Ilarion Kuuyux Merculieff
ILARION KUUYUX MERCULIEFF & THE WISDOM WEAVERS OF THE WORLD
by Nancy Corson Carter
Ilarion “Larry” Merculieff was a notable leader when the Yukon Presbytery hosted Presbyterians for Earth Care for a Regional conference, “Seeing the Signs of the Times: A Practical Theology on Climate Change” in 2014.
Larry brought a wise and thoughtful energy that we learned had its roots in his traditional Unangan (Aleut) upbringing on the remote Pribilof Islands in the middle of the Bering Sea. He had learned there to attune to the web of life in its amazing diversity—from sea lions to kittiwakes, all in great numbers then. When he was four he received his Unangan name “Kuuyux.” This name is given to one person in each lifetime among his people. “Kuuyux” means an arm extending out from the body, a carrier of ancient knowledge into modern times, a messenger.
He was from the last Unangan (Aleut) generation that had a fully intact traditional upbringing, where the entire village participated in raising its children. In his adolescence, he was sent by the government to boarding schools to get “proper” western modern education. “There,” he writes, “in high-school, university and on, I climbed up the modern-world ladder, while learning its ways and harnessing them to help my tribe, the fish, wildlife and land, other Native peoples around me, and people in general.” 1
As Kuuyux, the messenger, he received a vision of gathering a multicultural council of elders and earth activists to share indigenous wisdom and sacred teachings to respond to the suffering of Mother Earth. So in 2017, Kuuyux gathered a council of thirteen Elders from around the world to meet in Hawai’i on the island of Kaua’i. For four days, they considered Mother Earth’s plight, to pray and discuss what humans should do now. The Elders agreed for the occasion to be filmed—including councils and ceremonies, which is unprecedented. The site Wisdom Weavers of the World shows a 14-minute video of highlights, translated by volunteers into fifteen different languages. It was shared globally by Reuters News Agency for Earth Day’s 50th anniversary in April 22, 2020.
“Mother Earth is crying for her human children,” Kuuyux says in the documentary. “She has lived for billions of years. She’ll live for more. It’s a question of whether or not we human beings are going to live.”
The film names some of the widely diverse participants, including Zhaparkul Raimbekov, a snow leopard shaman from Kyrgyzstan, Lorenzo Izquierdo, a Mamo spiritual priest from Colombia’s Arhuacopeople, and Mona Ann Polacca, a Hopi-Havasupai-Tewa elder and founding member of the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers. 2 Along with the others, their deliberations led to a unified message:
Rather than giving way to a constant striving after purely political or technological fixes, we must shift our consciousness. If we will listen to our hearts, they said, we will know what to do.
An ancient prophecy that guides the Wisdom Weavers speaks of the necessity of balancing the masculine and the feminine. Since an imbalance favoring the masculine persists in our time, the elders say that the women must lead us now; they are the keepers of life. If women, with men’s support, open their hearts and share what they know, in ceremony, in their sacred ways, the balance may be restored. 3
On behalf of their Heart-Council Team, “Kuuyux” Ilarion Merculieff encourages us:
“Today, the world is focused on the use of one’s mind as the source of all intelligence, when we know that the intelligence lies not only in the head, but the entire body, which is informed by one’s heart.
“Trust completely, not with the mind, but with the heart (it is connected to the divine). If you are present in this moment, in your heart, and trust, all will take care of itself. This is part of what nature has taught Indigenous peoples.” 4
Global Center for Indigenous Leadership & Lifeways (Kuuyux is founder and president) is the
source of much of the information in this article.
2 Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-earth-day-indigenous-idUSKBN2221G7
3 wisdomweavers.world, “The Prophecy” (28 September 2022); Coherencelab.org gives bios
and contact info.They plan another council.
4 Email: “A Message of Wisdom from the Elders in the Time of Pandemic,” Tues. April 7, 2020
from WWW, “Aang waan: Hello, my other self.”
Nancy Corson Carter, professor emerita of humanities at Eckerd College, has published two poetry books, Dragon Poems and The Sourdough Dream Kit, and three poetry chapbooks. Some of her poems, drawings, and photos appear in her nonfiction book, Martha, Mary, and Jesus: Weaving Action and Contemplation in Daily Life and in her memoir, The Never-Quite-Ending War: a WWII GI Daughter's Stories.