Joint Wayfinders Circle and WUISP event celebrates Indigenous spiritual and cultural continuity at the UNPFII


The “Origins: Celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Arts, Spirituality and Cultural Expressions to Strengthen Intergenerational Transmission" event united Indigenous youth and elders from around the world in Lenapehoking territory, also known as New York. Photo by Linda Dutan (Cañari) / Nia Tero
The “Origins: Celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Arts, Spirituality and Cultural Expressions to Strengthen Intergenerational Transmission" event united Indigenous youth and elders from around the world in Lenapehoking territory, also known as New York. Photo by Linda Dutan (Cañari) / Nia Tero
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Joint Wayfinders Circle and WUISP event celebrates Indigenous spiritual and cultural continuity at the UNPFII

April 30, 2024

Indigenous elders and youth convened in New York City at an event aimed at strengthening future generations to uphold the legacy of their Peoples.

In a gathering at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in New York City, the Wayfinders Circle and the World Union of Indigenous Spiritual Practitioners (WUISP) held an event spotlighting the importance and beauty of knowledge transmission from Indigenous elders to future generations. The event, titled Origins, featured visual arts, dance, music, poetry, and more from Indigenous Peoples around the globe, and took place amidst the UNPFII’s 23rd session, which centered on the theme of Enhancing Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determination.

“Today we are at a very exciting event. It’s a celebration of the creativity of Indigenous Peoples, our intergenerational bonds, and the intergenerational dynamic in our communities. It’s our expression of our connection to Mother Earth,” said Erjen Khamaganova, a Buryat-Mongol Indigenous spiritual elder from Russia and member of the WUISP.

The event drew a diverse audience of approximately 70 individuals spanning multiple generations and representing various countries and regions. Over the course of a three-hour exchange, attendees were invited to engage in an interactive session that offered a hands-on opportunity to contribute to a collective message of solidarity and resilience.

This message served as a powerful statement reaffirming the importance of acknowledging, respecting, and honoring Indigenous roots, cultures, traditions, and spirituality. It emphasized the vital role of intergenerational knowledge transmission and underscored that cultural and spiritual continuity depends on empowering Indigenous youth to carry forward the legacy of their peoples.

We can share stories, we can share art, (…), but if the youth don’t have any commitment, we will not be able to really ensure continuity, the historic continuity of our peoples. So it was very important to have the youth’s voices not only in the different events of the [United Nations] Permanent Form [on Indigenous Issues], but [also] today, (…) to really experience how our youth are expressing that commitment to continue the legacy of each one of their peoples, said Myrna Cunningham Kain (Miskita, Nicaragua), chair of the Pawanka Fund and a member of the Nia Tero Board of Directors. 

Knowledge and Inspiration Through Art

In-between arts performances, participants shared their experiences and insights in the event space, which was filled with colorful artwork from Indigenous Peoples around the world. A diverse assembly of youth representatives, elders, healers, and artists united for the event, each bringing their unique voices and talents to amplify the message of intergenerational empowerment and cultural continuity.  

Caleen Sisk, traditional chief of Winnemun Wintu in California, United States, and Kamil Mamadaliev, a WUISP member from Kyrgyzstan, opened the ceremony with poignant ancestral blessings. They were followed by healer Nidia Bustillos, representing the Asociación de Medicina Tradicional Ancestral Cochabamba from Bolivia. Additionally, there were music and poetry performances by Ñuu Savi storyteller and poet Celerina Sánchez from Mexico, musician Chorshanbe Alovatov, from Tajikistan in Central Asia, and musician Javier Jerez, joined by “Los Kany”, from Ecuador.  

Inspired by the ancient Central Asian tradition of tapestry and embroidery, attendees received a piece of special cloth upon which they could inscribe their thoughts, ideas, wishes, and blessings, or create symbolic representations of their nation or land. These contributions were then woven together on a panel, forming a tangible symbol of unity and shared purpose that would be further enriched as elders returned home and sewed their pieces onto the collective tapestry.   

