Co-Director & Executive Stewardship Circle
Brendan Clarke is a hapa father, educator, writer, and wilderness rite of passage guide. Born in Washington, D.C. to a family with a long history of foreign service, he has spent the majority of his adult life focused on supporting positive change in his home country. He received a B.A. in political science from McGill University and holds an M.A. in teaching. He has taught in a variety of settings, from public school in southwest Chicago to alternative, nature-based education in California. He sees transformative education as a form of activism, in service to cultural-scale healing, of both our human-to-human relations, and our false sense of separation from the Earth. Since childhood, Brendan has carried a passion for healing the human relationship to the planet, and especially water. In recent years, he has been involved with the Walking Water Pilgrimage, Standing Rock, and the Russian River Confluence. He is a student of nature, yoga, hunting, council, mythology, permaculture, ancestral arts and the greater dreaming of these times. He currently serves as Co-Director of The Ojai Foundation in Southern California.
Mariah was born and raised in the western Sierra Nevada foothills, within the Bear and Yuba River watersheds. This is where she developed an appreciation for nature, sense of community, and the simple life. There, she began her career in office administration while working for an environmental conservation non-profit. She has spent the last seven years behind the scenes, learning and innovating office systems. Mariah holds a B.A. in English from California State University, Sacramento. She is currently pursuing an M.A. from Pacifica Graduate Institute in depth psychology with a specialization in community psychology, liberation psychology, Indigenous psychology, and ecopsychology.
Michael Wiatt spent much of his youth hiking, biking and exploring the immense forests surrounding his hometown of York, Maine. There he developed a strong connection with plants, animals and the natural landscape. He first traveled to California as a senior in high school with Outward Bound as part of a Sierra Nevada Alpine Mountaineering program. During the program, he bonded with an Indigenous guide and fell in love with the mountains of the West Coast. He moved to Ojai in 2015 and began working as an electrician with a focus on clean energy solar electric installations.
In addition to being an electrician, Michael has frequently worked in landscape design, farming and general construction. While attending college in Portland Oregon, he studied philosophy, political science and Spanish. He spent five years in Costa Rica continuing to study the Spanish language and working as an owner-operator of Maracatu Natural Tropical Cuisine Restaurant. The restaurant offered healthy eating and atmosphere and supported an affiliated network of farms in a “Farm to Table” program. Michael is a graduate of the Regenerative Design Institute’s Ecology of Leadership. There he focused on council within community and daily nature-based gratitude practices. His background in construction, desire for personal growth and love of plants and animals has led him to The Ojai Foundation as Land Steward. He intends to steward the land in a way as to balance ecosystems, create fire resilience and sustainable, self-sufficient practices.
Sharon Shay Sloan
Co-Director & Executive Stewardship Circle
Sharon Shay Sloan (she/her) is a second-generation community steward committed to nurturing communities and communities of practice. In 2007, she went through her first community-supported rite of passage, met The Ojai Foundation, and began working in international conservation. Since that time, she has engaged in the practice and evolution of the field of rites of passage, including with Beyond Boundaries, Wilderness Reflections, Global Passageways, and Youth Passageways. In 2012, she became a council trainer and the founding director of the Indigenous & Community Lands & Seas program for The WILD Foundation, working to build a bridge between the mainstream conservation movement and Indigenous Peoples. Through this work, and other opportunities over 20 years, Shay has had the honor of learning from and working with Indigenous Peoples from more than a hundred nations. Shay’s early work focused on youth development, and for 18 years, she worked to expand youth presence and leadership at Bioneers. She is co-editor of the book Protecting Wild Nature on Native Lands and co-author of the report “Cross-Cultural Protocols in Rites of Passage: Guiding Principles, Themes and Inquiry.” She currently serves as Co-Director of The Ojai Foundation. When not working, Shay can be found in the ceramics studio, working in the garden, and enjoying her son, Kian.
