TEAM AND BOARD
We are first and foremost guided by a Council of Elders whose teachings, values, and principles are the very threads that hold cultures together. Our leadership team comes from diverse backgrounds and perspectives collectively bringing decades of experience and dedication to the mission of Seeds of Wisdom (formerly Sacred Fire Foundation). The Circle of Advisors further strengthens and informs our work as it relates to best practices, trust-building with Indigenous partners, capacity-building, and relationships built on reciprocity and respect. At the very core of who we are is our incredible team of volunteers who selflessly share their heart in all they do.
JOHN NABIL HANDEM PIETTE
CREATIVE DIRECTOR/EDITOR of VIDEO
John Nabil Handem Piette, a UK Telly-Award Winner, is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker, with a passion for creating compelling, unifying, and world-changing content. Growing up, John developed a love of storytelling—the only constant in his life as home and roots were ever-changing. Born in Stockholm, Sweden, John moved with his family to London, then Paris, eventually arriving in Washington, D.C. and then Austin, where he attended film school at the University of Texas. In 2009, he moved to Los Angeles and began working with A-list talent on award-winning films, music videos, documentaries, trailers, and a web series. With his move to New York in 2018, he served as a Senior Producer and Editor for The Dodo, creating hundreds of animal-centric videos, and now, as a member of the Writers Guild of America East, he has formed his own production company—Assemble Studios—where he develops original narrative and documentary projects, as well as collaborates with inspiring organizations to help tell their stories. “Whatever the medium or platform, my storytelling focus is always set squarely on enlightening, yet entertaining content that helps unify and uplift our world.”
PALOMA ABREGU ARROYO
DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS
L. Paloma Abregú Arroyo is Chanka (an ethnic group of Quechua people from Peru). She spent most of her formative years in the US, and has since lived in many other countries, including Australia, where she completed a master’s degree in International Relations, and then Austria, where she was awarded a scholarship for a graduate diploma in Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution. Paloma’s work has taken her to Honduras, India, Nepal, Ghana, and California, where she was involved with a wide variety of community projects over the years. She has supported women’s development efforts and the rights of young women against cultural oppression, created and led sustainable art workshops, developed and led conflict transformation workshops for Liberian refugees, provided mediation and taught permaculture with former child soldiers, as well as led restorative justice and mediation programs at primary and secondary schools in both Oakland and Berkeley, CA. Based on her experiences, Paloma has surmised that one of the most important elements to improving one’s self-esteem is strengthening one’s identity. She has seen that those who feel connected to their roots feel a sense of balance, a strong identity that allows them to value their past, their present, and respect the cultures of others. With this passionate awareness, Paloma in 2014 founded and is the executive director of Saphichay, an organization whose mission is to support and defend Indigenous rights and cultural survival in Peru. Her dedication to supporting Indigenous knowledge, practices, and rights is fundamental to who she is.
CIRCLE OF ADVISORS
DR. ISABEL HAWKINS
Dr. Isabel Hawkins is Senior Scientist at the Exploratorium science museum in San Francisco, California, USA. She obtained her doctorate in astrophysics at the University of California in 1986. Isabel received a Fulbright U.S. Global Scholar award for 2018-2022 to research the Pleiades star cluster from the perspective of three cultures—Māori, Maya, and Quechua—in New Zealand, Guatemala, and Peru. Since 2011, she has served as volunteer co-coordinator with Dr. Shelly Valdez (Laguna Pueblo) of the YAKANAL Indigenous Youth Cultural Exchange Program whose mission is “To strengthen cultural identity and leadership capacities in indigenous youth, preparing them to engage with other cultures while preserving their own.” She is also seven-time Latin dance world champion in salsa and bachata in the “over-50” category at the World Latin Dance Cup international competition.
Marcus Griswold PhD is a coach, scientist, community engagement specialist and founder of Calm Waters Group. He has 15 years of experience communicating science and policy, providing strategic leadership, fundraising, and empowering communities on the most complex and controversial projects. He works on and provides mediation, facilitation, and planning services to non-profits, local, state, and federal governments and tribes. He believes that communities already know what is needed to solve climate justice, and helps them tell their story, advocate for their needs, and engage with agencies. Marcus is father of two boys, Leif and Kai. They live in Northern California.
