Executive Directors Message:

Dear Zen Peacemaker friends,

We know many of you are interested to attend our 2021 retreats, whether our Native American / Zen Peacemakers Plunge or our Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreat. We can say definitively we will offer these events. For reasons we are all aware of, we cannot say with certainty yet if we will be able to meet in person or virtually.

I can say confidently that being in person in South Dakota and Poland is our sincere desire. Everyone’s health and safety are top of mind. I promise to keep you informed as we take in more information and make decisions.

Tentatively, we are holding the last week in July for the Native American Plunge and the first week in November for the Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreat.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate these uncertain times.

With kind regards and deep bows,
Geoff ShĹŤun O’Keeffe
Executive Director
Zen Peacemakers International



Check our Journal  for reports and reflections from past retreats.

Sending Our Voices In Prayer For Mother Earth

~Zen Peacemakers Native American Retreat 2020~

We will offer a five-day virtual retreat, Sunday, June 21 through Thursday, June 25 at 

11:00 am US Mountain / 1:00 pm US Eastern / 6:00 pm London / 7:00 pm Berlin / 8:00pm Israel

The virtual 2020 Native American retreat, the sixth of its kind organized by Zen Peacemakers, is now open for registration. Presenters will be Violet Catches, Manny Iron Hawk and Renee Fasthorse Iron Hawk.

Eve Myonen Marko, Grover Genro Gaunt, Michel Engu Dobbs, Rami Efal and Linda Coleman will help support the presentations and activities.

Zen Peacemakers has been conducting bearing witness retreats following the principles of Not Knowing, Bearing Witness and Taking Action since 1996 in Auschwitz, Rwanda, and the Black Hills since 2015. This program is a continuation of this rich legacy, and part of our dedication to grow in connection with the indigenous communities of Turtle Island. Due to the covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 retreat has been postponed. In the meantime, we offer this 5 day from-home experience.

“I was told by my father, Claude A. Iron Hawk, that my great-great-grandfather Iron Hawk, who fought in the battle of the Greasy Grass, told his grandfather that after the victory that day the Lakota leaders involved in battle were hunted down one by one and assassinated., after which there began a steady attack on our culture, customs, language and a thievery of our lands took place, which continues to this day.

Our very young children were taken by force and taught the American western education system, which is still being taught to them to this day. Through this education system our Lakota language was eradicated to the point that today there are less than 20% of fluent Lakota speakers in our Native communities. Alcohol was also introduced during this period of time, which has also had negative effects on all facets of our lives as Lakota people.

Today, we have begun to revive our language, customs and culture by establishing a Lakota Immersion language school for children kindergarten age through second grade. Lessons include information on our Indigenous history, lessons on our culture and customs and teaching Lakota language. We continue to struggle as Lakota oyate (people), but we are glad to still live in our homelands and some of us still have our culture, customs and language. Hau, hecetu yelo! (Yes, that’s the way it is!)”

-Toka Akansa (aka Manny Iron Hawk)


Time: Each session will be roughly two hours. Full-time participation is encouraged. Each session will include time for personal interaction and sharing.

Price: Cost for the Retreat is $100.00. $75.00 of each registration will be donated to LOWI School and other Lakota work. Additional donations are encouraged and will go 100% to Manny’s, Renee’s and Violet’s work

Access: We encourage participants to do your best to secure your space in order to avoid interruption and enhance focus and heart connection. Zoom access link will be provided upon registration.

Topics and themes will include:

  • Welcome and Introductions
  • Prayer and ceremony
  • Setting our Retreat in the context of current events
  • Emergence Out Of Wind Cave
  • Governance
  • We Came From Orion Constellation
  • PtĂ© OyatĂ© to Ochethi Shakowin
  • Black Hills
  • Language
  • Race Track
  • Aesthetic Appreciation Giant Buffalo in the North
  • First Sun Dance
  • Social Customs
  • Teachings from the Big Dipper
  • Contact / Wars / Treaties / Present Locations

This program will be conducted by the leadership team and in the spirit of the Three Tenets of Zen Peacemakers. While there is a set structure and framework facilitated by the leaders, please be aware that the agenda may change at any time as we bear witness to what’s arising moment to moment, and from day to day. 

The intentions and spirit of this program will be held carefully and subtly maintained by the program facilitators. Please be mindful of their instructions.


When your shadow is close to your body, it’s time to pray.  This is what Violet Catches’ grandmother told her, referring to noontime when the sun is overhead. An important part of the pilgrimage is listening to the Lakota oral tradition of guidance, prayer, and ancestral stories, passed down from generation to generation, and told to us by our Native American leaders. This is a great and wonderful gift.

Manny, Renee, and Violet will tell us of the challenges they face daily as they work to teach the Lakota language, hold on to their story-telling tradition, and form circles to support Lakota men and women in the fierce work of recovery from inter-generational trauma, isolation, and despair.