Alan Mobley, PhD (University of California-Irvine, 2001) is an activist, writer, researcher, and professor of Criminal Justice and Public Affairs at San Diego State University. He first became interested in criminal justice issues in 1984, when he was arrested on narcotics charges. While in US federal prison, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics and sociology, respectively, and studied eastern philosophy and yoga. His university teaching and professional writings explore the many dimensions of mass incarceration and justice system involvement, particularly the experience of prison and its aftermath. His scholarly publications include journal articles, book chapters and research reports on a variety of topics in penal and restorative justice. As a researcher and activist, he is a co-founder of Convict Criminology, an influential group of academic researchers with personal histories of justice-involvement; All of Us or None, the US civil rights organization that launched the “Ban the Box” movement, significantly reducing employment discrimination against formerly incarcerated people; the Project Rebound Consortium of the California State University, the largest university system in the US. Project Rebound is an academic outreach and support program for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students. Dr. Mobley is also co-founder of Center for Council’s Inmate Council Program, which offers trainings to incarcerated men and women in a peer-facilitated circle dialogue process called Council. The program currently is in use in 20 California prisons (centerforcouncil.org; waysofcouncil.net).
Board Chair & Executive Stewardship Circle
David was born in New York City and moved to Los Angeles in 1989. In 1995, he co-founded New Roads School, a progressive college preparatory school dedicated to offering independent education to students from families who might not otherwise afford it. Under his leadership, New Roads grew from a small middle school to a K through 12 school with nearly 700 students on four campuses in Los Angeles and Santa Monica. In 2013, David began teaching in the Economics Department at UC Santa Cruz. In addition to teaching, he consults with schools and non-profits, is completing a book on education, and has involved himself in local civic life. David and his wife, Shelly Graham, currently live in the Santa Cruz mountains where he remains eager for the next adventure.
“Early in the year 1989, I had recently returned to Southern California. A meandering conversation with an acquaintance, Jack Zimmerman, ended with his casual invitation: “I am involved with a place in Ojai where we do this thing called council…you might find it interesting…” I said yes. A month or so later I went to The Ojai Foundation for a Council Training workshop. Nearly 28 years later, I continue to return to the Foundation, sometimes with students for a program with their school, sometimes with adults in ceremony of one sort or another, and sometimes alone–simply to walk and wander and ponder and breathe and feel welcomed by this land. Recently, when I was asked to consider joining the board on the chance that some of what I may have learned over the years might serve, I paused. A chance to give back to my beautiful and wise old friend, this place, this land, that has given me so very much? I said yes.”
Elena Ríos is an Interdisciplinary Artist, Nature Therapy Guide, and proud mother of a First Responder, avid surfer and outdoorsman. A native Californian, she is an Indigenous Nahua (Mexica), Chicana woman with mixed ancestry. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute, and she is the author, and illustrator of “Mihtotiancalli – The House of the Dancer.” A former wildland firefighter, she worked on such specialized crews as U.S. Forest Service Interagency Hotshots during a time when women were just beginning to do so. Some of her inspiration comes from the stories of her late grandmother, a curandera, who applied her plant medicine knowledge by offering healing and bone setting services in her San Fernando, CA neighborhood. Helping to found and direct traditional circles of learning rooted in Indigenous Knowledge, she has assisted others in building support for Women, Veterans, Active Duty, and First Responders through these ways.
Ilarion (Larry) Merculieff
Ilarion (Larry Merculieff) was raised in a traditional Unangan (Aleut) way and received his Unangan name Kuuyux. The name is given to one person in each lifetime amongst his people. Kuuyux means an arm extending out from the body, a carrier of ancient knowledge into modern times, a messenger. Today he is living the legacy of his name.