“Many Indigenous communities throughout the world have this similar patchwork,” said Mirrakhim Toktogulov of Kyrgyzstan, one of the Origin Fellow artists present at the event. He added, “The biggest message, why we came all the way here, is to share with people here and to remind people to remain connected to each other – but most importantly, connected to Mother Earth.” 

At the center of the multimedia interactive session was the “Infinity” art exhibition, a showcase of the journey of Indigenous Peoples from Central and Inner Asia presented by artists participants of the WUISP’s Origins Fellowship, which focuses on creating a unique training and support system for Indigenous creative youth to reconnect with their heritage, deepen their roots, and renew their commitment to Earth guardianship through artistic and cultural practices.  

Through sculptures, paintings, and installations, the exhibition transported viewers into a world of ancestral wisdom and heritage. Artists from Buryatiya, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, and Pamir offered a fusion of cultures deeply rooted in traditional knowledge, inviting viewers to engage in self-reflection, contemplation, and interactive exploration. In doing so, they shared the knowledge, experiences, and lessons learned through the Origins fellowship program. 

“These are really talented young men and women who are in search of their own roots. We are very happy and honored to help them to find themselves on this Earth, not to lose their identity, and to know exactly where they are from, who they are, who their ancestors are, and what our shared vision for a better future for all humanity and all living beings on this planet is,” said Erjen Khamaganova.  

As the event drew to a close, Indigenous leaders joined in the festivities, dancing and singing alongside participants in a display of unity and solidarity. It was a fitting conclusion to an event filled with joy, inspiration, and a profound sense of shared purpose.

More about the Event’s Hosts: 

  • World Union of Indigenous Spiritual Practitioners (WUISP) 

WUISP is an open voluntary alliance of Indigenous spiritual practitioners, shamans, healers, sacred sites guardians, cultural activists, holders of traditional Indigenous knowledge and values, Indigenous organizations and clans committed to working together with the common goal of achieving the mission and vision for protection of Mother Earth and strengthening of pristine ties human-nature- culture for the survival and wellbeing of generations to come. 


  • The Wayfinders Circle (WFC) 

The Wayfinders Circle is a global network of Indigenous Peoples who work to strengthen self-determination in managing their lands and territories and maintain cultural and spiritual continuity through intergenerational transmission. At present, the Wayfinders Circle is comprised of 15 members, including Indigenous Peoples from Latin America, Asia, Africa, the Arctic, the Pacific, North America, and Europe. 


More about the Event’s Co-sponsors: 

Nia Tero works in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples who sustain thriving territories and cultures to strengthen guardianship of Earth and all beings. Nia Tero forges transparent and just agreements with Indigenous Peoples and local communities to ensure they can successfully defend and govern their territories, manage and protect their natural resources, and pursue their livelihoods. It is committed to working alongside Indigenous Peoples in geographies central to the well-being of all humanity.  


Pawanka Fund is an Indigenous-Led Fund striving to support and empower Indigenous peoples around the globe. It is committed to the concept of intercultural philanthropy, based on ancestral practices of solidarity and reciprocity of Indigenous Peoples. Pawanka responds to the needs of indigenous peoples building relationships of trust, networking and promoting articulation between local and global processes. It provides direct support to community led organizations for the recovery and revitalization of indigenous knowledge and learning systems in seven sociocultural regions of the world including North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa, Arctic, Pacific, and Russia.  


Community First Development is a First Nations-led development and research organisation and at the heart of our approach is community self-determination. The grassroots partnership approach is 100% community-driven, providing practical and specialised support across various industries. We are here to do whatever we can, when invited, to support and partner with First Nations’ communities as they create opportunity in education, health, governance, business development, environmental protection, and cultural preservation. 


The Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers was created as a result of former Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon’s report (2012), in which he said that “religious and faith-based leaders play an important mediating role in many conflict situations. In essence, the Network’s Mission is to build bridges between grassroots peacemakers and global players. The Network believes that creating linkages between Track 1 actors and Track 2 and 3 contribute to more effective peace process that has a long-term impact on the society and ensures no one is left behind.