Our Story

The Spirit Aligned Leadership Program exists to elevate the lives, voices, and dreams of Indigenous elder women who are working to heal, strengthen, and restore the balance of Indigenous communities.

An inaugural circle of eight Legacy Leaders will be supported in a three-year commitment with the balanced goal of empowering and impacting individuals to increase both their personal and public sustainability.

Legacy Leaders are connected knowers, co-creators empowered to identify their values, inherent purpose, and experiences in self-determined ways for the sake of their people, their communities, and the sustainability of meaning of the worlds they hold up.

Circles of Legacy Leaders will be supported with resources so that they may inspire and impact a larger, more public audience across interrelated focus areas: Violence against girls, women and the earth; Leadership of Indigenous girls and women; Indigenous cultural expression; Healing from historic trauma and oppression, and; Indigenous education.

The core intent of this new work is best described in the words of Jennifer Buffett, NoVo Foundation co-President: “… so that what lives deep within our Indigenous girls and women and Mother Earth can connect and come forth now in these extremely critical times…

The Spirit Aligned Leadership Program has its origins and its continuity in the many thoughtful conversations at NoVo Foundation, whose principals and staff we gratefully acknowledge for their ongoing support that now includes fiscal sponsorship at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

Legacy Leaders are found among the Elder women who have stood up for generations of our peoples by living and creating effective practices that braid the symbolic dimensions of Indigenous ancestral wisdom and cultures into the contemporary life of our families, communities, and nations. We seek to honor and empower the authentic character, knowledge, and trajectory of our living Elder women—a source of leadership and strategy for our future generations.

Katsi Cook, Director

Our Inspiration

We were inspired in the design phase of the Spirit Aligned Leadership Program by the serendipitous discovery of the beautifully beaded and painted white deerskin hide that appears above. Visually, it framed us in the Mother Maize, and in the spiritual alignment, she imparts to our actions.

Let the image of standing cornstalk represent our starting point for lifting the lives, strengths, and voices of Indigenous Elder women.

Maize is the foundation of the social and cultural universes of Native Americans who live in the temperate zones of this hemisphere. Maize is both medicine and metaphor for reproduction, abundance, constancy, and is celebrated as a sustainer in the resurgence and renewal of the heart of life. The cornstalk stands lofty in the fields, continuing to transform cultural realities all over the earth in its ongoing relationship with human beings.

We see reflected in the upright, colorfully beaded spire, the backbone, the architecture of determination, strength of character, and grit—a structure of culturally established meaning.

The stalk, the spine of the maize graphic is the central metaphor, the foundation upon which we ground this work to elevate the lives, voices, and dreams of Indigenous Elder women, as they orient the work of cultural renewal necessary to the continuity of Indigenous communities in a world of rapidly changing social realities.

The ears of the maize stalk each contain ripe cobs whose kernels are aligned in array symmetry. We align ourselves and then circle up at the core. We focus on the feminine element that lives in all households. Along with the inverted masculine, it indicates reproductive elements of tassel and corn silk. We focus the continuous creation and reproduction of bodies and culture, of making relationship and kinship, the ever-expanding connection.