Grizzly Landing

For those of you who aren’t aware of the funding that has made Snow Lion possible, the project is the product of McGill’s 2012-2013 Dalai Lama Fellowship, a highly competitive global program that grants up to $10,000 to students at select universities to design and launch ambitious projects in communities of their choice. Fellows come together for a week at the start of their Fellowship year to prepare launching their projects. The next year, Fellows return to report back at the Ethical Leadership Assembly in California.


The tawny rolling hills of Petaluma look like the fur of a giant slumbering grizzly bear. As we drive up to the Institute of Noetic Sciences retreat center, I can’t help but wonder: “If the golden grass is the bear’s fur, what are the oak trees?”

“Burs,” Alex says.

I look out the window at the trees dancing in the wind. It’s difficult to conceive of the oaks as mere burs. Our first appointment confirms my hesitancy about this newfound analogy. Miwok Elders Joanne Campbell and Gene Buvelot open the ELA with an introduction to the history and heritage of the land where we are to spend a week together. According to the Elders, the oak has played an invaluable role in the flora and fauna of the land where the Miwok tribe lived for 10,000 to 13,000 years. Elder Joanne Campbell draws our attention to how the ground used to be covered in acorns fallen from the ancient oaks. Before their forced departure of these lands during California’s Mission Period that spanned from 1769 to 1824, the nut nestled in the acorn shell was a staple in the diet of the native tribes of Petaluma.

The land that surrounds us comes to life as we explore the baskets and jewelry that Joanne distributes among the audience. The Miwok Elders’ inspire us to dedicate this week to those who’ve come before us.



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