Wisdom Keeper Rites of Passage Youth Camp

Aug 03, 2013 to Aug 07, 2013

Deer Mountain, CA
Ages 14-21 


If the fires that innately burn inside youths are not intentionally and lovingly added to the hearth of community, they will burn down the structures of culture, just to feel the warmth. (Meade, 1993)

Earth Peoples United & Medicine Theatre are partnering this summer by creating a unique Rites of Passage experience lead by Indigenous Earth Wisdom Keepers and expert facilitators in wilderness skills and rites of passage youth camps. This immersion on Deer Mountain's 1700 acres of wilderness will include experiential learning including: 

  • 4 Elements Teachings: Connecting with Fire, Earth, Water & Air
  • Primitive Skills Training:   Tracking & Wilderness Survival with the 4 Elements
  • Earth Based Rituals including piligrimage to the springs, fire ceremony, purification lodge, vision quest, indigenous songs and stories.
  • Council: Developing leadership and listening skills through the ancient art of council

By hearing the story of the land, elements, Wisdom Keepers, and each other, the youth can find their own story that is ready to emerge and bring that medicine back to their communities.

Through this program, the youth will be supported to:

  • Experience an authentic ritual that will acknowledge their transition into the next phase of their lives.
  • Develop skills of self-reliance for greater self-confidence and inner peace
  • Discover their own inner power and how they may harness it in healthly ways.
  • Gain exposure to the land, elements, gardening, permaculture and learn how to be environmentally conscious.
  • Slow down to the natural rhythms of the elements and Mother Earth
  • Develop a connection and understanding of Earth-based wisdom and discover ways to integrate it into their lives
  • Come alive as we learn, train, play, and laugh under the guidance of incredible Wisdom Keepers and mentors

The Rites of Passage journey is completed when the youth are welcomed home and honored by their community.  In the spirit of this, we will coordinate gatherings where the youth will have the opprotunity to share their stories and offer the medicine they received back to their communities. The youth will also be invited to participate in weekly conference calls with each other for the month following the camp to further help with the integration process.

All youth participants must complete an application

(sliding scale to $895 will help sponsor an in need youth) - DONATE HERE
$200 deposit - reserve your spot with your DEPOSIT HERE
Scholarships and financial aid are becoming available - APPLY HERE

We are continuing to raise money to support 15-20 youth to attend the camp that, without financial assistance, would not be able to attend.  Thank you for your contribution - you can make a donation of any amount HERE

Contact with questions and for more information


Rites of Passage have been around for thousands of years in tribal societies and cultures around the world. The indigenous people understand how necessary and vital this process is in developing the characters of young people. Our own ancestors were in touch with the power of these rituals as well. Today in our fast changing modern world, many of us have lost connection to mother earth. It is very hard for today's youth to connect with their own natural cycles. The bond between elders and youth in contemporary society is not as vibrant as in traditional cultures, both past and present. We believe that igniting the bond between elders and youth in the context of the natural world, has the potential to reawaken them to their true power and give them a vision that can inspire their life, securing a bright future for the generations to come.

Rites of Passage, led by experienced Wisdom Keepers, have the power to offer something to youth that they are hungry for: a potent ritual that acknowledges their transition into the next phase of their lives. In today's world, many youth have lost access to these rituals, leaving them feeling lost and confused about how to move gracefully into the world of adulthood.



Earth Peoples United is a nonprofit organization based an hour north of Mt Shasta in Northern California that works to connect people to the natural and spiritual worlds and bridge the wisdom of the Ancient Ones with the world of today, so that the diversity of life can flourish for future generations. Earth Peoples United promotes Earth Wisdom and a model of connecting with nature, bringing Wisdom Keepers and diverse traditions together, and growing natural foods and medicines in a healthy, sustainable environment.

Earth Peoples United has been organizing Wisdom Keepers and Youth Councils in northern California near Mount Shasta for over 8 years, and each year the youth council has continued to grow. In 2012, Asher Lyons of Medicine Theatre helped coordinate 25 inner city youth to join the council. It was a powerful and transformational experience. And in this process it became clear that there was a need to create a camp centered solely around the youth with the Wisdom Keepers there for guidance. This is how Asher and Earth Peoples United formed a partnership to create this years Wisdom Keeper Rites of Passage Camp. 

Visionary and Creative Director, Asher Lyons has been working with inner city youth for over a decade leading youth theatre workshops, rites of passage wilderness camps, and bully prevention programs. His work extends from organizations such as Destiny Arts Center, the San Francisco Mime Troupe Youth Theatre Project, the national anti-bullying program Soul Shoppe, the indigenous multicultural gathering Earthdance8 in Mexico, and the Institute for Cultural Awareness in Central and South America.  

Asher is co-creating this project with his partner Malika Rani Freedman.  Malika has worked with children and families for over 25 years as a counselor, life coach, workshop facilitator, in-home care provider, doula, and camp counselor.  She specializes in child development, child psychology and perinatal psychology.  Malika has also trained and worked with indigenous traditions for 12 years and is a current member of the Earth Peoples United Board of Directors.


Tata Erick Gonzalez, Earth Wisdom Keeper

Born in Guatemala, OmeAkaEhekatl Erick Gonzalez is a Mayan Aj Q’ij - a DayKeeper, Spiritual Guide, Teacher, and Healer. He was initiated into the Native sacred rites over a 35 year period with various spiritual elders throughout Abya Yala (the Americas). He has facilitated international gatherings and the preservation of sacred wisdom teachings since 1979, promoting cooperation and unity with diverse communities throughout the world. He is the Founder and Spiritual Leader of Tinamit Junan Uleu ~ Earth Peoples United, and is working to manifest models of spiritual land stewardship in Guatemala on the shores of Lake Atitlan and at the Deer Mountain Center in Northern California. 

Sweet Medicine Nation, Earth Wisdom Keeper

Sweet Medicine Nation is an gifted artist, educator, singer, author and storyteller who shares her lessons with passion, kindness, eloquence, wisdom, and humor, awakening us to the sacred realities present everywhere. She lectures and conducts workshops worldwide, bridging cultural anthropology and comparative religions symbology. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Four Winds Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the education and sustainability of Native Ways within our world family. Of Chickasaw/Choctaw descent, Sweet Medicine is honored as an Delegate for the Indigenous Congress of the Americas and is a well respected native healer. She is one of Earth Peoples United's honored Wisdom Keepers at the annual Deer Mountain Wisdom Keeper & Youth Council. 

Nan Heddi Neal, Earth Wisdom Keeper

Nan Heddi Neale has been working to support the exchange of indigenous wisdom alongside her husband, Tata OmeAkaEhekatl Erick González, since 1998. Fluent in Spanish, she has traveled throughout the United States, Guatemala, Canada, and Northern Europe to help organize, facilitate, and interpret for various international Councils and ceremonial gatherings with Mayan and other indigenous elders, as well as non-native peoples from all over the world. In 2005, Nan Heddi received her sacred bundle and spiritual mission as an Ajq’ij in the Mayan tradition. She earned a Masters degree in Creation Spirituality from the University of Creation Spirituality/ Naropa University in 1999. Nan Heddi is also Founder and President of Tinamit Junan Uleu- Earth Peoples United.  She currently lives an hour north of Mt Shasta at the developing Deer Mountain Center in California.

Spencer Neilsen, Youth Facilitator & Wilderness Guide

Spencer Nielsen grew up exploring the northern California wild lands.  After studying Ecology and Environmental Education and traveling the world, Spencer has shared his love of nature and its mysteries with youth ages 4-18 for for over 10 years.  He has led high ropes and rock climbing, taught ecology, tracking, edible/medicinal plant use, organic farming & gardening, permaculture, primitive skills, and survival.  Spencer also teaches permaculture to adults and facilitates youth rites of passage annually.  In 2012, he completed a master's degree in Integrative Eco-Social Design at Gaia University, focusing on permacultural mentoring.  He is also trained as a Wilderness First Responder. When he's not in the field with youth or adults, you can find Spencer in his garden, walking in the hills, playing music or experimenting in his kitchen.

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