2020 Elders and Presenters - TBA
2019 Elders and Presenters

Rupert Encinas (Eagleflying) - Tohono O'ohdam Elder

Rupert Encinas, Eagleflying, comes from a long line of traditional ancestors in his tribe.  He is of O'Odham tradition meaning Human Being and is from S-cuk son now called Tucson.  His spiritual name is Ba'ag Da or Wanbli Kinyan (Eagleflying).  Rupert grew up knowing his first language and the traditional ways of his ancestors.  His grandfather, Harry Encinas of San Xavier, survived the boarding school era at Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, but he was not deterred by treatment of the boarding school and continued to revive their traditional ceremonies.  In 1920, he served as the principal interpreter to Frances Densmore, author of Papago Music, the source of many of Rupert’s tribal songs and traditional ways.


At a young age, Rupert sat with traditional men through all night ceremonies.

His formal education continued at Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas, (presently, Haskell Indian Nations University) where he started to learn from other tribes.  In 1979, Rupert met a Lakota Spiritual Man in Oregon who introduced him to the sweat lodge and to his first Sundance in Green Grass, South Dakota.  This began his active participation in the sweat lodge, powwows, Sun Dances, Native American Church and his tribe’s traditional ceremonies.  In 1999, Rupert went with five tribes to Estonia to share his spiritual ways through the sweat lodge and tepee.  From this experience, he started to go solo to present three-day workshops on native spiritual teachings.  Rupert has travelled to Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Copenhagen, Denmark and Warsaw, Poland.  He continues to make his pilgrimage every year and embraces the traditional way of life he lives to this day.  

Curtis Kekahbah - Kanza, Kaw Elder

Curtis lives in northern Oklahoma. He has been a presenter at spiritual and
educational conferences nationwide with an emphasis on traditional, indigenous
beliefs and the sacred aspects of life.  He has led exercises and ceremonies to fully
engage participants and orient them to the traditional Native American paradigm
of spirit, mind and body. He has been invited as a guest lecturer to speak at
colleges around the US on indigenous topics.


Curtis is a long-time employee with the Southern Arizona VA Healthcare System in Tucson as a traditional counselor. He provides presentations and group counseling for the hospital substance abuse program and gives in-service training to the hospital staff, which includes cultural sensitivity awareness.  In this location, Curtis presents at the annual "Gathering of Healers" program consisting of indigenous healers from around the US. He serves the hospital staff and also provides counseling and home visits in the community for indigenous and local people.

Curtis continues to present workshops and provide opportunities for healing in
ceremonial settings in his traditional home state of Kansas as well as in Oklahoma
and other locations. On the grounds of the annual Flint Hills Wisdom Keepers
Gathering, he shares prayers and ceremony in his native Kanza language as an
offering to his tribal homeland in Council Grove, Kansas.

Arnold Clifford - Navajo, Diné Nation

From Shiprock, New Mexico, Arnold is a botanist, geologist, biologist, historian, instructor, cultural consultant, college instructor and sheep herder. Having spent extensive periods of time studying the native flora on the Navajo Indian reservation, the San Juan River drainage basin, the Jicarilla Apache Indian Reservation, the Sonoran, Mojave and Chihuahua deserts, he is credited with more than 15 botanical discoveries.  Arnold is holder of 54 New Mexico state plant species records. Arnold has conducted raptor surveys, habitat evaluations and studied the Navajo ant.  He collects Navajo woven textiles, works with youth at summer camps and helps domestic violence victims through the integration of cultural teachings relevant to spiritual, mental and physical healing.

Della Romero - Pueblo and Ute

Della Romero (Flies High) has followed the Lakota Ways as a Sun Dancer, a supporter, and a participator of Lakota ceremonial life.   She served her teacher, Southern Ute Grandmother Bertha Grove (Red Earth Woman) for 20 years as a ‘helper’.  Flint Hills Wisdom Keepers got to know Della as she accompanied Grandmother Bertha to the FHWK Gatherings.  Grandmother Bertha designated Della as one to carry on her work for Mother Earth after her passing, which happened in 2009.   Della has served as a pipe carrier for over 30 years.  She has been with FHWK since 2011.  She has a Master’s Degree and recently retired from her 17 year supervisory position on the Southern Ute Reservation in family therapy.   She served many families and directed a program titled Youth at Risk.  Della is experienced with finding bridges to cross for the coming seven generations.

Theresa Parsons-Delahanty - Cree and Ojibwa

As an Indigenous woman living in northwest Connecticut, Terri has a regular practice of Indigenous Ceremonies, including receiving the teachings of Inipi - water pourer, and teachings of the Women’s ways. She shares indigenous knowledge and rights given to her through the elders. Terri has been a Sundancer for many years at Eagle Butte, South Dakota, and Upper New York State. She facilitates workshops around the country on creating personal Sacred Drums and Rattles, leading Spiritual workshops and workshops on “Meeting Death”. Terri is an ordained minister and is honored to facilitate marriages, baby blessings, and memorial services. She has served on the board of directors for the Institute for American Indian Studies, and is a founding board member of Women In the Spirit (WITS). Terri is an indigenous consultant for the Flint Hills Wisdom Keepers Foundation board.


