By Helene Szabados

“A woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and only herself.”

-Maya Angelou

Last Wednesday, Peaceful World joined Cultural Conservancy in collaborating a Water Prayer Gathering at El Polin Springs, in the Presidio. With all that is happening to our water ways around the world, we thought it would be wise and helpful to hold space to honor the water.  In circle and in ceremony, we shared a moment of appreciation for the abundance of love and care our planet offers and sustains us every day.




We met at the Rx Café in the Thoreau Center in the Presidio and as we grew to a group of twenty people, we decided to start our journey to the springs. El Polin is the last natural spring in the city of San Francisco. The weather was warm and calm, making it an ideal time to hold ceremony. As we walked over, some of us shared what we knew about the Presidio’s landscape and how much it has changed over the years.

When we reached the springs, April McGill, a native community leader from the Pomo/Wappo tribe started the prayer with a smudging ceremony. We stood in a circle and as we passed a shell of burning sage, each participant mindfully smudged themselves with the restorative smoke of the ancestors.  April continued with a traditional prayer in honor of the spring.


April McGill, Director of Programs and Relations at CCUIH


Melissa K. Nelson from Cultural Conservancy brought sacred tobacco that they grew themselves in their native gardens. She passed the tobacco around so each of us could take a couple of leaves. She explained that in indigenous cultures tobacco is a sacred plant and is regarded much differently than the tobacco society uses in cigarettes.

Melissa directed everyone to hold the tobacco in their left hands, as this is the hand closest to the heart. We held space for all participants to express their sentiments about our valuable resource and giver of life… water. After everyone shared, one by one we blessed the water by presenting our sacred tobacco as an offering.



A couple of participants had recently returned from supporting the Water Protectors at Standing Rock in North Dakota. They were gracious enough to contribute a full bottle of water from Standing Rock to this water prayer.

We closed the ceremony with a sacred moment for the situation happening in North Dakota and presented the far traveled water to the spring along with the sacred tobacco. We collectively walked back to the Rx Café for complimentary refreshments as we continued the meaningful conversations and warm connections.

Touched by the warmth of this gathering, Cultural Conservancy and Peaceful World Foundation have decided to host more events like the Water Prayer Gathering for 2017.


Join us at our next Peaceful World Conversation.