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  • What is your definition of 'Elder'?

    Is it age, or is it wisdom? In my search for an 'Elder' to guide me (at the time I had no 'family' to lookup to); I came across several 'candidates' both male and female. I watched quietly and from each I learned a great deal; although in the end only the one truly qualifed as an Elder in my eyes. I chose him because he doesn't 'self-identify'; his wisdom is not always in what he 'speaks'; but often in his 'silence'. He shares his observations on life and traditions without being preachy and allows me to think and pray on the 'lessons' without passing judgment. When he does think I'm 'mis-firing' in my thought processes he invites me to look at the 'outcome' of my conclusion. He never scolds, only guides. I'm curious, after reading Boye's old article, about the experience of others in finding a 'mentor'. Some of us have great Elders in our very own families; but with all the dysfunction across NDN country there are many who don't. I would welcome the thoughts of all...thank you.
    Advice from the powwow trail


    By Boye G. Ladd

    On several occasions I have been asked and given tobacco to address and comment on issues related to Elders, spiritual leaders and medicine men. First of all, it is with the utmost respect for the true and sincere people that are indeed respected as Elders, spiritual leaders and medicine men, that I share their humble teachings.

    Elders, traditionally, are held in high esteem for their knowledge and experience. As teachers to the young, they set an example of carrying on the traditions of respect, love, honesty and sharing. Their infinite wisdom is based upon a common sense approach to everyday life.

    A dilemma that many young people encounter when searching out an Elder for guidance and direction is that they will base their choice on age rather than experience.

    An individual living in the city or away from his people for most of his life may not be the best person to provide a young person with traditional knowledge. When a person looking for help gives tobacco and the person receiving the gift, rather than show ignorance, creates some made up story, then from that day forward the person or people looking for help will believe that story. Tradition has deep roots and can be based on rights or on years of service to the people.

    Many times I have seen individuals "showing off" their sundance scars, tobacco ties or amulets hanging around their necks - exposed. When a person carries protection and/or medicine, it should always be hidden and never be spoken about.

    Spiritual leaders and medicine men should be considered in the same light. For the true and sincere, their reverence is based on humbleness, dedication and sacrifice. Anytime someone stands before you and claims to be a medicine man, do not believe him or anything he says, because he or she has desecrated their oath of humbleness. You will not find a true and sincere spiritual leader or medicine man teaching in a school or university, or seeking public attention.

    It was said in the beginning that the Creator gave a certain uniqueness, power and protector of a certain medicine to each nation and tribe. Certain individuals, clans and societies were gifted with this special knowledge and, most importantly, given the right to use the medicine.

    Be careful of false leaders and pseudo-medicine men that charge money for their services, especially of those that take money before the ceremony even starts. To all faiths throughout the world, including those that are Native, consider money as the 'root of all evil.'

    Beware again of those that steal your women and daughters. Those that violate women in sweat lodges and during other sacred ceremonies should be prosecuted and ostracized. There are some that have even run off with their adopted daughters and have given them children. This violates and desecrates one of the most respected bonds of our people.

    There have been times that I have been asked to help a family that got 'ripped off' for thousands of dollars from people declaring themselves as healers. Who do you blame? The so-called medicine man that cons the people or the people that were naive enough to believe in the lies?

    Many people search the world for, or think they can buy, happiness, when it can be found in one word - acceptance. Acceptance of one's self spiritually, brings harmony and balance to one's everyday life. Balance is essential to life.

    Learn from the teaching of our ancestors. The Elders, spiritual leaders and medicine men are human and charged with the responsibility of preserving those gifts that the Creator has given them.

    It is difficult to try and answer many of questions concerning the Native way of life in one short article. The essence of Native spirituality comes from the heart and works for those that believe. One piece of advice my late uncle would repeat every time I left home, was, "Never try to be something you're not..."

    Ah ho!


    Damme ape’semmai, "Andabichidaiboonee’ gimmadu’i.Wihyu memme hainjinee’ nahandu’i. Enne wizha sudei’ tsaangu mabizhiahkande," mai.

    The Creator said, "A foreign race of white people will come, who will become your friends. You should treat them well."

    The Creator sure had a strange sense of humor!


  • #2
    Plenty Fox,

    There is a lot of good advice in Boye's words from this article.
    I have known Boye since I was a kid. He has always tried to help me and others. (He recently gave my niece the right to publically wear a red plume to represent his membership in the Red Feather Society).

