The Importance of Elders

Native elders        Every community had its Circle of Elders. Traditionally, Elders have provided guidance and teachings on the keeping the “Good Mind,” maintaining healthy relationships within the family, the community and the nation. They passed on the teachings: teachings about the use of medicines and ceremonies, teachings about prayer, about life and teachings about parenting and governance. In the camp, they were the ones we went to with questions, they passed down the teachings of the ancestors, ensuring the continuation of the culture. They were spiritual people who knew the culture and the traditions, who led the ceremonies and spoke with the ancestors and the Creator on a routine basis. Some of the Elders had been trained since their youth to learn special skills as medicine people. Others may have been great warriors who now provided guidance to the next generation of young warriors. Elders provided the continuity of the culture. They passed down the stories, knew where the medicines were and how to access the guidance needed in times of crisis. Many of them, we knew as “Grandmother” or “Grandfather.” They taught us as they did their chores, preparng meals, finding herbs, roots, berries, and making clothing, making tools, musical instruments, and were there to provide guidance for decisions that needed to be made.

native Elders        Most importantly, they taught us to pray. The Boarding School System and the relocation efforts on the part of the U.S. government in the 19th and early 20th century broke the connections between the Elders and the young people. Many of the traditions, songs, stories, and teachings were not able to be passed on to the next generations. Many of the next generation young people no longer believed in the value of the Elder; they were just seen as “old people.” For too long, many of the people who could have been elders were separated from their culture. It is our hope that we can energize those who have a cultural knowledge and those who have teachings to participate in developing our youth by creating a Council of Elders. It is time to bring the Council of Elders back. Goal 1.3 in the Strategic Goals and Objectives for the CSIC is to create a Council of Elders who can provide guidance for healthy living and for cultural programs. For this reason, Elders have been a part of the planning and development, and have been included in all of the events of the CSIC. In October of 2007, it was a group of Elders who laid out the framework and goals for the Indian Center. Elders provide the prayers and lead the ceremonies for CSIC programs, such as at the Community Dinners, Community Talking Circle, the Powwow, the Graduation Celebration, and several of the Elders have also participated in the Elders Gatherings in 2009 and have provided their expertise in the ways of traditional crafts, and traditional ceremonies. The next step in developing our Council of Elders is to initiate a time when the Elders meet with each other. Bringing the Elders together to share their knowledge and resources and provide guidance for the CSIC is an important step in the development of the CSIC community.

Special Thanks

Austin Box

       We would like to thank and show our appreciation to Elder Austin Box (Southern Ute) for his knowledge and expertise. Austin Box will be holding Tai Chi classes. The registration fee is $15 and classes will be held Wednesdays at 9:30am and Fridays at 10:00am. Contact the Indian Center for more information.

Shared Culture

       Do you have a story to share? Are there traditions from your tribe that you would like for others to know about? Have you read a book by a native author that you want to share? We like to share cultural and educational resources, stories, and teachings, or traditions. If you have knowledge of a story or cultural information on the web, let us know and we will request permission to link that item to this area or in the library.

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