Mitakuye Oyasin — all my relations — is an essential Lakota understanding, and Zen Peacemakers is honored to continue deepening our relationship with the Lakota.  Though formal programs began recently, they’re the fruit of an 18-year relationship between Lakota individuals and Zen Peacemaker members.

Since 2015, Zen Peacemakers have conducted programs annually in collaboration with the Lakota community in South Dakota. These programs are different every year, according to the needs of our hosts and our participants: they’ve manifested as the major 180-participant Black Hills Bearing Witness retreat in 2015, the intimate members-led Plunge in 2016 on Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation (CRST), and the dual programs in 2017 of a Week of Service on CRST and the Bearing Witness Plunge in Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota.

Each consecutive year builds on the relationships we develop with our Lakota hosts. And, our program participants have individually continued their relationships with the Lakota through communications and actions, such as a nation-wide clothes drive, social-justice collaborations, their presence at Standing Rock camp in Winter 2016, a members-led Bearing Witness retreat in Minnesota, building a year-round hot-house in Pine-Ridge, and in many other forms.  Some of these stories are told in our online Journal.

Our Lakota friends, with their deep reserves of humility, faith, and endurance, will show the way. We will meet them with deep listening, respect, and the intention to plant new seeds of caring, trust, and wellbeing for all our relations.



Our Leaders

Manny Claude Iron Hawk is an Ikce Wicasa or a common man of the Oglala and Howozu within the Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council Fires of the Dakota/Lakota/Nakota nation. My Great-Great-Great-Grandfather “Chetan Maza”, Iron Hawk, fought for the Lakota way of life at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, June 25, 1876. His immediate family members include “Hasani” (meaning partner), Renee Fasthorse-Iron Hawk, and his eight children. He has a Master’s Degree from Sinte Gleska University, graduating in August of 2013. Presently, Manny is a Science teacher for the Junior High School at Takini School. I serves on the Missouri Breaks Community Advisory Group, Circle of Hope Curriculum Board, All Nation Healing Center Board and serves as a Frazier Memorial Church member. My inspirations include being an Ikce Wicasa by following his Lakota values, Natural laws, Custom laws, and Spiritual laws. Read Manny’s complete bio.

Violet Catches describes herself in this way: “I was nurtured by my maternal grandmother who was a great teacher of the Lakota way of life.  She left us when I was ten. Then I lived with my mother, an aunt, other people including relatives. I was lucky to have been around speakers of our language and culture. I attended many schools including missionary school, boarding schools, and public schools. I managed to get a GED in 1970, then experienced life’s ways. I became homeless and a drunk. My father sent for me to come live with him in Chicago. There my life changed as my very traditional non-drinking mother was killed by a drunk driver. That sobered me up. I got my undergrad degree in 1986 and a master’s in 1996. I wrote a book which is pretty dormant. That’s all I want to share for now.”

Renee L. Fasthorse-Iron Hawk (Tokahe Hi Hunni Win, Arrives First Woman). An enrolled member of the Wakpa Waste (Good River) Cheyenne River Lakota Tribe, Renee has worked in different capacities in behavioral health, conducting research and active in disease prevention and finishing her graduate work in Lakota Management and Leadership. She serves on the boards of Lakhota Advocates Okolakichiye (Society), Three Rivers Mental Health Board, Lakhota Circles of Hope, Heartbeat at Wounded Knee Survivor Descendants Okolakichiye (Society), and the Lakhota Languages Teachers Okolakichiye (Society). She lives with her mihingna (spouse) Manny Iron Horse, Oglala, and 6 adult children. Read Renee’s complete bio.

Co-organizers Roshi Eve Myonen Marko,  Roshi Grover Genro Gauntt, Roshi Michel Engu Dobbs, Linda Coleman and Rami Efal will attend and help lead the event.

Roshi Eve Myonen Marko is a writer of fiction and nonfiction, head teacher at the Green River Zen Center in Massachusetts, and a Founding Teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order. To read more about Eve click here.

Roshi Grover Genro Gauntt is a successor of Roshi Bernie Glassman, a founding teacher of the ZPO, a long time spirit holder in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat and leads street retreats worldwide. To read more about Genro click here.

Roshi Michel Engu Dobbs is a Zen priest and Dharma heir of Peter Muryo Matthiessen-roshi and a co-teacher at Ocean Zendo in Bridgehampton New York, an affiliate of Zen Peacemakers International. To read more about Engu click here.

Rami Avraham Mukyu Efal is a dharma holder in the Zen Peacemakers lineage and Roshi Bernie Glassman last student. He is the former Executive Director of Zen Peacemakers International. To read more about Rami click here.

Linda Coleman/Shoju is a priest with the Zen Peacemaker Order, ordained by Roshi Engu Dobbs. She has been a Zen student and organizer at the Ocean Zendo on Long Island, NY for the past 24 years. Linda attended 4 of the 5 Native American Bearing Witness Retreats beginning with the 2015 gathering. She also participated in the Auschwitz Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat in 2018.


Registration for the 2020 virtual retreat is now open.
Check out our Journal  for past years reports and reflections from the retreat.