Photo: Wandering Turtle, circa late 2010s.

Wandering Turtle, a a cherished member of the Choctaw community and beloved member and resident of Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville for the past 25 years, passed on into the Divine Light on May 15, 2024. Turtle, as he was lovingly known, was a dedicated Karma Yogi, truly living the Yoga teachings to which we aspire, with an energy of enthusiasm, love, and joy. He served the Ashram and surrounding community any time of the day or night. At whatever hour, he would figure out how to help with any need. His contagious spirit transferred to those he served, enabling them to feel cared for and inspired to rise to the needs of the moment. We offer our heartfelt condolence to his sons, brother, grandchildren, and extended family.

Born in 1956,  an esteemed Indigenous elder, Turtle served as a pillar of wisdom and guidance within his community. His gentle demeanor, boundless kindness, and unwavering commitment to his people left an indelible mark on all who had the privilege of knowing him. Whether through storytelling, traditional ceremonies, or acts of service, Turtle’s presence radiated warmth and compassion, illuminating the path for future generations. Throughout his life, Turtle remained deeply connected to the land and its teachings, embodying the principles of stewardship and respect passed down by his ancestors. His dedication to environmental preservation and cultural revitalization inspired many to embrace their heritage and protect the natural world.

At the Ashram, Turtle began by serving at the Farm before becoming an integral member of the Maintenance Team. He had an indomitable spirit for serving others surpassing his physical challenges, and he brought with him his many talents in the building trades developed through running his own construction business for many years before joining us here. Turtle also served as an ambassador of the Ashram. He transported thousands of Ashram retreatants and presenters to and from town and was the first representative many people met. Along with driving, he cared for the daily maintenance of the Ashram vehicle fleet to make our guests feel safe and comfortable during travel.

Having met Sri Gurudev Swami Satchidananda at the Yogaville Farm and experienced his hands-on spirit of Karma Yoga in developing the Ashram, Turtle took to the Yoga teachings and balanced his Indigenous path and the Yoga path in his own life. He shared the teachings and wisdom of both with his community. One community member recalled that one time when they needed a chest freezer and there was only one left in a local store, they contacted Turtle to see if he could pick it up in the next few days, Turtle replied: “I’m on my way.” He literally, with cell phone in hand, had gotten into his truck and was ready to go. The store was 45 minutes away. He refused any payment.

Late summer of 2023, Turtle began experiencing symptoms. In November, he was diagnosed with cancer. He fought the cancer courageously for several months. When it became obvious that his body could not handle further treatment, he decided to allow it to take its natural course. He returned home to Yogaville to transition.

From the Ashram staff, we would like to especially thank Swami Dayananda, Eden Tolton, Jayan Johnson, Siva Moore, and Sumati Chiemi Tomori Hori for all of their tireless assistance in his hospital care and his nursing care at home these past several months.
As a dedicated member of the Ashram, the Ashram provided for Turtle’s funeral and other expenses, and in the coming weeks, will have a memorial service and special luncheon to honor Turtle. Those of us who had the privilege to walk the earth with Turtle were truly blessed. He will always be in our hearts and never be forgotten.
We’d like to share a few inspiring quotes from Wandering Turtle:

Photo: Wandering Turtle in native attire in front of the LOTUS, Yogaville, circa early 2000s.

Grandfather says: The people you find along the way sometimes are just meant to walk with you temporarily for the difficult part of your Journey. Sometimes they become your trial but know that “all” of them are your teachers. Each of us have our own journey, it’s always difficult to wish a farewell to someone you love and appreciate in your life, we get used to people’s company but nothing is forever. It’s a lonely world so our desire is to find someone to walk with, someone who speaks our own language, someone like you, someone like me. I lived experiences where I never got to say a proper goodbye, I get stuck there with my feelings so I sigh and say a prayer for the spirit of the person who still hears me. Learning how to let go is to love forever. life is short my friends of the Yoga path. Live each day without regret. Be you. Bear your scars, but become happiness. Within, my friend, you are loved. Look beside you.

This is what the Grandfather who gives wisdom says. “The people you meet on your journey are the ones you walked with temporarily through the difficult parts of your journey. Sometimes it’s a challenge, but know that “ALL” are your teachers.”

Wandering Turtle lived these words and inspired all who came into contact with him. Rest in the arms of Grandfather dear Wandering Turtle. Your light will continue to shine though your physical presence will be missed…