Debra Bolton - Dine'/Ohkay O'Wingeh/Uncompahgre 

Dr. Bolton works as director of intercultural learning and academic success for Kansas State University. Bolton plays a key role in fostering cultural advocacy, civility and intercultural learning to improve success rates for students from historically marginalized populations. A recent recipient of a Research and Exploration grant from National Geographic Society, Bolton focuses on creating pathways to STEM for females. Also, Debra actively posts blogs: Human Ecology: People, Foods, Travel, Culture, and Social Justice, mainly focusing on food as a cultural transmitter (https://wordpress.com/view/peopleandcultures.blog). Dr. Bolton keeps an active presentation schedule sharing results of her multi-lingual research in multi-ethnic populations. Current favorite quote: "Indian Nations shall rise, and it shall be a blessing for a sick world".

Julia Brown Wolf - Lakota Nation

Eugene Joe - Dine'/Navajo Nation

Eugene B. Joe, known as Baatsoslanii, born of Bit’ahnii, born for Ashiihi, with Ozhee Tachii as his chei and Kinyaa’aanii as his nali, is a life-long resident of Shiprock, New Mexico. Eugene’s father, James C. Joe, a medicine man, or hatalthli, mentored his son for seven years in Navajo/Pueblo Traditional Sand Painting. James Joe pioneered taking sand painting out of the sacred sphere and into a Fine Art. Following his father’s path, Eugene has become a well-known sand painter because of his unique blend of authenticity and imagination. Read more.

Eugene was inducted into the Navajo Nation Hall of Fame in 2018 for his work as a sand artist and traditional educator. Read more

During his seven-year tenure as CEO/President of the Shiprock Historical Society, Inc., Eugene developed the Shiprock Magazine into a teaching tool for traditional Navajo history, art, and cultural values. As a recognized Navajo Historian, Eugene shares his traditional knowledge in the Central Consolidated School District, surrounding community, and through his work with Native Projects such as Capacity Builders, Dahayaigii and Dineh Youth of Shiprock, New Mexico. Eugene also assists his Chei, Arnold Clifford, who lectures at universities across the country on Navajo history, art, culture, traditional values, and the botanical diversity of the Four Corners Region. Eugene and his wife, Barbara, have two children, their son, Zephaniah, their daughter, Coralita, and two stepsons, Erik and Derek. Eugene’s philosophy is, “Don’t rush against time, give time and make time precious under the sun.”

Carmelo Ramos - Taino Nation

Carmelo Ramos practices alternative healthcare, a vocation he learned from his grandmother, a Taino (Caribbean, Puerto Rican) herbalist and healer. His practice incorporates the physical and spiritual systems that underlie Chinese Martial Arts but has a special focus on indigenous knowledge in the Americas. Carmelo has lead people on Vision Quests, Sweat Lodges, Drumming & Healing Circles, and participated in Sun Dances in South Dakota. He has been an Integrated Medicine Specialist for the Jewish Home of Rochester, New York, teaching residents adapted Tai Chi and pain management. Working closely with staff, physicians, families and caregivers, he addresses issues of residents’ emotional, psychological and spiritual health in end of life care. He has presented his teachings in public schools, drug rehabilitation centers, and in community settings that serve physically and mentally challenged populations. Carmelo continues to study natural forms of medicine around the world, acquiring in-depth knowledge of many alternative healing arts. In 2017 he published Standing in Stillness, his personal journey incorporating reflections from his students. His book includes a reprint of a Teaching from one of his mentors, Zen Buddhist Hirano.

2019 Fire Keeper of The Sacred Fire

Mark Sampsel

Mark Sampsel became a Firekeeper upon teachings given him from Native American Elders who presented at historical Wisdom Keepers Conferences and Gatherings.  Mark cherishes his role tending the Sacred Fire and is glad to share some of the ways of traditional firekeeping with those who join him day or night. 


The Sacred Fire will be started at the Sunrise Sacred Fire Circle Ceremony on Saturday early morning led by an invited Native American Elder and tended by the Firekeeper.  All Gathering attendees are invited to this ceremony at sunrise.  Participants may also join and help with firekeeping for one or two hours, during the day or night, by signing on the designated schedule in the main lodge.


The Sacred Fire Circle is open to everyone at anytime with respect to holding space for invited Elders who may be in the circle doing special ceremony and with respect to all those in quiet reflection, meditation and prayer.


Mark is a sculptor who created the Kaw Nation “Guardian of the Grove” bronze statue at the park entrance of Council Grove.  Upon his close collaboration and work with the Kaw Nation in creating this statue and other bronze busts of the last 5 Kaw full-bloods and five other past Kaw Elders, a Kaw Elder ceremoniously adopted him as a Kaw Brother.

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The Flint Hills Wisdom Keepers 2019 Gathering
is sponsored in part by the Greater Manhattan Community Foundation, Dianne Shumaker, Meridith Beck, and other supporting donors.  

We wish to thank all of our sponsors and donors for their kind generosity.

​© 2019

by FHWisdomKeepers 

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by Sarah Jackson