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Tapestries of Transformation

Programming will include a retreat where veterans, artists, and community elders will combine personal storytelling, myth, and tradition to find common ground. Additionally, workshops will act as spaces to expand the narrative through facilitation by artists and performers. The program will culminate in a theatrical performance based on the shared experiences of participants. A documentary film of the program will share the empowering model with other communities. This program is made possible in part by a grant from the Inland SoCal Creative corps, a component fund at the Inland Empire Community foundation, and  in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency.


The Journey Starts with a Retreat

Weaving Our Stories:
The Path Home

A Veterans Retreat in Joshua Tree.

Friday Evening Jan. 12, through Sunday, Jan 14th

This weekend long retreat will be an intimate and creative time with renown local storyteller Kim Marcus as he shares stories and rituals from the local Serrano and Cahuilla tribes who have called this home for countless generations. During our time together we will craft sacred objects such as a rattle or sacred arrow, as we participate in a variety of creative and meaningful activities. 


During the weekend retreat, each participant will also be invited to draw from their own life experience and imagination to share their own stories with our group. We will then consider how our individual efforts are connected as part of a larger tapestry; one of community, experience and creativity. 


The goal is to hear, see, feel, and embrace the interconnectedness between each of us.  We seek to recognize the importance of each story as an integral part of the larger community, and to be recognized by the community. We will then work to combine these efforts to understand our common journey as a people, and to honor each individual journey as vital to establishing a shared home in this world.  


This retreat is the first step in a community driven performance Mil-Tree will be sponsoring in May.  What we learn together in this retreat will serve as a scaffold for the performance, which will honor where we each come from, and the journey we are all making on our Path Home.   Between the conclusion of the retreat and the performance next May, there will be a series of public workshops to train veterans and community members in the skills needed for the performance. 

Retreat Highlights

Piece it Together:
Group Reflection:

Discover tales & traditions rooted in culture

Veterans & community members share their stories

Combine all expressions into a shared mosaic

How do we build a new community together

Meet the Facilitators

Miguel Rivera
Miguel Rivera

Started playing music professionally as a Percussionist in 1973. Member of the core group of teachers at “The great Mother Conference” since 2010. In 2001, in collaboration with Robert Bly, translated and published the first English collection of the poetry of Humberto Ak’abal “Poems I brought down from the Mountain”; second Humberto Ak’abal anthology “In the courtyard of the moon” published by Tia Chucha Press in 2021. He has been a board member of “Shade Tree” a mentoring group in Los Angeles since its inception in 1996, introducing at risk youth to traditional Earth based ceremonies. Miguel is also the Co-Founder and Director of “Western Gate Roots and Wings Foundation”, and was a Board of Directors of “Soldier’s Heart”, an organization dedicated to working with Veterans. He is also a Board of Advisors of “Wolf Connection”, collaborator and panelist with the Institute of Integrated Health and Wellbeing: IIHW; USC and Children’s Hospital, L.A., member of the "Guild of Future Architects”, and an award-winning Supervising Sound Editor for Films and Television since 1984 to the present.

Miguel currently works with at risk youth, Armed Forces veterans, people in recovery, formerly incarcerated individuals as well as those in the “normal” segments of the population in a variety of settings, one of the intentions being to reduce the level of fragmentation prevalent in the current culture; not only in this country but worldwide.

Ben Dennis

Ben is a mythologist and writer with a life-long love of story, myth, and psychology. He is passionately involved in ritual, rites of passage, and storytelling. His mythic interests include Greek mythology, Native American story, European Fairy Tale, and Hindu epic literature. Ben is a retired 28-year veteran Fire Fighter in Seattle where he served as a member of the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) team. He has a wide variety of experience having worked in commercial fishing, construction, Investment Banking, and is a veteran of the U. S. Air Force. Ben has been adjunct faculty at Antioch University Seattle and holds his PhD in Mythological Studies with and Emphasis in Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. 


Ben has participated in and led a wide variety of workshops and conferences. He has assisted and taught at the Minnesota Men’s Conference as a featured Storyteller since 2013. He has also been a storyteller and teacher with Veteran’s groups dedicated to addressing “the emotional, moral, and spiritual wounds of veterans, their families and communities.” Over the past 30-years Ben has facilitated rites of passage events for young men, mentored in the workplace and in his community, and offers storytelling and drum making classes.

Ben Dennis
Kim Marcus
Kim Marcus

Kim Marcus is a Serrano and Cahuilla Indian elder that is enrolled on the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians Reservation. He teaches Native American Language part time, is a ceremonial leader, and practices harvesting and cooking native plants.