Rudo is a geographer and technologist with over a decade of experience supporting Indigenous communities in mapping and monitoring their lands, and building digital tools that increase community self-determination, access to land rights, and land management capabilities. His professional experience includes work with Indigenous and other local communities throughout the Amazon, Caribbean, North America, and East Africa, and steering the direction of several digital mapping tools and platforms. At the Cadasta Foundation, he serves as Chief Programs Officer to develop, lead, and manage Cadasta’s program strategy and implementation.
Prior to joining Cadasta, Rudo worked as Senior Programmatic Lead at Digital Democracy and as Mapping and Programs Support Manager at the Amazon Conservation Team. He serves on the board of directors of Native Land Digital, the open-source stewards team of Terrastories, the circle of advisors for the Seeds of Wisdom Foundation, and he was the inaugural president of the International Society for Participatory Mapping. He holds a graduate degree in anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a graduate degree in international administration from the University of Miami.
Robert has worked in nonprofit management for more than 25 years, mostly in the areas of health promotion, health equity, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. He has with local organizations in San Francisco, Chicago and Santa Fe and serving as regional “weaver” for Native Americans in Philanthropy. Since 2000, Robert has been consulting with nonprofits, focusing on values-driven management, effective communication, community-based evaluation and diversity, equity, and inclusion. In 2016, he founded Indigenous Methods, LLC with his friend Lee Francis IV from the Pueblo of Laguna. Indigenous Methods provides evaluation and planning services to indigenous communities and native-led programs and works with philanthropic and nonprofit organizations to decolonize their policies, procedures, and operations in order to increase equity for all people. Since 2014, Robert has split his time between Santa Fe, New Mexico and Oaxaca, Mexico. In Oaxaca, Robert works on projects that support indigenous youth and artisans and help to decolonize folk art curation and marketing.
For 26 years, Paul served as tribal councilman for the San Ildefonso Pueblo. Paul also founded the New Mexico CultureNet Statewide web program. For 14 years, he served on the Board of Regents for the Museums of New Mexico, receiving the Regents Award in 2001.
Additionally, Paul has served as an administrative director for several government organizations including Bureau Chief for the statewide Medicaid waiver program which was the leading program advocating home health services.
PAUL S KATO
Paul Sanom Kato is a native of Nigeria. A passionate educator, Paul holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business/Economics, a Post Baccalaureate Certificate with an RX and NR endorsement in Social Studies and Computer Science. Paul also holds a Masters of Arts Degree in Education.
Paul brings a wealth of experience from 25 years in the education sector. Paul was inducted into the 2018 Spring Arbor University Hall of Fame for his accomplishments in soccer and his humanitarian work in Africa. A former professional soccer player Paul has used his platform to establish a 501(c) non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and funding for a boarding school in his native Nigeria. A proponent for social justice and equal opportunity especially for the disadvantaged, Paul has dedicated his life to a better future for humanity.
Paul lives in Michigan with his wife, Gwen. They have 2 children, Celete and Ian.
Mary has over 30 years experience across government, business, philanthropic and not-for-profit sectors.
For the last 10 years Mary has worked alongside community groups (including Māori / Pacific / Ethnic communities) and assisted them to achieve their goals and aspirations. More so, she has worked with many Māori Iwi (tribes) and Hapū (sub-tribes) in the development of their Marae (tribal reservations) and cultural projects where mātauranga (indigenous knowledge and wisdom) is paramount.
Like all indigenous cultures, Māori base their world view upon the relationship with the natural (and spiritual) world where each generation continues their role as guardians to care and protect the environment for present and future generations.
International travel and work abroad have provided Mary with a greater appreciation and respect for all cultures and communities. She recognises that for many generations, indigenous wisdom has been either extinguished or dampened to small embers and sparks. She believes Seeds of Wisdom is part of the greater consciousness movement to gently blow the ‘breath of life’ on those embers to re-ignite the flame and restore the sacred fires around the world.