    Boye is right about being careful in choosing elders as mentors.

    Too many times I hear the phrase, "go ask your elders" here on the powwows.com threads.

    This may not be the most sound advice as Boye has pointed out.

    Every elder deserves respect.

    "But . . . just because someone is old doesn't mean they can give you the most correct information particularly when it pertains to another tribe."


    Also,

    When someone prefaces their statement with "I am a medicineman," watchout! I have also heard "elders" who preface their statements with, "I am an elder."




    As someone whom I respect, recently told me, "If someone has to preface their title before they speak to you one-on-one, usually their NOT who they say they are....."
    Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by WhoMe
      Every elder deserves respect.

      "But . . . just because someone is old doesn't mean they can give you the most correct information particularly when it pertains to another tribe."


      Also,

      When someone prefaces their statement with "I am a medicineman," watchout! I have also heard "elders" who preface their statements with, "I am an elder."




      As someone whom I respect, recently told me, "If someone has to preface their title before they speak to you one-on-one, usually their NOT who they say they are....."
      So true on the first one, but also to add to being old doesnt mean being wise, being younger doesnt mean your not. I have gotten plenty of good advice on certain things from ppl my age and have run into ppl very wise beyond their years. I guess what I mean is just make sure the person giving you answers is truthful and knowledgeable in the area that your asking. anyhoo...

      As for the second one:
      I've seen that alot too. If you cant tell something about someone without them telling you it then it isnt so. Too many times you hear ppl say they are this or that and it always sends up red flags. so thats all I wanted to say...for now.
      90% Angel
      10% Lil Devil


      But I've been told it's the other way around!

      Comment


      • #4
        I've always considered "elders" as the people who are reputed to know quite a bit about your tribal customs and carry stories from the past. People who when you ask "why?" they know the answer or can lead you in the right direction. I always thought those people did'nt have to be named, people in the community just know them. They are trusted, respected their opinions count alot.
        Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.sigpic

        Comment


        • #5
          Us white folks have the TRUE disfunctional families. I would have trouble finding an 'elder' in my family. The only one I looked up to was my grandfather on my mothers side. he died when i was in my rebellious years and i never got a chance to find out the things he knows. My grandmother, who is sometimes nice and helpful, is just lost without him.

          My dads parents I never really knew. his mom died b4 i was born and his dad was never around for our side of the family.

          I dont really know anymore old folks other than a few i come in contact with through friends and powwows.

          Its a shame in my culture no one really cares about the parents and grandparents until its time to read the will. Its always, "he was a pain in the azz" "she was always in trouble" "he was such a burden". "how much money did they leave me?"

          its a shame.

          but there are some good ones.
          There are 2 types of people in the world...
          Really stupid people who think they are smart
          and
          Really smart people who think they are smart.

          Comment


          • #6
            I believe an Elder is "ANYONE" older than, "ME".

            Actually a great person doesn't tooot their own horn. Anyone telling how great they are usually aren't. I've known knowledgable people of both young and old. I do think that one needs some age and experience to go with their knowledge. Not all Holy people are old but not many are mid-aged. Again time helps put experience with knowledge.
            BOB

            Comment


            • #7
              I was raised by my grandparents here on the reserve. When they passed away, it was pretty hard to find "elders" who measured up...and when I did, they too would pass away. I have always had a strong inherent respect to my elders and I totally agree with Blackbear's description:

              "I've always considered "elders" as the people who are reputed to know quite a bit about your tribal customs and carry stories from the past. People who when you ask "why?" they know the answer or can lead you in the right direction. I always thought those people did'nt have to be named, people in the community just know them. They are trusted, respected their opinions count alot."

              However, recently, I have seen an individual who was viewed upon as a respected 'elder' in my community take the wrong path which has sent my personal reflections in a quandry. Although I am not on this earth to judge anyone, it truly affects me personally to see someone whom I had learned from and basically looked up to - fall.
              "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. ~Dr. Seuss

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by billyjoejimbob
                Us white folks have the TRUE disfunctional families. I would have trouble finding an 'elder' in my family. The only one I looked up to was my grandfather on my mothers side. he died when i was in my rebellious years and i never got a chance to find out the things he knows. My grandmother, who is sometimes nice and helpful, is just lost without him.

                My dads parents I never really knew. his mom died b4 i was born and his dad was never around for our side of the family.

