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In Loving Memory

Sadé Heart of the Hawk Ali
1947 - 2022

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By Scott Barton

Mashantucket Pequot

 

Sadé Heart of the Hawk Ali began her journey to be with the ancestors in November 2022, just 11 days after her 75 rotations around Grandfather Sun.

 

Sadé wore many hats and lived a storied life. A Pipe Carrier and Water Protector, her roots as a First Nations Mi’Kmaq Elder of the Sturgeon Clan were a source of pride. A loving mother, grandmother and great grandmother, her family was her heart. She was a force to be reckoned with. A former DJ, body builder, Deputy Commissioner of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services, and college professor. An avid seamstress, she used her talent to make ribbon skirts, ribbon shirts, and regalia for the love of her indigenous culture and also to promote her self-care and healing when life was too heavy.

 

"Who are your people?" That was the first question I was asked by Mi’Kmaq Elder Auntie Sadé. That was a question I heard her ask people she met in her travels, her work, no, her adventures. I say adventures because when you were with Auntie it never felt like work.

 

Auntie Sadé, all 5 feet of her, seemed to have found this magic formula on how to travel this path of advocacy, education, awareness, inspiration, determination, and inclusion with humility, passion, love, grace, compassion, laughter, and a deep-rooted sense of purpose. When you worked with her or listened to her speak you were inspired too, you just wanted to join her wherever she was going and whatever she was doing. You wanted to be part of the adventure. 

Among her passions were her Two Spirit relatives, especially the youth. Being a Two Spirit herself, she raised awareness for the traditional roles our Two Spirits held in our tribal communities prior to contact. She acknowledged the rate at which we are losing our Two Spirit youth at higher rates than other indigenous subpopulations, and she was driven to do something to change that statistic. She helped to start, recruit, and connect many Two Spirit relatives with support groups resources and organizations to help build a community of love, support, and understanding. She helped many realize that for some of us “our people” included the Two Spirit community. One of the projects we were working on together was the New England Society of Two Spirits (N.E.S.T.S). Auntie saw the lack of support in this region for our Two Spirit relatives and so we were in process of forming a 501C to provide a safe, nurturing space for our Woodland tribal relations. Like the acronym suggests, NESTS would provide a safe place for relatives and their families to shelter, nurture and teach each other about the triumphs and troubles of Two Spirits.

 

Those of us in the field of suicide prevention, substance misuse prevention/ recovery, and Two Spirit inclusion and advocacy know all too well that this work is hard, taxing (physically, emotionally & spiritually), heartbreaking, and if we aren’t careful, isolating. Why? Because at the root of all of those things we deal with trauma. Intergenerational, acute, chronic or complex, we are navigating and helping other people navigate their trauma, while still trying to cope with our own. Auntie made sure we were always mindful of taking care of ourselves and being aware of the signs of burnout, so we could continue our calling to service.

 

Auntie Sadé was a trailblazer and used her experience, wisdom, and education and recognized the gaps and inefficiencies between what “evidence-based practices” (EBP) worked in the dominant society and what worked in our tribal communities. She evaluated, researched, and developed ways to indigenize some of these EBP’s and advanced the Zero Suicide Academy and toolkit model to Zero Suicide in Indian Country. This approach combined the scientific and traditional practices of our tribal communities within a framework of cultural wisdom and knowledge used by our people since time immemorial. She had just finished doing the Zero Suicide Academy for Indian Country for Choctaw before her passing.

 

Another project we were working on is the Northeastern Woodland Tribal Youth Mental Health Conference. This will be a two-day conference for youth, about youth to support youth and their families with some of the challenges our native youth are experiencing. The most important aspect of this event will be the youth telling us what they need. If you are one of the Northeastern Woodland Tribes or First Nations and you work with tribal youth, contact me so we can connect with your tribal youth for their input.

 

She seemed tireless in her work and as she traveled, she brought along with her a group of people from across Turtle Island and she helped us transform from individuals into a family. I was fortunate to be called one of her sons, to me she held the honor of being Auntie, although she was more of a mom. After her passing I have been honored to meet more of her sons and daughters, we are now brothers and sisters forming an indigifamily. These are now more of my people.

 

 

In spite of all of the accolades, awards, recognition and praise Auntie got, she always came back to “Who are your people?” Through her I learned that knowing who your people are gives you a sense of belonging, a foundation of community to build on and rely on, and it keeps you grounded and connected to our culture, family (bio, adopted, or handpicked), our ancestors, and our environment.

 

Auntie Sadé’s loss was felt across Turtle Island. Anyone who met her was drawn to her. It is the mark of a life well lived, and a legacy not soon forgotten. She is continuing her work from her new place with the ancestors, guiding and supporting us. Fly high Sadé Heart of the Hawk, we will walk the path now.

 

 

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Scott Barton

sbartonworkgm@gmail.com

818-633-0185

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In Memory of
Diana Cortez Yañez.

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A founding Ambassador, Diana Cortez Yañez. Diana died on Monday, February 28, 2023, after a medical emergency associated with long-standing diabetes struggles. She was born in Mexico and lived recently near Mexico City close to her family. She was 57.

Diana was a beautiful storyteller - her open heart and generosity of spirit were striking. She shared her personal pain and practical wisdom to teach others ways to cope with despair, substance use problems, and suicidal thoughts using skills from Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

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