Ski for Fire

Ty Olson in front of frozen waterfall
Ty Olson in front of frozen waterfall

Many Lakota families from the Pine Ridge Reservation face extreme winters on the South Dakota plains with no heat. In February, Ty Olson will ski the Minnesota-Ontario border in support of One Spirit’s Wood Program. This is one of the harshest winter landscapes in the United States with temperatures down to -40 degrees.

Donations to this cause may be made at the Ski for Fire website.

The Onaway Trust has supported many projects on the Pine Ridge Reservation. For an update on this project, see Projects.

See José Barriero on the climate emergency

See José Barriero explaining the contribution of an indigenous perspective to tackling the climate emergency at the Scientists Warming Europe pre-COP event:


This valuable and little-heard perspective adds to the other powerful contributions made at this event.  Talks by other speakers can be seen on the SWE YouTube channel.

An indigenous perspective on climate change

Contributing to the Planet in Crisis series of events, being held to prepare for the critical COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in 2021, the Onaway Trust was pleased to to be able to facilitate Dr José Barreiro to provide an Indigenous perspective on Climate Change.

Dr Jose Barriero

For fifty years, indigenous voices and movements have signaled the need for humankind to respect and value Mother Earth. As scientists measure the planet and ring alarms over the increasingly predictable horrors of climate change, indigenous seers and visionaries connect as well with central messages from the Mother Earth

José Barreiro is visible as an advocate of indigeneity, in a life-long mission to create understanding and application of an indigenous philosophy of localized community, valuing the human-land-nature relationship and the great range of eco-systemic knowledge of Native cultures. With appreciable contributions in his field of vision, Barreiro as writer, journalist, oral historian, as field organizer of major public events, as curator, as activist and scholar, as editor in chief, appears through forty years of social and human rights activism on behalf of Native peoples, from the early 1970s to the present, recognized for his consistency as communicator and advocate. Barreiro is a member of the Taino Nation of the Antilles.

José’s talk is now published on the Scientists Warning Europe’s YouTube channel.


Indians and Cowboys and the Amazon Rainforest

In the UK the term “Cowboy’ describes a crook who passes himself/herself off as a tradesperson.

In Brazil, the far-right government of Jair Bolsonaro wants to take the lands of tribes living in the Amazon rainforest and give those lands to the agribusinesses and mining interests that funded his populist campaign to become President.

In the past year, half a billion trees in an area the size of Greater London have been destroyed by ‘forest fire’. Whilst in Brazil forest fires occur naturally during the dry season, their number in 2019 has increased by an unbelievable 84 per cent. Indigenous people and NGOs working on the ground report that “armed militia swarm into protected areas, and indigenous leaders who stand up to them are murdered”. Additionally, there are reports of planes dropping incendiary substances in order to start massive forest fires.

Bolsonaro, a climate change denier, would destroy the Amazon rain forest for commercial interests. His motives are the financial greed of his backers. The tactic he is using is much the same as that employed by the USA in the 19th century to get rid of its ‘Indian problem’: kill the buffalo on which indigenous people depend. In Bolsonaro’s case, just substitute ‘buffalo’ for ‘forest’. The Amazonian rain forest, one of the ‘Earth’s lungs’, is essential to preserving life on this planet. If we want a future to pass on to our children Bolosonaro’s insane ambitions have to be stopped.

Bolsonaro and his ilk are all about money, and that is his Achilles Heel. The EU is about to sign a trade deal with ‘Mercosur’, South America’s trade bloc, which includes Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. The deal would create one of the biggest free trade blocs in the world, encompassing over 770 million consumers and a combined economic output of €18 billion (US$20 billion). Unless Bolsonaro reverses his genocidal and anti-environmental practices, this trade deal should not be allowed.

Onaway supports the petition by Avaaz to implore all heads of government in the West to put the wellbeing of the planet ahead of profit. Sign the petition. 

Learn more about the challenges faced by indigenous people from Raimundo Muro, a leader who is trying to protect the Amazon amid threats from farmers, logging and raging fires. Read the full story

The Kogi Mamas are coming to Europe

The Kogi have asked us to save the natural world, with their help. In September 2018, Kogi Mamas are arriving in France to take part in a discussion with scientists. They have found a new way to talk to us about understanding the way they see the world, which they say is vital to our future.

This visit being arranged by our French partners ‘Tchendukua Ici et ailleurs’ and we are requesting your help to raise funds to bring the Kogi to the Drome in France to make this important ecological dialogue possible.

The Kogi leaders are called Mamas and they are from the Sierra Nevada mountains in Colombia. For the last 30 years they have been engaged in environmental and political activism – making films to educate and warn us about the impact our Western consumer driven culture is having on the natural world. The Kogi have taken it upon themselves to help us understand how we are affecting the natural world and now they’re working to educate and enlighten us so that we can come closer to nature, appreciate it and realise the harm we are causing.

