The White Buffalo Woman Council (WBWC) was founded in 2016 by a group of inter-tribal Indigenous women in Marin County, California. WBWC is governed by women that represent various perspectives, experiences and backgrounds.
WBWC formed in response to an identified void of Indigenous and Native advocacy voices in Marin County, California. The women gathered and formed the Council to develop organized advocacy and action to address Indigenous issues, the need for visibility, awakening and return to balance. The Council’s foundation focuses on standing strong, speaking up, healing of the body, mind and spirit, and the empowerment of Indigenous peoples.
Message from Founder Kerby Ann Gleeson
Why White Buffalo Woman Council?
A Native American belief is that everything is in a circle.
It was my mother’s wish to have her ashes cast on the land where she was born and loved. We were standing on the knoll that overlooked her birthplace in Montana with the smell of fresh cut hay, singing meadowlarks and horses running freely below us.
I literally felt the presence of my women ancestors surrounding me. The profile of White Buffalo Woman, Little White Eagle and many others. I could clearly see in the clouds. They were speaking directly to me… “We have done everything to make your life easier and now it is your time to make a difference.” It was true that my life did not have their physical hardships and I certainly had the privilege of choices that they had only dreamed of having.
This vision gave birth to the White Buffalo Woman Council and its name. To honor my grandmother, I looked more closely to the significance of The White Buffalo Calf Woman and the sacredness of the White Buffalo.
The White Buffalo Calf Woman (Pte Ska Win) is the sacred woman of a supernatural origin who came to the Lakota people at a desperate time in our history. She brought us instructions for balance, harmony, abundance and hope. Today, She and the White Buffalo remain the symbols to work towards peace and goodness for all people…we are all related. They are recognized as the omen for inspiring, caring and positive change.
The commitment of the White Buffalo Woman Council is to act with integrity, compassion and fierceness in creating respectful and equitable relationships among all life.
Kerby Ann Gleeson, LCSW, WBWC Founder and Chair, is Lakota Sioux of the Hunkpapa lineage. She was raised on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana. She is the granddaughter of White Buffalo Woman and Little White Eagle. She has a Masters degree in Psychiatric Social Work and holds a lifelong commitment to both urban and reservation issues of Native Americans.
“It does not take many words to tell the truth.” Sitting Bull
“Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” Sitting Bull
Leslie Johnson, MSW, has been a resident of Marin County since July 1966. Originally from New York, she came to Marin from the Philippines with her military family. She was a social worker for over 35 years working in the County of Marin and served on several non-profit boards during her career. She was the first social worker in Marin to work with NICWA (Nat’l Indian Child Welfare Act), making sure that Native children’s rights would be honored. She developed, implemented and supervised the Southern Marin Intern Project for Masters candidates for Social Work and supervised the Southern Marin School Readiness Project. She was one of the founders of the Race and Class Education Equity Project. Mrs. Johnson is Akwesasne (father), Eastern Band Cherokee (mother), and African American. She has been a child advocate for over 40 years and continues to work on many social justice issues.
Hadezbah Mikkelsen (Diné, Wyandotte, Cherokee), was born and raised in Marin County. Growing up in a household conscious of the intersection of human and nature rights led Hadezbah to pursue a M.S. in in Environmental Studies, Policy, and Management from U.C. Berkeley. She has also been involved in social activism in her community for many years. She joined the White Buffalo Woman Council to follow in the footsteps of her mother, Leatrice Mikkelsen, and focus her efforts on issues effecting Native People. She is also a small business owner.
Barbara Clifton Zarate, MPH (Potawomeck, Blackfoot) grew up in Marin County. She has devoted her personal and professional life to ensuring that the rights and needs of the traditionally underrepresented are respected. She is a member of Natives in Philanthropy and locally she has championed initiatives to address poverty, health access, education equity and grassroots community advocacy and leadership development. In 2013, she was honored by The Chief of the Maya Lenca Nation and Suscol Intertribal Council for her contributions to the health and development of communities. In October 2016 she visited Standing Rock and the Oceti Sakowin Camp in North Dakota in solidarity with the Water Protectors in opposition of the Dakota Access Pipeline. She is an active member of the White Buffalo Woman Council Drum group offering songs to protect and heal. She is an artist and a spiritual activist, advocating for the protection of the Sacred; Mother Earth, the Water, and all beings.
