Board & Officers

of the Manitou Institute & Conservancy

Hanne Strong , President

Hanne M. Strong: serves as President of the Manitou Foundation, which she and her late husband, Maurice Strong, founded in 1988. The Foundation, based in Crestone, Colorado has granted land to spiritual, educational and environmental groups through the Manitou Foundation’s Land Grant Program and through the Strong’s personal land holdings.

The Baca/Crestone Community currently houses many of the world’s wisdom traditions and is referred to as the “Refuge for World Truths” and accommodates thousands of visiting retreatants per year who seek to develop inner peace and balance within oneself and with nature. It is the largest intentional, interreligious and sustainable living community in North America.

Mrs. Strong, has been an advocate for environmental conservation and restoration for many decades. In 1994, she established the Manitou Institute & Conservancy in partnership with Laurance Rockefeller and placed over 1,900 acres of the Foundation’s land holdings under Conservation Easements. The Manitou Habitat Conservation Program (MHCP) protects and preserves the pristine mountain range, wildlife habitats, and fragile eco-systems above the Baca Grande development zone.

She served as a Senior Advisor, organizer and lead fundraiser for the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders held at the United Nations in New York in 2000. It was the first conference of its kind ever held at the United Nations.

In 1992, Mrs. Strong organized and chaired two parallel conferences to the Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) (also known as the Earth Summit), entitled, “the Sacred Earth Gathering” and “the Wisdom Keepers Convocation” in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Participants of the Sacred Earth Gathering formulated the “Declaration of the Sacred Earth Gathering” which was presented to the Heads of State on the opening day of the official conference. She also launched the Earth Restoration Corps (ERC), a global environmental- educational training program she founded, designed to train young adults in ecosystem restoration and green livelihoods.

In 1983, Mrs. Strong organized a meeting between Canadian Native American Elders and Pope John Paul II to discuss Aboriginal Constitutional issues – The Pope later urged Prime Minister Trudeau to re-look at these issues and constitutional laws were changed addressing sensitive issues pertaining to Aboriginal peoples in throughout Canada.

In 1977, Mrs. Strong co-funded and organized the participation of 18 Canadian Native American elders and American Indian Movement (AIM) leaders in the first international conference of non-governmental organizations on indigenous issues held at the United Nations in Geneva.

In 1976, Mrs. Strong organized a parallel conference to the HABITAT UN Conference on Human Settlements in Vancouver, British Columbia and created a platform for children and youth to address pressing global issues at the official plenary session. At Mrs. Strong’s invitation, Mother Teresa joined her as co-convenor of the event.

Since 1972, she has travelled to over 100 countries and has coordinated numerous civil society events parallel to High Level United Nations conferences. She has been invited to numerous universities, seminars and conferences as a guest speaker to address global issues covering topics such as interreligious communities, sustainable living and spiritually based environmental education. She has also founded numerous nonprofit organizations for Native Americans and in the 1970’s, co-founded the first non-profit private foundation in Kenya with Sir Richard Leakey and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Wangari Maathai, for the disabled and street children.

Over the past 40 years, Mrs. Strong has worked with Native Americans throughout the Americas and indigenous peoples worldwide to assist in their efforts to preserve their spirituality, cultural values, and native lands. For over 40 years, she received extensive spiritual training from indigenous shamans, and masters from the Buddhist, Hindu and Sufi lineages.

Mrs. Strong’s work has been featured in international publications including Maclean’s Magazine, Reuters, Newsweek, Spirituality & Health, The Yoga Journal, New York Times and Tricycle Buddhist Review, as well as books such as, Voices of the Heart; A Compassionate Call for Responsibility and Creating Harmony; Conflict Resolution in Community Living, She has authored articles on the topics of spirituality, consciousness and environmental stewardship such as “Ecological and Spiritual Revolution,” published in UNEP’s Our Planet, and has appeared on national television in the United States, Brazil, France, Philippines, Switzerland, Denmark, Russia, Mexico, and Canada.

Mrs. Strong was born on July 29, 1941, in Copenhagen, Denmark, where she received a degree in Design and Planning. She has 2 daughters, 7 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren. Her husband, Maurice F. Strong passed in November 2015 at the age of 86. Mr. Strong served as Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General and was appointed as Under Secretary-General numerous times during his diplomatic career.

Patricia Taylor, Chief Executive Officer

In Loving Memory of Patricia Ann Taylor “Mother of the Forest”

It is with great sadness that we share the loss and passing of Patricia Ann Taylor. We are reflecting on the remarkable achievements and contributions that Patricia made during her life. This has been beyond heartbreaking and we hope to see her unique, pioneering spirit live on through the work she engaged in. Through your generous support, her legacy will have an enduring influence for generations to come.