He is married, has three beautiful children, four grandchildren and a retired school teacher and counselor. is a Serrano and Cahuilla Indian elder that is enrolled on the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians Reservation. He teaches Native American Language part time, is a ceremonial leader, and practices harvesting and cooking native plants.

Delores "Lola" Mondragón

Delores “Lola” Mondragón is a Chicana and enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation. She is also a U.S. Navy veteran and member of the Chickasaw Warrior Society. She met her husband while serving and became a military spouse for 19 years, until he retired. They are both disabled veterans.

Lola is also a mother, grandmother, and ceremonial practitioner, especially as a drum keeper of a veteran women and Two-Spirit medicine drum. She is the organizer of the Veteran Women’s Indigenous Healing Circle (VWIHC), since 2015, and is a doctoral student at UC Santa Barbara in Religious Studies, where she studies Native American and Indigenous Religious Traditions.



Saturday, February 3 | 12pm-4pm

Lead by Musician Tyler Saraca

Originally from the greater Boston area, Tyler Saraca has been an active touring and session drummer for the past 20+ years, striving to dive deeper into the world of rhythm. After falling in love with the high desert, Saraca relocated to Joshua Tree, California in 2013 and has been immersed in the vibrant creative scene ever since. He has backed local artists such as Gene Evaro Jr, Desert Rhythm Project, and the Adobe Collective. Saraca is currently the drummer for the experimental duo, Q.varo, with Gabriella Evaro. Along with being a student of the craft, he's also an educator, helping new drummers find their voice on the instrument. Tyler is currently based in Yucca, Valley, where he has a home studio in which he records, produces and teaches.

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Sunday, February 10 | 12pm-4pm

Lead by Actor/Director/Producer Christian Camargo

Graduating from the Juilliard School of Drama, Camargo has worked both in front and behind camera as well as stage. As one of the foremost practitioners of Shakespeare, Christian became a founding company member of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London. Broadway credits include Arthur Miller's “All My Sons,” David’s Hare’s “Skylight” (Theater World Award), “Romeo and Juliet.” Off-Broadway and UK credits include title roles in the Royal Court’s “The Kid Stays in the Picture,” Trevor Nunn’s “Pericles,” Sam Mendes’ “As You Like it,”“The Tempest” and “Hamlet” for which he won an Obie and Drama Desk nomination.  Film and Television credits include Kathryn Bigelow's academy award winning “The Hurt Locker,” Showtime’s “Dexter,” “Penny Dreadful,” Errol Morris' “Wormwood,” “House of Cards” and Apple TV’s inaugural series “SEE.” Christian has produced and directed feature documentaries and televised drama including Viacom’s “Fast Inc.” and Palm Picture’s “Sunday Driver.” In 2015, he wrote and directed his first feature “Days and Nights,” a contemporary adaptation of Checkhov’s “The Seagull.”  The movie was distributed by IFC’s Sundance Selects.  Most recently Camargo directed “The Last Manhunt” produced by Jason Mamoa distributed by Saban and  Paramount +.



Saturday, February 18 | 12pm-4pm

Lead by Author Gabriel Hart

Gabriel Hart is an author, poet, and journalist from Morongo Valley, CA. His story Crossing Alvarado was nominated for 2022's Best American Mystery and Suspense. His debut novel On High At Red Tide will be released spring of 2024. Hart has been co-producing the Mojave Noir reading series to benefit Mil-Tree since 2021. His literary journalism has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Lit Reactor, and The Last Estate. He reports daily at Z1077fm. 

Gabriel Hart.jpeg
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Two Day Workshop - SAT & SUN, Feb 24 & 25 | 12pm-3pm

Lead by Dancer and Choreographer Barbara Koch

Barbara Koch is a choreographer and dancer. She was born in Muncie,Indiana. She received her training from NCSA, London Contemporary Dance School,Cal Arts, Bella Lewitzky , Stefan Wenta and Zvi Gotheiner. She received her BFA in Dance from Cal Arts. Barbara has worked with Tandy Beal, Lula Washington Dance Theater, Chen and Dancers and was a member of ZVI Dance in NYC for over a decade. She has created her own work since the mid 90s.She is currently a member of SOULSKIN and is one of the founding members of Alchemy Arts Collective which is a multi disciplinary arts collective based in Joshua Tree. 

Her work is driven/inspired by the human condition and connection to one and other and nature.

What drives us, what shifts us, what heals us, what brings us together and what silences us.... drives us apart.. wounds us.. Where do we find our center ...where do we find our connection with each other, nature and spirit. Where do we find our balance and clarity in the Chaos. 

Barbara is looking forward to this collaboration/creation and feels incredibly fortunate to be working in and with this community.

The journey continues with rehearsals in April and a performance of Tapestries by artists and community members the first weekend of May.
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