the People and has dedicated her life to bring the knowledge of the ancestors to new generations, always discovering the good and setting her students’ feet firmly on Mother Earth traveling her Sun Trail across the sky.  She teaches with a sense of humor and innate kindness, blessings, and balance.  It is for this that the Prairyerth UU Fellowship recognizes Judith Meister, Osahmin, as a 2019 Living Treasure of North America.

Janet Seville

Jan. 14, 1959 - Nov. 23, 2018


Janet left a legacy beyond words. A quiet, serious woman, extremely humble who had served in ways that are truly lasting. Janet worked at United Airlines for over 30 years and was also Vice President of Midwest Soaring Foundation for almost two decades working side-by-side with her husband Joseph Standing Bear Schranz (Ojibwe)  to maintain the traditions of the ancestors and to conserve and restore to health the natural environment.  Janet was involved in organizing POW WOW's , fighting against land-fracking, and assisting in repatriating native artifacts to their rightful owners. Janet also supported the return of the buffalo to Illinois, and advocated for land preservation rights at Starved Rock.


Her service was genuine, loving, and helpful for healing in the now and the next seven generations. It is a gift to honor this selfless woman who cared so deeply about protecting mother earth and native rights and cultures.

Martha, Marti, "Momfeather" sparks Kaelbli-Erickson

"Queen of Everything!" - Sep. 15, 1939 - Apr. 8 2017


Momfeather was a Cherokee Native of Harlan County, Kentucky. During her lifetime, she connected thousands of people across the globe. Many of these people today stand amazed at how many wonderful people are part of their lives because Momfeather connected them.


A teacher of the “old ways,” Momfeather was a Traditional Storyteller; Author of several books published internationally; a Community Activist; Advisor, Contributor & Publisher of Turtle Tracks, a bi-weekly online Native newspaper for students and Founder of Mantle Rock Native Education Center. She was an invited Elder for Wisdom of the Elders Grandmothers for peace at Northeastern IL University, and later on hosted Wisdom of the Elders for several years at Mantle Rock in Kentucky. After retiring, and moving, Momfeather became a Resident Elder at Rainbow Spiritual Education Center in Louisville, Kentucky. In her honor, and at her direction, Wisdom of the Elders will be held October 11-13, 2019 in Crestwood, Kentucky.


Momfeather was Commissioned twice as a Kentucky Colonel, which is the highest honor a civilian can receive in Kentucky for their public service. She was also inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame posthumously in September 2017.


She supported Omaha Indian School, Pipestone Sundance, spoke before Congress on behalf of the United Nations, fought to have Native Americans recognized as for their heritage without fear of retribution or having to be afraid to admit they had Indian blood and supported the Traveling Teepee Village.


Momfeather helped start the Women’s Circle at Sacred Waters Center, and the Native Women’s Wisdom Circle at Rainbow Spiritual Education Center as teacher and Elder. She was a Keynote and Guest Speaker at countless events across the United States and in Europe.


Books Published:

Recipes for Living: Wisdom of a Cherokee Grandmother’s Wisdom, Remembrance and Cooking Secrets; Native American Children’s Stories Warmly Told; Southwest Native Stories; Buffalo Education Resource Guide (contributor); Woman of the Wind (poetry); Whisper My Name (poetry); Nature’s Passion (poetry).


Momfeather was a supporting member of Native American Grave Protection & Repatriation Act; Nebraska Groundwater Foundation; Intertribal Bison Association; Native American Heritage Association; Nebraska Bison Association; North Carolina Indian Cultural Center; Museum of the Cherokee Indian; and Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission.


Momfeather was the mother of 7 children, grandmother of 17 grandchildren, great grandmother for 14 great-grandchildren. She was Teacher, Elder, and Friend to thousands. With a giggle and a twinkle in her eye, Momfeather dubbed herself, “Queen of Everything!”



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