As a starting point they suggest we must renew our connection with the earth:

“You don’t know how to walk! Don’t you have to walk in your country? In your cars and aeroplanes, don’t you walk? … The Kogi walk literally as well as figuratively, in the paths of their ancestors. There is a powerful sense of thousands of individual trajectories constantly crossing and re-crossing the mountains, weaving an astonishingly dense web of relations between kin and places, and all these movements following well-paved paths paved by the ancestors.”

From the Heart of the World: The Elder Brothers Warning (1990)

Their knowledge comes from this intimate observation, repeated, refined and shared over generations. From this comes their deep empathy with the world we live in.

We are asking you to help us bring the Kogi Mamas to France for this discussion and you can do this by walking, by starting to observe and appreciate nature – closely, mindfully, with friends, family and neighbours.

You can help us by raising sponsorship from your walk. This is a simple request to our friends and growing community of supporters to organise such a walk by a river, or through a wood on your own or with friends as a way of appreciating nature, spending time in the wonder and beauty of the natural world. Write about your experience or ask your kids or grandkids to write or draw something from your walk, we’d love to post these for you on Twitter and our website.

To organise your walk, download our instructions and the sponsorship forms

The funds will be spent covering the costs of the Kogi’s travel and programme in France. We believe this is an important event as it continues to build a bridge  between indigenous knowledge and western understanding about how to understand and protect nature.

Read the website, confirm your walk with us on there and renew your commitment to nature. We’re trying to raise a minimum of £5,000.

Follow the latest project work and updates from the Trust.

Thank you.

The Tairona Heritage Trust

A short interview with Odilser Alexander Perez Yac

Onaway has been supporting the Chico Mendes Reforestation Project in Guatemala. Odilsar is paid 75 Q (USD 10) per day by the project. He is vital to the project, and the project is vital to him.

What is your role in the reforestation project?
I am a viverista (I work in the tree nursery), helping organise the school children volunteers and international volunteers in the vivero (the tree nursery). I also help plant trees at our reforestation sites in the mountains of Cantel, in particular this year we have been working hard to plant trees in the pajonada.

How did you become involved with the Chico Mendes organisation?
I started as a schoolboy volunteer in January 2014 through the Instituto de Educación Básica por Cooperativa Choquiac (IMEBCH) of Pachaj. In November of 2015, Armando offered me a part time position, and I now work full time.

Why is the project important to you?
As a child I was sent into the forests which surround my family home to collect firewood (mainly for cooking), but that changed when I started volunteering with the Chico Mendes project. I now spend my time working to protect and improve the forests which are vital for the local people, providing fresh water and air, and sustainable sources of firewood. It is important that we care for the forests of Cantel.

Tell us a bit about your life outside of the project?
I live locally to the project, about an hour’s walk. My home is located on the edge of the forest, things are quite basic. We grow maize in the field next to the house which my mother uses to make tortillas. I am the oldest of 7 siblings (aged from 1 to 17 years old) and became head of the household (and principal/only bread-winner) when my grandfather passed away in November 2017.

How is the Chico Mendes organisation helping you?
When I left school I started working in the fields, earning and learning very little. I am very happy working for the Chico Mendes organisation. It has given me the opportunity to learn new skills and to meet new and interesting people. I am improving my prospects for my future.

Preventing the killing of albino children for their body parts

People with albinism in Malawi, especially children are being attacked for their body parts. This horrific reality is the result of religious charlatans claiming they can make people rich through magic by using the bones of albinos, which they claim contain gold! And, with increasing poverty in the country, there is great demand.

“It is the children with albinism who are at the greatest risk. Fearing for their lives, many have ceased going to school”

Chief Clinical Officer, Matson Dezi.

Onaway is supporting the World Medical Fund for Children to help stop this barbaric practice. Teams of medical professionals have been recruited to educate rural Malawians about the facts of albinism. Working from health centres, where there is a high degree of trust based on a history of local support, the teams enlighten communities about the real problems of albinism, as well as helping albinos cope the with the harsh conditions of life in Malawi.

“The situation is worsening. Out of 82 albino children registered with one special needs school, only 8 are attending. The remainder are far too frightened to venture out.”

Michael Burt, CEO World Medical Fund for Children

Working together with our partners, we hope to start to make a difference to the plight of albinos across Malawi. Please help to raise awareness of their challenges by sharing news from trusted sources including The Independent, Human Rights Watch and Daily Monitor.