A graduate of the University of Phoenix and the University of Texas, El Paso, Alberto has lived for over twenty years in Santa Fe. Alberto worked managing the business operations of an Oscar-nominated entertainer and entrepreneur, at the Corporate Finance offices of The Home Depot and as a Controller at the Pepsi Distribution Center in El Paso, Texas. Prior to joining The Nature Conservancy, he also worked ten years at two non-profits with a social justice mission. He is active in immigrant rights activities and fluent in Spanish. Passionate about health and physical fitness (you can find Alberto at the gym very early, every morning), or on a bicycle-having cycled across Portugal, the Adriatic coast and the foothills of the Apennines of Italy and from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C.
ARTEMIA FABRE ZARANDONA
Artemia is native to México and holds a PhD in Social Anthropology. Since 1988 her main work has been in research and in teaching in different Universities in México specializing in the anthropology of religion and judicial anthropology. Artemia regularly conducts seminars and postgraduate courses about Indigenous rights, cultural diversity and the intercultural dialogue for legal representatives of Indigenous people, lawyers, judges, human rights advocates and public employees. She is an advisor to anthropologists and lawyers in judicial process where Indigenous individuals or groups require expertise in their culture, judicial system and values.
Wakanyi Hoffman is a Kenya-born global nomad who has lived in many countries. She is currently based in the Netherlands with her husband and children. She is a trained journalist, a collector of African folktales, and a keeper of Indigenous wisdom from Africa. As a mother to four Third Culture Kids, she has spent a significant amount of time in international school libraries worldwide and noticed the gaping absence of children’s books about Africa written by Africans. To fix this, she enrolled in a master’s degree program studying development education and global learning and designed her thesis around a project aimed at digitizing folktales from Africa to make them accessible to the rest of the world.
While collecting these folktales, she discovered that lessons that aligned to solutions needed to meet the challenges of achieving sustainable development goals were embedded in the storytelling. Wakanyi commissioned an artist based in Kenya to paint images that would capture the essence of African folktales. The first story will soon be published in a series of children’s books that introduce learners to the SDGs through African folktales. She hopes that this will be one way of bringing Indigenous knowledge into mainstream education on a global scale.
Wakanyi founded The African Folktales Project as a space for educators and learners to explore and gain this knowledge through services such as online school visits, teachers’ storytelling sessions, and even a book club about the SDGs for children. She also self-published The Twelve Days of Christmas Safari, a children’s book celebrating African wildlife.
Wakanyi is a founding board member of The Kenya Education Fund, which offers high school scholarships to children in Kenya, and is also a co-founder of Humanity Link, which builds partnerships between non-profit organizations and the corporate world. Wakanyi’s mission in life is to continue using her unique African childhood and global life experience to connect children worldwide with knowledge from our indigenous ancestors to co-create a better tomorrow for all future citizens of the world. In her spare time, she loves walking in the forest, traveling to new places, learning new languages and dancing to new music.
Wakanyi’s new book Sala: Mountain Warrior, is available now! The story is the only girl who takes on the challenge of climbing a mountain! The story is set among the Samburu people of Kenya. Illustrations by Onyinye Iwo. You can order the book at Amazon!
Basmati is a native to Guyana and comes from East Indian ancestry rooted in the values of family, respect for elders and deeply rooted relationship with the natural world.
She is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), holds an honor degree in accounting, and has over 30 years experiences in auditing and finance across government and Non-Profit sectors. While working with an Education Reform project in Guyana, Basmati found her passion in supporting the call for equal education opportunities for all children especially girls and worked on funding schools with match funds to acquire much needed learning tools.
Her continued passion for education, nature and numbers has led her down a robust path of experience and knowledge and led her to join The Nature Conservancy-Canada Program and is now the Finance Manger. She continues to support women and girls’ initiatives and hosted conversations on financial literacy and empowerment for women within The Conservancy.
Basmati now lives in Toronto, Canada with her family. She enjoys a good book, gardening, travelling, and learning about different cultures.