                I dont really know anymore old folks other than a few i come in contact with through friends and powwows.

                Its a shame in my culture no one really cares about the parents and grandparents until its time to read the will. Its always, "he was a pain in the azz" "she was always in trouble" "he was such a burden". "how much money did they leave me?"

                its a shame.

                but there are some good ones.
                God bless your Grandmother!
                Damme ape’semmai, "Andabichidaiboonee’ gimmadu’i.Wihyu memme hainjinee’ nahandu’i. Enne wizha sudei’ tsaangu mabizhiahkande," mai.

                The Creator said, "A foreign race of white people will come, who will become your friends. You should treat them well."

                The Creator sure had a strange sense of humor!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Ohontsia
                  I was raised by my grandparents here on the reserve. When they passed away, it was pretty hard to find "elders" who measured up...and when I did, they too would pass away. I have always had a strong inherent respect to my elders and I totally agree with Blackbear's description:

                  "I've always considered "elders" as the people who are reputed to know quite a bit about your tribal customs and carry stories from the past. People who when you ask "why?" they know the answer or can lead you in the right direction. I always thought those people did'nt have to be named, people in the community just know them. They are trusted, respected their opinions count alot."

                  However, recently, I have seen an individual who was viewed upon as a respected 'elder' in my community take the wrong path which has sent my personal reflections in a quandry. Although I am not on this earth to judge anyone, it truly affects me personally to see someone whom I had learned from and basically looked up to - fall.
                  I think you bring up several good points. If we are lucky and have healthy families [and/or healthy tribal lives] we usually have the assurance of having Elders. But it is daunting as we grow older to lose those we looked up to and find another. And, as you said, there is a definite let down when you find out someone you thought could be respected can not. Yes, they are human, too; so how do we balance our expectation, reliance, dependence on our Elders? And, at what point, while still revering them, do we start practicing what we've learned and rely on our own judgment, if ever? At some point, we need to turn inward for answers, not outward; but first we need to have the 'foundation' to do that. Having Elders is a wonderful part of the growth, maturing process. It's too bad not everyone has the advantage of having 'Elders'.

                  When the US Govt did their big 'reorganize' thing and took alot of our people off reservations and sent them to cities it was another big upheaval that left major holes in the lives of many. Families and support systems (like Elders) were dealt a crippling blow. Some of our families have never recovered. For many 'urban' NDNs, there are no 'Elders' or supportive systems; and because of lacking the latter, they also don't know how to find them, what resources are available. It's good to see efforts being made in some big cities to counteract this; cities like Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland... Elders are a precious thing...they are part of our identity, and without them, I think we have identity and esteem problems.
                  Damme ape’semmai, "Andabichidaiboonee’ gimmadu’i.Wihyu memme hainjinee’ nahandu’i. Enne wizha sudei’ tsaangu mabizhiahkande," mai.

                  The Creator said, "A foreign race of white people will come, who will become your friends. You should treat them well."

                  The Creator sure had a strange sense of humor!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Yeah gramma is pretty messed up. Everyone is pretty sick and tired of her. She never worked a day in her life and never drove so she expects everything to be done for her. She has done some bad things in the past and her present attitude isnt helping. She shows her sweet side every now and then.

                    Grandpa came along and took her, my mom and aunt from the first husband who was a slob. He threw everything out of the house becuase he didnt want anything he bought left behind. He worked his azz off for 40+years only to die from cancer in his 60s. Worked until his last 5 days.

                    It spoiled my grandma who now lives with my mom and dad who are now in their 60s. Mom still works full time to support my handicapped dad. She doesnt want any help because she wants me and my bro to have a better life and not have to worry about them.

                    It still tears me up inside and I hope to one day be able to retire them.
                    There are 2 types of people in the world...
                    Really stupid people who think they are smart
                    and
                    Really smart people who think they are smart.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by billyjoejimbob
                      Yeah gramma is pretty messed up. Everyone is pretty sick and tired of her. She never worked a day in her life and never drove so she expects everything to be done for her. She has done some bad things in the past and her present attitude isnt helping. She shows her sweet side every now and then.

                      Grandpa came along and took her, my mom and aunt from the first husband who was a slob. He threw everything out of the house becuase he didnt want anything he bought left behind. He worked his azz off for 40+years only to die from cancer in his 60s. Worked until his last 5 days.