Merculieff is co-founder and former chairman of the Alaska Indigenous Council on Marine Mammals; former chairman of the Nature Conservancy, Alaska chapter; former co-director of the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society, Alaska chapter; as well as co-founder of the International Bering Sea Forum, the Alaska Forum on the Environment, and the Alaska Oceans Network. Merculieff served on the National Research Council Committee on the Bering Sea Ecosystem and presented at numerous scientific conferences. He chaired the Indigenous knowledge sessions (that involved representatives from 80 nations) at the Global Summit of Indigenous Peoples on Climate Change, chaired the scientific working group for Snowchange that involved representatives from 8 Arctic nations focused on climate change, and served as the U.S. chair for the 2008 North American Gathering of Indigenous Peoples for the Healing of Mother Earth in Merida, Mexico.
He has authored Wisdom Keeper: One Man’s Journey to Honor the Untold Story of the Unangan People, and co-authored Stop Talking: Indigenous Ways of Teaching and Learning, and Perspectives on Indigenous Issues: Essays on Science, Spirituality, Partnerships, and the Power of Words.
Close to Merculieff’s heart are issues related to cultural and community wellness, traditional ways of living, Elder wisdom, climate change and the environment. Having had a traditional upbringing, Merculieff has been, and continues to be, a strong voice and activist calling for the meaningful application of traditional knowledge and wisdom obtained from Elders in Alaska and throughout the world in dealing with modern day challenges. He founded and currently heads the Global Center for Indigenous Leadership and Lifeways (www.gcill.org). His present work is with a new organization he has founded called the Wisdom Weavers of the World, www.wisdomweavers.world to take the messages of Elders from throughout the world to global attention.
Kristin was born and raised in the Los Angeles area. She is a graduate of UCSB with a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies and a MA in Fine Arts. Kristin is Reiki certified and has been a Spiritual Advisor for over twenty years. She lives in Santa Monica with her husband and two daughters.
“As a student of Crossroads School in the 1980’s I was introduced to the art of council. I now feel this is coming full circle for me. The Ojai Foundation is a place where I can now be of service and reciprocate. I am looking forward to being involved in the creation of programs and it will be my honor to bring these programs to a larger audience, particularly children.”
My name is Mario Vicente Johonson and I’m a Brooklyn born, Afro-Carribean gay man who grew up in Santa Monica, circa 1970s – 80s . My mom is a retired African-American labor organizer, my biological father is a retired Puertorican attorney, and my stepfather is a retired Irish, Catholic chemist. During the ’70s and ’80s there were very few kids of color in the Santa Monica school system. We were mostly either met with suspicion by the White majority, or entirely overlooked, disregarded, and at worst, scorned. I personally know what it feels like to be “served” by educators who deem me and others like me as unworthy of enlightenment, wholeness, care, empathy, and most importantly personal liberation. I’ve always been a deeply emotional, intellectual, and relational person, yet I had no idea what that personal orientation would translate to as a post college graduation professional career. To make ends meet during college, I began tutoring. At some point, I met a parent who asked me to work with her child at a newly established independent school called New Roads. There I came to meet one of the most pivotal individuals in my career, and by extension, my life. As founding Head of School, David Bryan was everything I ever imagined in an inspired educator. He was present, connected, caring, dynamic, funny, profoundly intellectual, creative, practical, and loving. The way David held space as a leader taught me some of my most prized lessons. He demonstrated mastery of the interpersonal ability to be authentically present with others, despite the plethora of other overwhelming responsibilities entailed in his role. As one of the primary inheritors of his professional legacy, I carry with honor all that he has taught me and contributed to the flourishing of our beloved academic community. My conception of leadership is grounded in a deep love and respect for humanity, an abiding belief in the transformative power of philosophical and spiritual engagement, the health, wellness, and wellbeing of all, a clear sense of personal integrity, and a profound sense of commitment to the community I serve. I firmly believe that integrous leadership is all about the critical embodiment of affirmative values. An effective and authentic institutional leader must personally embody and manifest the values of the institution he serves, at the level of consciousness, awareness, and engagement in action. I hope to serve and support the reimagination of TOF by providing education, support, consultation, resources, guidance, and direct, firsthand access to our burgeoning, dynamic work around diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) and antiracism. In alignment with TOF, I believe that an abiding respect for nature and the environment are critical to our survival as a species, and listening and speaking from the heart are the foundations of authentic, healthy relationships. Having worked with TOF for many years, I firmly believe that my direct involvement with your organization will support the mutual realization of both our institutions’ expanding vision and evolution.
