My name is Kawisente, I’m a Kanienkehaka (Mohawk) Clan Mother from Kahnawake, a Mohawk reservation just across the bridge from Montreal. I’m a mother of two: a daughter, age 17 and a son, age 14. My children and I have always been active in social and environmental causes. Culturally we were taught to be responsible for caretaking of the land, water, and all living things.

Because of people being disconnected to the natural world, we see all life suffering. Because of colonization, my people are lacking certain skills, (forest skills). Many people are just taught to have a high paying job and take care of their nuclear fmaily.

I first met Steve Leckman a few years ago when my chidlren were young and it was proposed by friends that it would be beneficial as families to learn these skills to bring back this connection to Mother Earth. Traditionaly it is the Uncles and Aunties that take the children and show them these skills. But Uncles, Aunties, Grandparents are too busy working. So Steve’s survival program and its volunteers fill the Uncle Aunt role.

Helping to bring the inner child (forest child) to the surface, playing in the forest, makes people connected to nature. When you’re living in it, you love it and so you value and protect it.

I allow non-native people on this land because I believe this program is a medicine that needs to be dispensed or prescribed to everyone. My children and non-native children are working side by side as caretakers of Mother Earth. Nursery school is where our first introduction to others begins. Forest teachings should begin as young as possible. This is when we are being formed and where we’re most open-minded.

A woman, 25 years old, reached out to me for guidance two days after the election.  She is a leader in her role at work and she was in a state of stress and despair.  This is was our email exchange.
Hi Mark,
This week has been very hard.  I am beside myself after the results of Tuesday.  Coming to work has felt very challenging… my mind is blank…
The thought of our country being run by this hateful man makes me feel sad and, ultimately, unsafe. Wish I had better news for this check-in, but I don’t  :-/
That said, it is in these moments that I feel grateful to have grounded, spiritual, compassionate people in my life — like yourself.
Be well,
C. M.
Dear C….,
This is going to cause us to dig deep.  There is an elder teaching that has always stayed with me:  “the greater the need, the greater the result”.
Comfort rarely serves us in our development. These times, this election, is the sand, the grit, that shapes our character.
Try this. Give yourself a moment to journal from the voice that is passionate about what life is for, what life is about, what you believe is right and what you want to see in the world,
Don’t edit, don’t shy back from expression, just write and feel everything as you flow.
Give it 20 minutes. Then pause and sit quiet.  Just breathe.
Then reflect and tell me what happens.
Thanks for writing, I believe in you.
Hi Mark,  Thank you for this.  I’m circling back to share the experience I had journaling.
I did this exercise when I got home on Friday, when I was able to be alone and in quiet… wow, it was powerful.
Thoughts about the beauty of nature, my loving family, my health, and art/expression all made me feel deeply at peace.  I felt a weight lift off my shoulders, and my body was completely relaxed, lying on the rug in my living room.  After I stopped writing,  I felt so relieved that I nearly fell asleep!
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We Are Nature Rising is a project of Merrohawke and has 501c3 tax deductible status.  Make a donation today and help lift the next generation of leaders !  DONATE

We Are Nature Rising takes direction from regenerative cultural practices that create health and well-being for people.  Culture is like an invisible mentor, always guiding and informing the people.

The Three Great Mysteries: air to a bird, water to a fish, mankind to himself
~ Hindu Proverb

Cultural initiatives are a very effective way to create change in a …community, school, church, institution, business, neighborhood…


Culture is about the context.  It’s the ocean you are swimming in.

The WW2 Victory Gardens are an excellent example of a cultural level initiative to create change.  This was a whole systems cultural approach that essentially changed the nature of the ‘ocean’ that people in this country were ‘swimming in’.  Take a look at this article clip below that shows the many ways this simple gardening initiative really had it going on.  It wasn’t just “hey let’s do this” and everyone thought it was a good idea. It was intentional.

What if we applied this approach to a nature connection campaign, a community resilience, local food, slow money, intergenerational community peacemaking campaign ?

Please comment below, I want to hear what you think !

During World War Two, 200 million people gardened, and 40% of produce consumed in America was homegrown.


How do you teach an entire city to grow food?

The Mayor of Boston helped plow up the Boston Commons.

Movie stars became part of the program. Veronica Lake changed her hair from swept over one eye to keeping hair back and out of the way – better for women munitions workers and gardening. The campaign was called “Hair wins the war”.

Cartoon characters and superheroes were used to further gardening message.

Popular culture was drafted into the gardening movement – beer drinkers showed having a drink after sweaty gardening. Fashionable gardening clothes were sold from department stores.

Children were brought into the movement by their parents and their schools. Chicago held well-attended harvest festivals and garden parades.

Corporations got involved. Sears started 24,000 Victory Gardens in the Los Angeles area. International Harvester provided the plows in Chicago.

To keep that food year round, there was a mass program of canning. Five billion pints of produce were canned by volunteers every summer during the war. “Pressure cookers and canning supplies were in such high demand that their production was overseen by the government.”

Gardens began sprouting behind sign posts, on railway embankments, in school yards and church yards and in window boxes.” Vacant lots and parks were also used – any spare space.

The Office of Civilian Defense was put in charge, with Fiorello La Guardia. His “assistant” was the President’s wife, Eleanor Roosevelt – the last person to plant a food garden on the White House grounds until Michelle Obama. Could the Department of Homeland Security start thinking about real food security, and help found local gardens instead?

90% of the participants had never gardened before. This required a massive public training effort through: community groups, film nights on how to plant, educational brochures, talks by experts, newspaper articles. They mounted Kiosks near gardens and in public places to post notices and articles, a kind of social media of the day.

The City of Chicago was broken up into 7 regions, then down to block captains. Each official garden received a decal. There were many more gardens in private yards, and people who didn’t want to register of keep the paperwork. 75,000 of these decals were posted in the first year in Chicago, 1942.

In 1942, Chicago had 12,000 community gardens on over 500 plots, covering 290 acres. That doesn’t include private or non-registered gardens. By 1942 it was 53,000 gardens on 1500 plots. 14,000 children were gardening.

The first Victory Gardens were in Chicago, and it became a national model. The largest garden there was 32 acres, with 800 families participating.

Chicago passed an ordinance against damaging or stealing from Victory gardens. The fines were $50 to $200, which would be $650 to $2,600 in today’s currency.

It’s interesting to note that the food shortage and poverty during the Depression of the 1930’s was so severe that 35% of the men drafted for World War Two could not be accepted due to malnutrition.  

I wonder, Was this the primary motivation behind the Victory Gardens ?  National Security?

How did Chicago do it? “We had government support. There were overarching organizational structures. There was a donation of space and equipment. There was mass education, promotion, corporate and individual commitment, and recognition.”

If you feel moved, please SHARE this post and help us lift up We Are Nature Rising to the level of a Victory Garden Campaign!
We Are Nature Rising is a project of Merrohawke and has 501c3 tax deductible status.  Make a donation today and help lift the next generation of leaders !  DONATE