As the President of the Manitou Foundation (land granting organization), established in 1988, and the Manitou Institute (environmental stewardship), formed in 1994, Hanne Strong has established the largest intentional, interfaith, and ecumenical retreat center and sustainable teaching community in North America. Mrs. Strong has granted over 2000 acres of land to various spiritual, educational, and environmental groups. Through the Manitou Foundation’s land grant program, the Baca/Crestone community now houses many of the world’s spiritual traditions and is referred to as “A Place of the Heart” – which now accommodates approximately twenty thousand retreatants per year, seeking to develop inner peace and balance with oneself and nature.
Groups include: Spiritual Life Institute (a Carmelite monastic community), Crestone Mountain Zen Center, Haidakhandi Universal Ashram, the San Luis Valley Tibetan Project, Samten Ling Retreat Center, Yeshe Khorlo, Vajra Vidya Retreat Center and Tibetan Archives Library, Ligmincha (from the Bon tradition), White Elephant Monastery (Taoist), Shinji Shumekai of America (Shinto), Lindesfarne Dome (Celtic), Sanctuary House (Sufi), White Jewel Mountain Tibetan Buddhist Cremation Stupa and Nunnery, Dharma Ocean Foundation, and Sacred Passages Reconnecting with Nature and Sage House (Native American). Education and environmental organizations include: Colorado College, Naropa University, Sri Aurobindo Learning Center, EDUCO, Earth Origin Seeds Project, Earth Restoration Corps, Crestone Healing Arts Center, and Sacred Passages.
Mrs. Strong has been an advocate for environmental conservation and restoration, placing over 1,200 acres of the foundation's lands under Conservation Easements in order to protect and preserve the pristine mountain range, wildlife habitat, and fragile eco-systems of the Baca Grande. She is the founder of the Earth Restoration Corps (ERC), a global environmental-educational training program designed for young adults. ERC conducts and facilitates action-based environmental restoration training and training of ERC Master Teachers, in partnership with local grass-roots organizations and educational institutions worldwide. This training program is intended to lead youth towards productive and meaningful sustainable livelihoods and to engage in the restoration of threatened eco-systems. A unique component of the ERC training is facilitation of personal transformation by re-connecting participants with nature’s laws and drawing on people’s respective ethical, cultural, and spiritual traditions.
From 1972 to the present, she has traveled to over 100 countries and has attended numerous universities, seminars, and conferences as a guest speaker on ecumenical communities, sustainability, and spiritually-based environmental education. Mrs. Strong has organized several conferences for children, youth, and the disabled. In 1977, during a conference that paralleled HABITAT, UN Conference on Human Settlements in Vancouver, B.C., Mrs. Strong created a platform for children and youth to address prevalent global issues at the United Nations Plenary; Mother Teresa co-convened the conference at Mrs. Strong’s invitation. Mrs. Strong also served as the Senior Advisor/Organizer and Chief Fundraiser for the Millennium World Peace Summit for Religious and Spiritual Leaders at the UN in 2000. She has founded numerous nonprofit organizations for Native Americans and co-founded the first nonprofit private foundation in Kenya with Sir Richard Leakey and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Wangari Maathai, for disabled and street children. In 1992, Mrs. Strong organized and chaired two conferences in Rio de Janeiro during the Earth Summit entitled, “Sacred Earth Gathering/Wisdom Keepers Convocation.” Speakers included scientists, religious leaders, representatives of indigenous groups and NGO’s, and statesmen from around the globe.
Over the past 25 years, Mrs. Strong has worked with Native Americans throughout Canada and the United States and indigenous peoples worldwide to assist in their efforts to preserve their spirituality, cultural values, and native lands. She has received extensive spiritual training in the form of teachings, direct transmissions, and initiations from North and South American shamans, Tibetan Buddhist Lamas, Hindu masters, Sufis, and other mystics. Mrs. Strong’s mission has been the subject of featured articles in international publications, including several UN periodicals and books such as, Voices of the Heart; A Compassionate Call for Responsibility and Creating Harmony; Conflict Resolution in Community Living; as well as Maclean’s—Canada’s Weekly Newsmagazine—and news articles worldwide, including Reuters, Newsweek, Spirituality & Health, The Yoga Journal, and Tricycle Buddhist Review. She has authored articles on the topics of spirituality and environmental stewardship, such as “Ecological and Spiritual Revolution," published in Our Planet, the UN Environmental Program magazine for Sustainable Development, and has been interviewed on national television in the United States, Brazil, France, the Philippines, Switzerland, Denmark, Russia, Mexico, and Canada.
Mrs. Strong was born on July 29, 1941, in Copenhagen, Denmark, where she also received a degree in Design and Planning from the IAS Institute. She is married to Maurice F. Strong, former Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General and Under Secretary-General of the United Nations, former President of the UN University for Peace, and currently Honorary Professor of the University of Beijing. She has two daughters, seven grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.