Lynette Two Bulls is the ILI Host Facilitator for the Lakota Territory, the location for the first of three place-based intensives for the ILI Fellows. She shared her thoughts about empowerment, leadership and the sacred Black Hills as a powerful and centering place to start ILI Fellows on their year-long journey together.
Lynette Two Bulls is Oglala Lakota and Cheyenne and her Lakota name Tuŋwéyaŋ kiyapiwiŋ means “Scouts Woman.” She is originally from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and now resides with her family on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Lame Deer, Montana.
What is your role in this first ILI Intensive?
I am a facilitator. I am from this sacred Black Hills and raised by my grandparents, so I bring the knowledge of the area and power of this space to the ILI experience.
How did you prepare for this week-long convening?
I didn’t prepare – not in the way that you think of someone preparing to go “do a job.” For me, it’s a way of life. So, everything is connected. I prepared spiritually in centering myself and asking Creator to guide me and help me communicate what needs to be communicated and to say the right things.
“When people can reconnect to their own spirit, it’s empowering. I believe that’s what ILI is all about.”
What parts of your culture were important to bring to this experience?
Probably most important is centering. In my work, I try to emphasize “remind, reconnect, reclaim.” It doesn’t matter where you come from – we all walk on Mother Earth, we breathe the air, we drink the water. When people can reconnect to their own spirit, it’s empowering. I believe that’s what ILI is all about. Empowering people to learn about each other. Empowering each other to be their best selves. Empowering each other to create change and take action. To listen and be heard. All of that comes with centering.
How does the idea of “Interculturality” overlap with your work?
What I shared IS that. We believe that everything is connected. We have a word Mitákuye Oyás'iŋ that means “all my relations.” That includes all people, all of the animal nations, sky, universe, on the earth, underneath, in the water. When you view things from that perspective – if you stop and think about it – it is very powerful. When we come to that realization and understanding, we treat each other good. We have compassion, respect, humility and other important values in our culture.
“When we come to that realization and understanding, we treat each other good. We have compassion, respect, humility and other important values in our culture.”
What is the significance of having an ILI intensive here, in the Lakota Territory?
It’s powerful because I am standing on land that my ancestors stood on. It’s meaningful to share that experience with people who are not from here. The Black Hills is a spiritual place for us. This is where we would come to get our medicines and ask for guidance. We didn’t live here, we came here specifically for those reasons. So, it’s very important to share with others who don’t have that background.
What is your hope for the ILI Partners and the new cohort of ILI Fellows for this first intensive of the ILI Year?
My hope is that they can all reconnect to who they are and reconnect to their own spirit and identity. Because when they reconnect it’s an uplifting experience. It will allow them to go out and create change through their art, through their own empowerment. When you go internal, it’s a mirror and then it ripples out and makes change. But it has to start right here.
I’d like to talk about the idea of “leadership.” In our circular ways, we view leadership differently. We don’t look at it from a top-down approach. Leadership is from the back forward and from the ground up. Everything comes from Mother Earth. That’s where it starts. Leading from the back is about encouraging movement of people. When you can view leadership like that, it makes space for people to step into their own light. This is about sharing those views and not what the linear idea of leadership. You are valued based on how much you give and what you do for others. In a circular view, all giving comes around and keeps going to uplift everyone.
Lynette is the Executive Director of Yellow Bird Programs, a non-profit organization she founded by with husband & partner Phillip Whiteman Jr. Northern Cheyenne Traditional Chief. Their work utilizes storytelling, traditional ceremony and their own “Medicine Wheel Model” build and empower community in tribal communities.
Lynette and Phillip were recognized by First Peoples Fund with the Community Spirit Award in 2016 for their work to put art at the service of community leadership, teaching and healing. Learn more about Lynette here.