The Western Gate Roots and Wings Foundation’s (“Roots and Wings”) mission is creating Rites of Passage for disconnected youth and veterans and cultivating a community of mentors, teachers, and elders. We strive to end the cycle of suicide, drug, alcohol, crime, recidivism and violence rates among youth and veterans, and support these individuals in healing from traumatic and uprooting experiences.


Indigenous societies of past and present all developed human technologies to support individuals who have suffered trauma of isolation, violence, and substance abuse. These have included community, ritual, and telling one’s story, that allow the trauma to be heard and the warrior to be brought back to a place of balance. Bringing these healing modalities back into practice, we offer a model for helping veterans and disconnected youth recover from the harms of modern society.  


By using innovative, community-based intervention that utilizes the modalities of narrative medicine (storytelling – personal and mythic/archetypal), artistic expression, earth- based ritual, and relational community practices, we help to promote stress reduction and healthy lifestyle behaviors, creating a new healing path for war-traumatized veterans and disconnected youth.


This work builds on the experience of two elders who have carried on the traditions of their Native American teachers for over three decades. They have been successfully delivering this intervention work to veterans, as well as youth in prisons and juvenile detention facilities.


Our purpose is to fill a gap in support for our community that is critical to the health and well-being of our humanity. We preserve indigenous traditions by practicing ceremony and ritual, providing guidance and adequate preparation for individuals in the closures and openings at each stage of life: from childhood to adolescence, adolescence to adult, adult to elder, and elder to ancestor.

With Rites of Passage that initiate youth and veterans to heal from the trauma they have faced in their lives, we help cultivate a deeper understanding and connection to nature and Elder Wisdom in our society. In this way, we re-establish the link between the health of our communities with ceremony, story telling, and mentorship.

Our Team

Building community for all our relations.

Miguel Rivera

Miguel Rivera is the Executive Director of Roots and Wings Foundation. Miguel was born in Guatemala and moved to the United State at the age of 13. He has decades of experience working with disconnected youth and former gang members.  In collaboration with Dr. Ed Tick from Soldier’s Heart, a nonprofit serving veterns, Rivera leads retreats for veterans aimed at healing and reintegration. He brings the arts to his work, informed by decades as a professional musician, drummer, sound editor for film and television, as well as translator, with Robert Bly, of poetry from his native land.

Glenn Schiffman

Glenn Schiffman is the Director of Programs for Roots and Wings. An Elder and mentor for Roots and Wings, he has built more than 100 sweat lodges in all regions of the US, and has personally conducted over 1000 Inipi and sweat lodge ceremonies. He has been interviewed by print and TV news organizations including CNN, and appeared in two TV docu-dramas regarding Native American lore. He is a prolific writer of several works of creative fiction including “The Way I Was Taught”; a gifted story teller of Lakota Tribe legends; and a proud grandfather to baby twins.

Mark Marcum

Mark Marcum is the Board Chair of Roots and Wings Foundation. He is the owner of Khaos Digital, a company providing computer graphics and animation to major Hollywood films and television productions.  He has extensive experience in successful program implementation in the for-profit sector and has been a key participant in the men’s sweatlodges in Los Angeles and sun dances in South Dakota. He currently assists in the envisioning process as well as securing key funds for the program’s expansion.

Tell me, and I will listen.
Show me, and I will understand.
Involve me, and I will learn.

– Lakota Proverb