Bonita Clifton (Erwin) was born and raised in Marin County, native Mexicana. She attended college of Marin and has worked in the mortgage business for 27 years. She has two beautiful daughters and recently became a grandmother. Bonita has always lived her life believing in and protecting equality and freedom. ‘Women have the right to choose their own path and to walk on this earth along side of the man.” Her decision to join the drumming circle was to surround herself with women that hold themselves to a higher calling. She is so proud to drum alongside her family and sisters.
Mariah Rae Clifton
Forever in Our Hearts…
Gina Mikkelsen Bostian was of Diné (Navajo), Wyandotte, Norwegian and Irish decent. Gina sadly left us on February 22, 2019. We miss her greatly. She grew up in Marin County. Her family was very active in Native American issues and the arts, as her mother Leatrice Mikkelsen was an activist and well-known painter. Gina was one of the founding members of the White Buffalo Woman Council, where she shared her artistic talent. She transformed a beautiful buffalo painting her mother had created into the now White Buffalo Woman Council logo. Gina proudly wore this piece of art on the WBWC Drum t-shirt in honor of protecting the buffalo for the Buffalo Field Campaign. Gina loved drumming and singing with the all women intertribal drum. Her dedication to doing good in the world is where the inspiration and work of WBWC came to her—“reaching into ourselves to understand our minds and how they apply to our world can make a better kinder world.”
The Native American Code of Ethics
These teachings have survived for thousands of years. They are probably one of the oldest cultural codes that still exist today.
1. Rise with the sun to pray. Pray alone. Pray often. The Great Spirit will listen, if you only speak.
2. Be tolerant of those who are lost on their path. Ignorance, conceit, anger, jealousy and greed stem from a lost soul. Pray that they will find guidance.
3. Search for yourself, by yourself. Do not allow others to make your path for you. It is your road, and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.
4. Treat the guests in your home with much consideration. Serve them the best food, give them the best bed and treat them with respect and honor.
5. Do not take what is not yours whether from a person, a community, the wilderness or from a culture. It was not earned nor given. It is not yours.
6. Respect all things that are placed upon this earth – whether it be people or plant.
7. Honor other people’s thoughts, wishes and words. Never interrupt another or mock or rudely mimic them. Allow each person the right to personal expression.
8. Never speak of others in a bad way. The negative energy that you put out into the universe will multiply when it returns to you.
9. All persons make mistakes. And all mistakes can be forgiven.
10. Bad thoughts cause illness of the mind, body and spirit. Practice optimism.
11. Nature is not FOR us, it is a PART of us. They are part of your worldly family.
12. Children are the seeds of our future. Plant love in their hearts and water them with wisdom and life’s lessons. When they are grown, give them space to grow.
13. Avoid hurting the hearts of others. The poison of your pain will return to you.
14. Be truthful at all times. Honesty is the test of ones will within this universe.
15. Keep yourself balanced. Your Mental self, Spiritual self, Emotional self, and Physical self – all need to be strong, pure and healthy. Work out the body to strengthen the mind. Grow rich in spirit to cure emotional ails.
16. Make conscious decisions as to who you will be and how you will react. Be responsible for your own actions.
17. Respect the privacy and personal space of others. Do not touch the personal property of others – especially sacred and religious objects. This is forbidden.
18. Be true to yourself first. You cannot nurture and help others if you cannot nurture and help yourself first.
19. Respect others religious beliefs. Do not force your belief on others.
20. Share your good fortune with others.
We are all living on the same Mother Earth. We are stewards of the land, not the owners, nor the conquerors. Strive to live by the natural laws and it will bring you peace with yourself, with others and all beings and the Creator.
Original version printed in 1982 in the book,”The Sacred Tree” by the Four Worlds Development Project