This is a tribute to our beloved Patricia Taylor a remarkable woman who touched the lives of so many people and the land that sustains us all. Her work will always have a profound and everlasting influence in the world that she helped to transform.

Patricia, who served as Manitou Foundation and Manitou Institutes & Conservancy CEO was a writer, producer, fashion designer and businesswoman who later in life found her true passion as a philanthropist. She made major contributions to schools in Peru in which she transformed and provided educational opportunities to the most vulnerable population of children.

In 2018 Patricia joined forces with Hanne Strong, President of the Manitou Foundation & Institute, they instantly bonded and recognized each other as kindred spirits. Two women, who were destined to work together to create and cultivate lasting changes around the world. They shared a vision, to help indigenous tribes to reclaim their lands and sovereignty. Hanne Strong shared her life’s work with Patricia by mentoring her.

In 2018 they collaborated and initiated 2 major indigenous land “buybacks”. The first, “Kualama Sacred Site” located within the Linea Negra of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta in Colombia. Working with the Teyuna people where they secured and liberated the sacred site by returning it to the indigenous peoples of the Sierra.

Message about Patricia from the Indigenous Peoples of the Sierra
The Kogis, the Wiwas, the Arhuacos and the Kankuamos

“When Patricia passed, we knew she was leaving with Our Spiritual Fathers because she was a representative for the Earth herself, she was an embodiment of the Mother Earth – Abu Celula, Abu Mamekun, Abu Kangama, Abu Ghira, all of these names are the spiritual names of the different layers of the Earth, we used to call Patricia by all of them because she was among us on Her behalf. On behalf of Mother Earth. Every time we connected with Patricia we used to do it through the Earth.”


In 2018 Patricia began working with Benki Pianco, Indigenous Leader of Ashaninka in Brazil. An indigenous group which, Hanne Strong had been working with since the early 2000’s. He was recognized as an “Earth Warrior” and a recipient of the UNDP Equator Prize. To many it may have seemed to be an impossible dream but in 2019 Patricia secured and purchased a parcel of land for the Ashaninka tribe in Acre Brazil. She acquired 3,629 acres of land through a US based Private Foundation, half of which had been deforested and turned into a cattle farm.

The work that Patricia undertook was not only to protect the environment but to encourage education and help build a voice and create awareness for the communities that have been custodians of the earth for generations. Her work with the land will live on, a legacy that we hope to continue to keep her voice alive through the projects that she embraced.

Kristina Mayo, Member

Since 1999, Kristina Mayo has engaged in work with civil society and the United Nations to further the sustainable development agenda. She has organized numerous high-level events and specializes in strategy development, building global networks and philanthropic counsel. Prior to this, Kristina worked with non-profit organizations and in the hospitality industry. She graduated from Western Washington University in 1990 with a focus on cultural anthropology.

Mark Elliot, Member

Mark Elliot has been making documentary films since the early 1970’s, when he walked into Dharamsala, India, with a primitive video camera and made a film on Tibetans in exile at the invitation of the Dalai Lama. His films include ‘The Lion’s Roar’, the acclaimed portrait of the Sixteenth Karmapa; ‘Concert in the Sky’ featuring the high wire walker Philippe Petit; ‘Crow Dog’s Paradise’ with the Lakota medicine men Henry and Leonard Crow Dog; and ‘Eros, Love and Lies’ with R.D. Laing. He has also made a series of films, following “The Lion’s Roar”, focusing on Tibetan Buddhism, its traditions and figures. These include ‘Eye of the Land’, ‘Under the Bodhi Tree’, and the more recent, ‘Bodhisattva’ and ‘Yangsi’.

Mark’s fascination is to explore the world of visionary people through the medium of film. His films have been showed on television internationally, received glowing reviews from the New York Times to the Hollywood Reporter, and shown in the US through outlets such as The Discovery Channel, Landmark Theaters and PBS.

For the last 24 years Mark has lived in the remote mountain community of Crestone, Colorado.

Audrey Topping, Member

Audrey Ronning Topping is a freelance photojournalist, author, and writer of documentary films, specializing in Asian affairs. Her photos have been exhibited in numerous galleries and universities, and her articles and photos have appeared in major publications in the United States and abroad, including the National Geographic, LIFE, Newsweek, Time, Reader’s Digest, and Harper’s Bazaar. She is the author and photographer of five books, including The Splendors of Tibet and Dawn Wakes in the East. She has written scripts and been a commentator and assistant producer on six television documentaries, including Great Wall Across the Yangtze, The Forbidden City, The Tomb of the Terra-cotta Warriors, and Chester Ronning’s China Mission. Audrey is married to Seymour Topping, former foreign correspondent and managing editor of the New York Times. They have five daughters born in Saigon, London, Berlin, and Scarsdale, New York.