Sustainable WNC

The Gateway to Sustainability in Western North Carolina

Archive for August, 2007

Grandmother Twylah Nitsch, Seneca Elder

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

Dear Relatives,

Please see message below.
Much Love and Gratitude,

“We are all part of the great cycles of things.
And so magnificent and harmonious is this universe, it’s still a great mystery.”
— from the Prelude to the Thanksgiving Address,
Ted Williams, Tuscarora Elder

A Seneca Praise

O Great Mystery, we awake
To another sun
Grateful for the gifts bestowed
Granted one by one —
Grateful for the greatest gift
The precious breath of life;
Grateful for abilities
That guide us day and night
As we walk our chosen paths
Of lessons we must learn —
Spiritual peace and happiness
Rewards of life we earn.
Thank you for your Spiritual Strength
And for our thoughts to praise;
Thank you for your Infinite Love
That guides us through these days.

— Grandmother Twylah Nitsch, Seneca Elder

Grandmother Twylah Nitsch - An elder of the Seneca nation, Grandmother Twylah is the founder and leader of the Wolf Clan Teaching Lodge, an international organization that promotes the Native teachings of her ancestors. A 1999 recipient of the Living Treasures Heritage Award, she writes books and lectures around the world. Her Seneca name, Ya-weh-node, means “She Whose Voice Rides the Four Winds.”

“Seneca people gauge accomplishment by where we are on our Earthwalk, how we’ve developed our natural potentials and shared our gifts. Our elders know we’re ready to move forward by the questions we ask. There is no criticism or praise, there is only movement through the labyrinth of experience until we remember Who we really are.”
To learn more about the life and work of Grandmother Twylah Nitsch, please contact:

A Seneca elder and a member of the Wolf Clan, Twylah Nitsch did not begin sharing the sacred teachings and traditions of her people until she was in her seventies. Today she lectures widely, using her Seneca name, Yehwehnode, “she whose voice rides the wind.” She is often told by her audience how perfectly she exemplifies the sacred wisdom that develops in elderhood for those who seek it. Inner guidance comes to her through a precise experience in the solar plexus, an actual sense of movement occurring there. The following excerpt is from The Feminine Face of God, by Sherry Ruth Anderson and Patricia Hopkins.

Digging a Hole Big Enough to Sit In

by Twylah Nitsch (New York, 1920 - 2007)

I must have been under five when I spent one whole summer day digging a hole with a large spoon in the side of a bank near our house. I had to dig and dig because the ground was so full of roots and my goal was to make a hole big enough to sit in - like a cave. And that took a lot of hard work. Digging through all those roots was tough.
What I remember most about the experience is something my grandmother said. “When you take the dirt out, make sure you have a place for it,” she cautioned me, “because the dirt is used to being in that particular place, and it is at home there. Don’t take anything that is part of something and just scatter it around. Remember you are disturbing the home of the worms and the insects. You are moving them out of the place where they have been living, and you need to make sure that they are happy about where you are taking them.” So I would scoop the dirt into a little basket I had and take it around to various spots. “Is this where you would like to be?” I’d ask. And if the answer was yes, I would leave it. Otherwise, I’d pick up my basket, go to another spot, and ask again.
When I had finally made the hold deep enough to sit in, I would crawl in there and listen. I could hear the earth talking.

Date: Tue, 21 Aug 2007 19:34:12 -0400
From: 2137bvitale@…
Subject: Grandma Twylah Nitsch
To: 2137bvitale@…

This morning I received a call from Robin Seneca she told me that Twylah Nitsch had dropped her robes, and made her final walk at seven this morning. You may pass the information on to those who you think my wish to know about her passing.

It was so strange that the other day I sent out an article that I came across in my files about Twylah Nitsch to some of the people who I thought my have known her or may have read her teachings. She was in my mind so strong these past few months and I felt we had connected on some higher level. The other night she came to me in dream time happy and laughing as she use to when we were all together. She was known by many and touched the hearts with her teachings. For me she was my friend and helped me through some difficult times in my life. Without her encouragement I would not have found my path.
May her spirit help us all from the other side and in our remembering of her may her teachings live on. If you had the honor of meeting her you will remember her wonderful sense of humor and the wisdom she spoke to us all.
Mitakuye Oyasin on the passing of yet another Wisdom Keeper.
Waynonaha Two Worlds

Paul Gallimore, Director
Long Branch Environmental Education Center
POB 369 Big Sandy Mush Creek
Leicester, NC 28748
Tel. 828.683.3662
Fax: 828.683.9211
Web Site:


Monday, August 13th, 2007



Peace and the survival of life on earth as we know it are threatened by human activities that lack a commitment to humanitarian values. Destruction of nature and natural resources results from ignorance, greed and lack of respect for the earth’s living things.

This lack of respect extends even to the earth’s human descendants, the future generations who will inherit a vastly degraded planet if world peace does not become a reality, and if destruction of the natural environment continues at the present rate.

Our ancestors viewed the earth as rich and bountiful, which it is. Many people in the past also saw nature as inexhaustibly sustainable, which we know is the case only if we care for it.

It is not difficult to forgive destruction in the past which resulted from ignorance. Today, however, we have access to more information; it is essential that we re-examine ethically what we have inherited, what we are responsible for, and what we will pass on to coming generations.

Clearly this is a pivotal generation. Global communication is possible, yet confrontations more often than meaningful dialogues for peace take place.

Our marvels of science and technology are matched if not outweighed by many current tragedies, including human starvation in some parts of the world, and extinction of other life forms.

Exploration of outer space takes place at the same time as the earth’s own oceans, seas, and fresh-water areas grow increasingly polluted, and their life forms are still largely unknown or misunderstood.

Many of the earth’s habitats, animals, plants, insects and even micro-organisms that we know to be rare may not be known at all by future generations. We have the capability and the responsibility to ace; we must do so before it is too late.

Just as we should cultivate gentle and peaceful relations with our fellow human beings, we should also extend that same kind of attitude towards the natural environment. Morally speaking, we should be concerned for our whole environment.

This, however, is not just a question of morality or ethics, but a question of our own survival. For this generation and for future generations, the environment is very important. If we exploit the environment in extreme ways, we will suffer, as will our future generations. When the environment changes, the climatic condition also changes. When the climate changes dramatically, the economy and many other things change. Our physical health will be greatly affected. Again, conservation is not merely a question of morality, but a question of our own survival.

Therefore, in order to achieve more effective environmental protection and conservation, internal balance within the human being himself or herself is essential. The negligence of the environment, which has resulted in great harm to the human community, resulted from our ignorance of the very special importance of the environment. We must now help people to understand the need for environmental protection. We must teach people to understand the need for environmental protection. We must teach people that conservation directly aids our survival.

If you must be selfish, then be wise and not narrow-minded in your selfishness. The key point lies in the sense of universal responsibility. That is the real source of strength, the real source of happiness. If we exploit everything available, such as trees, water and minerals, and if we don’t plan for our next generation, for the future, then we’re at fault, aren’t we? However, if we have a genuine sense of universal responsibility as our central motivation, then our relations with the environment, and with all our neighbours, will be well balanced.

Ultimately, the decision to save the environment must come from the human heart. The key point is a call for a genuine sense of universal responsibility that is based on love, compassion and clear awareness.

(From “Humanity and Ecology”, © 1988, The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama)

Paul Gallimore, Director
Long Branch Environmental Education Center
POB 369 Big Sandy Mush Creek
Leicester, NC 28748
Tel. 828.683.3662
Fax: 828.683.9211
Web Site: