The Great Return

By Audri Scott Williams

While preparing to write this article, I thought deeply about what perspective or insight I could bring to this Shift Network publication on Global Indigenous Wisdom. As I prayed for guidance, I did what my elders, from many traditions, have taught me, I sat in silence with Mother Earth. I journeyed down to the Gulf of Mexico and sat watching the waves and the vast body of water -- remembering the Creator, not just out there but in here, in my heart, as well. In other words, I became fully present to my relationship to all of life and the wonder of creation itself.

Sitting, watching the waves crash upon the shore, seeing sea life come and go in the waves and in the sand, hearing the silence, I realized that the sea was sharing her wisdom with me. I leaned in to hear. As I listened, I began to drift into a mystical awakened dream state. And in this space I saw the shores of the Atlantic Ocean; Cape Fear River in North Carolina; the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia and Maryland; and the shores of the Bay of Benin in West Africa, often referred to as the Slave Coast. These bodies of water were critical to the intersection of the passages of my Indigenous Ancestors, both Native to Turtle Island and to West Africa.

I felt the blood of my Ancestors flowing in me and I wondered what were they trying to say to me? With eyes closed and feeling the waves crashing at my feet, I felt the sound of my heart beating and the life force in me connecting with the rhythm of the sea. I was lulled deeper into my inner scape by the rhythm and sounds of the sea.

I heard an elder from Benin, standing there in the mist from the spray of the waves, telling me that for over 500 years an unbroken chain of prayers continue to be uttered, (handed off from one generation to the next) for the healing of the human heart and for a return to the way of remembering that embodies mind, body and spirit in all things. He said this prayer was gently calling all those who could hear to remember the time of the Great Return when celebrations would light up the Earth (all that is above and below). We will celebrate because we, all of humanity, would come so close to complete forgetfulness of who we are, but just before the darkest of times, in the most sacred moment of remembering, we will remember.

Then I heard my Cherokee Grandmother singing a song generally used to sing babies to sleep, a sweet loving lullaby. She soothed me deeper into the dreamtime and I began to hear the sacred prayers reminding me that during this time we had to hold fast to the stories of the great time to come, when the people would gather, remembering and sharing their stories and the wisdom of their Ancestors.

There was a crash of thunder and I was back on the shore. There was no one around but me. Tears filled my eyes because in that moment I knew that so many of us have been dreaming this dream of the great gathering to come, many for a long, long time. My Native American family calls it the mending of the sacred hoop. My African family calls it the way of remembering.

The tears continued to come because I knew. We are all waking up to the dream. People from diverse cultures and continents are showing up all over the world, meeting each other – heart to heart and establishing a global family that honors the sacred in all things and in each other. People of diverse cultures are showing up with their sacred offerings, building altars together, drumming and dancing together and sharing ceremony. Each time I am honored to be at a sacred gathering (whether at the United Religions Initiative’s Global Indigenous Gathering, the Parliament of the World’s Religions, or Indigenous Gatherings around the world), I leave with a sense that we are remembering ourselves, weaving a tapestry of incredible love that has the power to transform what at times appears to be impending doom.

There is a Dogon saying, “You can remember the future and change the past.” In my heart, sitting here listening to the Great Mother of the waters, I know we are having the opportunity to remember the future: to see Mother Earth at her best, healing of all the wounds inflicted on her by humanity; to see the children of the earth well and loved; to see our elders honored and cared for; to see corporate greed tempered by care of the earth and all living beings; to see sacred sites protected and restored; to see Indigenous lands and people honored and protected; to see humanity live into the notion of no more “wounded knee massacres”, no more Slave Trade, no more Holocausts, no more Doctrines of Discovery; no more nuclear bombs, no more wars and to see everyone with access to clean water, food, and opportunities to live their best life.

As we remember these things and more, then in the present moment we shift, we make the choices necessary for the future we remember. We are not alone. Indigenous people around the world are standing together, weaving all of life together in a sacred way.

“Prophecy has called us to the center stage of humanity as Indigenous Nations to bring ancient knowledge systems and spiritual practices from our respective civilizations to the resolution of modern issues and reconciliation of relationships for the Great Peace. We realized we are not alone and must do this work together - being a global Indigenous family is needed now. A great wave of change for peace has begun to roll over the face of Mother Earth. All the Ancestors of all the people – Come and join us! Come and join us! Come and join us as we celebrate together a new era for humanity, a time when a great balance is going to be achieved and when the Indigenous knowledge systems of all the people are coming together. And we are being called to the forefront for the building of that new society." - Diane Longboat, a Mohawk and Turtle Clan representative from Six Nations Grand River Territory in Canada.

Photographs were taken at the United Religions Initiative Global Indigenous Gathering 2014 by Mikuak Rai of World Bridge Media.

Audri Scott Williams

The First Native/African American Woman

To Lead a Global Walk for Peace


Audri Scott Williams
, author, celebrates her new release, Awakening the Heart of the Beloved Community. Audri was the Vision Keeper who led the Trail of Dreams World Peace Walk over 6 continents (2005-2009), and the 13 Moon Walk 4 Peace across America to over 50 communities (2010-2011). She has received numerous awards for her service to humanity. Awards include: the Presidential Certificate of Merit (President Bill Clinton), HBO Hearing Her Voice, Telling Her Story Award; Volvo for Life American Heroes Award; and the 2008 URI Bowes Award to the Trail of Dreams Team (awarded in India). She holds a Masters in Liberal Arts from Naropa University/Creation Spirituality in Indigenous Science, a BA in Criminology from the University of Tampa, with post graduate studies at Harvard University, University of Maryland, and American University.

She served as the Interim Global Indigenous Coordinator for the United Religions Initiative (2013-2014) and co-convener of the historic Hidden Seeds Global Indigenous Gathering in Northern California (2014). She was an Apprentice with the WorldWide Indigenous Science Network where she escorted and documented indigenous wisdom keepers around the world; a former Dean of Instruction at the Institute of Divine Wisdom in Atlanta, Ga.; and Dean of Continuing Education and Community Service at Charles County Community College. She currently serves as a Global Trustee on the United Religions Initiative Global Council and is CEO of NOWTIME Media. She has authored several books and produced documentaries about her journeys.


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This article appears in: 2015 Catalyst, Issue 22: Global Indigenous Wisdom