Traditional Medicine Encyclopedia Volume II completed

Onaway are proud to be supporters of the work of Acaté amazon conservation and are delighted to learn volume II of the Traditional Medicine Encyclopedia has been successfully completed.

The protection of traditional indigenous medicinal knowledge of Amazonian tribes ensures the livelihoods of future generations are being protected.

To learn more about the unique production of the indigenous encyclopaedia please visit Acaté’s website.

Securing the livelihoods of Dassenech families

The Ethiopian Government, in the interests of national energy security, opened the Gilgel Gibe III dam. This caused a drought upriver from the Sodo valley and had a disastrous effect on the indigenous people.  Of all the ethnic groups in the area, the Dassenech were the most badly affected. They relied heavily on the seasonal cycle of the river and, as semi-nomadic pastoralists, their traditional way of life became unsustainable.

As a result, young men began to migrate to Addis Ababa and beyond. And migration resulted in permanent damage to the social fabric of this sophisticated, unique community.

In collaboration with Vita and the EU, Onaway is supporting a programme to expand and secure the livelihoods of 175 Dassenech families (approx. 875 people) by introducing new irrigation and farming techniques.

For more information please visit

Giving thanks to the ancestors of the Afraid of Bear and American Horse family

After twenty years of holding ceremonial prayer in the Wild Horse Sanctuary south of Hot Springs, South Dakota, and the thirty-first year of SunDancing in the sacred Black Hills, the Afraid Of Bear and American Horse Tiospaye (related families) remember, give thanks and honour their ancestors who decades ago said, “Use the Black Hills, or lose it.”

Onaway is humbled to continue it’s support of this event. To follow are excerpts from the report written by Lead Sundancer, Tom Cook, who, in November 2018 will complete his 50th SunDance!! When asked if it was time for him to retire, he responded – “I would, except for my grandsons – I want to continue for them so they can follow me into the circle. Circle of life…”

This year, 2018, marked the thirty-first year that the Tiospaye (related families) of the Afraid Of Bear and American Horse have sun danced in the Black Hills, honoring orientations received from several elders, principally Larue Afraid Of Bear, who told us decades ago “Use the Black Hills, or lose it.”

“It is good for us to remember the elders of the Tiospaye who led us into the Black Hills; how they held inipi for several years in various places, seeking initial permission for the ceremony; how they instructed the first group of dancers, shared their songs from their elders and set the structure and sequencing of the great ceremony. In consideration of the many allies that have come into their lives over the decades, and in contemplation of the original pipe instructions on the sacred four colors of humankind, they instructed as positive the respectful inclusion of peoples originating in other cultures and races.”

Tom Cook: Staff-bearer and SunDance leader

Following ten years at ‘Grey Horn Butte’ (Devil’s Tower), and twenty years at the Wild Horse Sanctuary south of Hot Springs, our elders were pleased this year to petition the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe and to receive their invitation to continue this ritual on their tribal land – a beautiful tract of spiritual homelands south of Cheyenne Crossing, S.D., on Highway 85.

At this year’s Sundance, our 68 dancers were led by Willard Fool Bull, Jr, and staff bearer Thomas Cook. Dance lineup began with Fool Bull holding before him a 600 year-old buffalo skull provided graciously by Mae Inchimuk; while staff bearer Cook carried the Tiospaye’s new staff of a dozen ancient eagle feathers selected for the purpose via family tradition of natural world education, shared with the Farm and Wilderness Camps of Plymouth, Vermont. Through these feathers our prayers would carry their prayers, was the stated intent. Overseen by Intercessors David American Horse, 86, and his brother Joseph, 83, most of the dancers were of Native lineage, including twelve tribes and people from the four directions like Canada, Mexico, Europe, and Chile. 80-100 people were there in support, camped along the tree lines.

Upon completion of the ceremony there were two Hunka adoptions and one honoring, conducted by Richard Broken Nose. Loretta Afraid Of Bear Cook adopted Dr. Delphine Red Shirt as her sister. Delphine is a professor at Stanford University in California, and her book George Sword’s Warrior Narratives was published last fall. Loretta and Tom Cook then adopted Essen Alvarez Alvarado of Mexico as their grandson. Then, Cruz Collin, 14, was honored for his steadfastness in life after participating in four sun dances at the Wild Horse Sanctuary.

This year’s sun dance had many challenges due to the weather, but it was nonetheless a wonderfully energetic experience on many levels. The days resonated with amazing prayer energy for the people.

The heartfelt thanks of all the relatives extends in gratefulness to our principal supporters, including Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, Onaway Trust, Plenty International, Running Strong for American Indian Youth, Sacred Healing Circle, Mariel Foundation, Ketels Family Charitable Trust, Farm and Wilderness Camps, and each one of you.