SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP: Each member of the Prairyerth UU Fellowship is empowered to initiate and to lead.  However, everyone looks to leaders to guide, to organize, and to teach, therefore Prairyerth recognizes those trained in Earth-centered spiritual traditions who have proven leadership qualities and are willing to assume responsibilities within the congregation and society at large to be our Spiritual Leaders or Elders.  They are empowered by the congregation with all the legal rights and privileges of spiritual leaders from other traditions and religious denominations.

Melinda Perrin became the second Spiritual Leader recognized by Prairyerth in 1999 and rededicated in 2012.  Melinda takes joy in helping people through life passages.  One of the founders of Prairyerth and its first president (1996-1998), she was called originally to serve the needs of the fellowship in the Chicago area.  Her purpose as a spiritual leader is to provide others with guideposts and empower them to find their way on the spiritual path.  She seeks to inspire and inform and become a wider voice for Earth-centered spirituality. O'Jigah J'Indae (Blue Cloud) was initiated into the Seneca Wolf Clan by Grandmother Twylah Nitsch and is a teacher of the Wolf Clan Teaching Lodge.  She studied with many Native Elders and was mentored in the ministry by Jim Gillihan, the Keeper of Sitting Bull's Pipe and by her good friend, Rev. Ed Searl.  Melinda is a Plant Spirit Medicine Healer. (See Healer)  She established the Whirling Rainbow Lodges in 1996 and continues to teach and lead seasonal celebrations. A published poet and writer, her work is spiritually informed and aware and her workbooks on small circle ministry give people tools to study on their own or with a circle of friends (See Voice on Page)  She earned triple honors in her degree program, Combined Studies: Natural Religion, Earth Law, and Ethnobotany from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago in 2002. Currently she lives in Niskayuna, New York, and continues to provide guidance for the fellowship, leading pilgrimages, lodges, seasonal celebrations and ceremonies.  She is currently leading the Prairyerth UU Fellowship Mohawk River Circle in upstate Eastern New York and Earth Circles UUSS.

Bill & Toni Vessels 
Spiritual leaders of the Heartland Circle in Kansas City, Kansas, Bill and Toni are both song keepers and lead a Drum 
sharing their ministry through drumming and teaching. Toni and Bill moved from Geneva, Illinois to help Jim Gillihan in New Harmony, Indiana in the 1990s. It was Jim's encouragement that led them to their path. Their Drum was always an important part of the Prairyerth Living Treasures Awards ceremonies and remains a strong element of many of our events.  Their leadership establishing their own drum family in Mount Vernon, Indiana was recognized by Prairyerth in 2002 and like the prairie plants they are, they re-established a new community in Kansas.

Bill has provided prison ministry for the incarcerated Native Community in Illinois and from 2003 to 2010 he brought the Drum to the Marion Federal Prison.

Together they present programs to boy scouts, nursing homes, schools, and colleges. 

Bill Vessels leading Drum

Yoli Maya Yeh
Called at the end of our 2012 Peacemaker Pilgrimage to Cohoes Falls, Yoli Maya Yeh is the newest member to the Prairyerth ministry.  She has been a member of the Fellowship since our formation.  A student of the spiritual, she provides a rainbow bridge between East and West.  Her goal is to keep the foundations of Earth-based yogic Buddhist disciplines and those of North American wisdom traditions alive and strong while adapting to the spiritual need of the moment.  Recently she has returned from living abroad (mostly in India/Sikkim)where she was a Buddhist Nun studying with Yogi Masters for over 12 years.  She also has her MA in Comparative Religions from Meadville Lombard Unitarian Universalist Seminary at the University of Chicago.  Living now in Evanston, she serves the needs of the Prairie Circle Prairyerth members and teaches yoga and in experiential private schools. (For more on Yoli, please click: Spiritual Healing.)

Jim Gillihan, Keeper of Sitting Bull's Pipe 
was the first Spiritual Leader called by the Prairyerth UU Fellowship in 1998 and served until he left this Earth in 2002.  He was beloved by everyone, and set our congregation firmly on the Red Road.  In 2000, we showed our admiration for who he was and his unselfish service to the People by making him one of that year's Prairyerth Living Treasure of North America Heritage Award recipient. His extended family includes those he presented with with a Spotted Red Bead.  (See LT 2000 for more info on Jim. DVDs of Jim teaching and telling stories are available through Sagebrush Productions.)
 This picture of two Prairyerth leaders, Melinda Morris and Jim Gillihan, was taken when they taught at the 2001 Northern Illinois University Native American Colloqium.

Roy Fleet was  recognized as a Prairyerth's Youth Spiritual Leader in 2002. Roy teaches, coaches, and runs youth groups and cons, he started the first teen LGBTQ support group in Chicago's Western Suburbs.  For many years, Roy led the monthly Prairyerth Drum Circles and drum making workshops.  He was one of the founders of the fellowship, has been a stalwart officer throughout and has served several terms as president of the congregation.  As head of the Seven Generations Council, Roy initiated Living Treasures.  He resides in Westmont, Illinois.  (Roy is shown here helping a student make a new drum)