Born in Jersey City, NJ, Tyrone moved to Miami as an infant when his grandparents were finally able to emigrate from Cuba to reunite with his mother. In Miami-Dade public schools, he developed an interest in educational equity that led him to pursue a career in education that began with Teach for America. In his 23-year career, he has taught courses in English, Spanish, history, latinx issues, and media studies to young people in Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and Miami, where he currently serves as Dean of Students at Gulliver Preparatory School. He and his wife Lina Acosta Sandaal have two children, Camila and Joaquin, and a Yorkie named Machi-bacca.
“Yamin Chehin is a Council trainer, facilitator, and a diplomat in Chinese Medicine, with intimate experience of nature-based practices that inform her work with clients and groups, and help to integrate the healing potential implicit in our stories and our bodies. She facilitates councils in English and Spanish (her native language) for women, teen-age girls, and youth-at-risk, as well as with non-profits and community organizations. She and her husband co-lead monthly couple’s circles and practice Council at home with each other and their family”
I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I received my BA in Social Communication from University of Buenos Aires in 1992 and traveled around South and Central America for 2 years studying how different cultures express their beliefs not only through specific movement patterns but also in the way they frame what we call “reality” in the way of storytelling.
In the pursuit of understanding the question “Is real real ?”, I explored different philosophical and spiritual traditions that range from the descriptions shared by the Seers/Shamans of Ancient Mexico to Taoist and Buddhist teachings. For the past years now I have been following and practicing “Mindfulness” in the tradition of Zen Buddhist Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh.
The study of Taoism through the I Ching (Book of Changes) eventually lead me to a more formal study of the patterns of energy flow along the human body meridians described by Chinese Medicine.
I am a Licensed Acupuncturist, a National Diplomat in Acupuncture and Chinese herbology and a Senior Instructor in the 8 Treasures Chi Kung. I use this knowledge, coupled with my intuition and your wisdom, to partner up with you in the creation of a safe space for us to understand and meet with your own healing potential. My training in The Way of Council also helps me understand the “story” that your wise body tells each time we enter the Healing room.
My passion is to learn from Mother Nature by listening to her wise voice spoken through animals, plants, minerals and humans. My watershed is the Land that I tend in San Diego where I live with my beloved husband and my dear cat-friend.
Gigi Coyle, Co-Founder of Beyond Boundaries, is a community activist, passage guide, guardian, mentor, council carrier – a guest steward, at best, while living in Payahuunadu, Eastern Sierra, Calif.
Bio and photo coming soon…
Krystyna values and divides her time among systemic exchange efforts and creates connections-with-purpose and land-based opportunities for people to build engaged relationships between the known and unknown, the visible and luminous worlds. Through her apprenticeships, studies and commitments, as land steward, Council Carrier and wilderness guide, she supports ways that seek and receive Guidance from and through Nature and the Invisible realms.
She stewards and has been stewarded by the lands in north central Texas, known as High Hope; A Sanctuary for Retreat, whose native habitat is being managed and restored for future generations as a conservancy-in-perpetuity.
She collaborates with many to delve into the nature of nature, the essences of mutually reciprocal living systems and the philanthropy of Circle-mind and Spirit. Krystyna seeks to inspire and catalyze a balancing between ever-presenting, simultaneous paradoxes, through inquiry and exchange along with a continuous surrender to the Divine Mystery and interdependence of all Life.
Orland Bishop combines a deep dedication to human rights advocacy and cultural renewal with an extensive study of medicine, naturopathy, psychology and indigenous cosmologies. He was a research fellow with the Center for the Study of Violence and Social Change at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles and has consulted with many human development organizations. As director of Shade Tree Multicultural Foundation in Los Angeles, he has pioneered approaches to urban truces and mentoring at-risk youth that combine new ideas with traditional ways of knowledge.