The Possible Bag

By Katsi Cook, Spirit Aligned Leadership Program Executive Director

possible bag

Recently, a friend asked me about the possible provenance of this beautifully beaded bag that had been hanging on the wall of an Adirondacks cabin for about a hundred years. Loretta Afraid of Bear Cook (Oglala Lakota), a Spirit Aligned Legacy Leader, explained that her Northern Great Plains tribal people called this colorful piece Wokphun, a Possible Bag. 

“A Possible Bag? What does that mean?” I asked her. 

Loretta translated the meaning of the Lakota word wokphun, pronounced whoa kphan:

“Wo is the word description used for all living things or everything that is alive. Ph’an is a description for creating something smooth and malleable from something rough using your creativity. It is the word used for describing a special container, a sacred container. Our females decorated them with porcupine quills and tufts of hair from horses, plants, or even living human hair. They made the bags as matched sets to hold sacred items, medicines, dried food storage bags. They were called “Possible Bags” because many special things are stored in them. Medicine men carried them for the purpose to conduct sacred ceremonies in support of the conditions that create and maintain life.” 

The idea of the Possible Bag prompts us to consider Native worldviews, stories, the values of our time immemorial knowledge, sacred languages, and sacred homelands that guard our medicines. These teachings of our ancestors and relatives have built intergenerational resilience among tribal, Native Hawaiian, First Nations, Inuit and Metis women elders. 

This Fellowship Award application is a Call to Spirit for a third circle of eight Indigenous women elders who are standard-bearing carriers of treasured ancestral wisdom and knowledge. We invite you to reflect on the body of your life’s work, reimagining yourself and your leadership in a spirited collaboration with an emerging, younger leader. What pathways will you take to co-create a self-determined legacy of knowledge steeped in spirit and healthful Indigenous cultural practice that maintains a lineage of Indigenous knowledge to be put into action?

Tell us: What’s in your possible bag? 

Spirit Aligned Leadership Program acknowledges the power of the dream. We exist to lift up the lives and voices through which the Legacy Leader identifies and enacts her dream. We acknowledge that a true dream can give birth to restoring balance of relationships to self, others, community, and beyond. 

Ask yourself: “Am I a Legacy Leader?”

How is your impactful leadership in your community grounded in original Indigenous values? How have you resourced the love, humor, peace, and power of your Indigenous language to requicken strength and resilience for your generations? Do you align your head with your heart? Are you willing to share your dream for what needs to be amplified over time?

Legacy Leaders are acknowledged and celebrated for being vessels of traditional, ancestral ways, for leading in creating and sustaining legacies of strength and resilience for their own people, for all Native peoples, and for all of humanity. 

We invite you to reimagine your relationship with yourself, your emerging legacy mentee, a larger circle of sisters, and what’s possible. 


Thanks for your interest in the Spirit Aligned Leadership Intergenerational Indigenous Women’s Fellowship.