                      It spoiled my grandma who now lives with my mom and dad who are now in their 60s. Mom still works full time to support my handicapped dad. She doesnt want any help because she wants me and my bro to have a better life and not have to worry about them.

                      It still tears me up inside and I hope to one day be able to retire them.
                      I guess I should say 'God Bless Mom and Dad'! Sounds like Grandma should get her husband's SSN and any possible retirement; maybe your parents could find a nice assisted living home for Grandma; because it sounds like your parents need to deal with their own stuff and take care of themselves. Just a thought.
                      Damme ape’semmai, "Andabichidaiboonee’ gimmadu’i.Wihyu memme hainjinee’ nahandu’i. Enne wizha sudei’ tsaangu mabizhiahkande," mai.

                      The Creator said, "A foreign race of white people will come, who will become your friends. You should treat them well."

                      The Creator sure had a strange sense of humor!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Ohontsia
                        However, recently, I have seen an individual who was viewed upon as a respected 'elder' in my community take the wrong path which has sent my personal reflections in a quandry. Although I am not on this earth to judge anyone, it truly affects me personally to see someone whom I had learned from and basically looked up to - fall.
                        I know exactly how you feel (and I think I know who you are talking about as well) someone like that in our community has fallen too.... however you have to remember this.. they are still only human, and it is US that put them on the pedestals.
                        Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.sigpic

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          i guess i've been relatively lucky to have the Elders that i have in my life. i am the youngest of eight children and my parents are 76 and 66 and they are in many opinions considered "respected Elders in the community." I've always had the feeling that i could go talk to them and they give me little pieces of advice - which sometimes i don't want to hear at the time!! and they in turn are counsellors for a consulting group in our area and go and speak at many health related workshops and conferences. by no means are they without their faults but they try their best...

                          but on another note - i have trouble with, what i have heard termed by other people - "Elders-for-Hire." they don't show up for less than a $500.00 honorium or perdium (??) to give a thirty-second "generic" prayer and leave immediately.

                          i myself have had direct "contact" with such people - they show up but not without, numerous, persistant calls in the time before they are expected to be there - to ask "is my check ready yet?" and ask to have expensive items of clothing promo'ed to them while they come to say a prayer. don't speak to most people at the event or even smile at people.

                          while i've seen others who come to pray and are asked what they want in return - and they say "a meal" or "some tobacco." they are most gracious to accept the meal and they don't pick the most expensive items on the menu either. they stop and talk to the people there...

                          yet more times than not - i've seen the ones mentioned first more often than the latter...

                          just because you have gotten old does not mean that you've become an Elder...i think you have to learn from life's experiences and learn how to teach what you have learned...
                          Last edited by chazziff; 08-24-2005, 12:17 PM.
                          Watch your broken dreams...
                          Dance in and out of the beams of a neon moon

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Moms too nice, too honest and too trusting. (for 2005 that is)

                            Grandma even said she is only leaving my mom $1. All the money grandpa earned is going to her youngest daughter....the coke-head. (unless she spends it all on QVC by then)

                            My mom wants the dollar! Shes too funny.
                            There are 2 types of people in the world...
                            Really stupid people who think they are smart
                            and
                            Really smart people who think they are smart.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by billyjoejimbob
                              Moms too nice, too honest and too trusting. (for 2005 that is)

                              Grandma even said she is only leaving my mom $1. All the money grandpa earned is going to her youngest daughter....the coke-head. (unless she spends it all on QVC by then)

                              My mom wants the dollar! Shes too funny.
                              I know from personal experience that QVC is addicting. Time to pull the plug on the Cable company... QVC is fine for some, but it also takes advantage of the elderly, shut-ins and people who try and fill their otherwise empty lives with 'things' they really don't need. I used to watch it and enjoy some of the hosts, bought a few things. Now when I watch, and someone's grandma calls in to talk to a host and the conversation indicates it is sorta one of those 'impulse', 'make-me-feel-good' purchases, I get so angry I change the channel. I have found with my clients (addicts/alcoholics) that their parents often 'compensate' materially or financially for feelings that they have 'failed' in their parenting when their child turns out poorly. The addict/alcoholic is expert on using 'guilt trips' on their parent(s) to get what they want and avoid taking responsibility for their own actions. No charge :), no statement will be in the mail...
                              Damme ape’semmai, "Andabichidaiboonee’ gimmadu’i.Wihyu memme hainjinee’ nahandu’i. Enne wizha sudei’ tsaangu mabizhiahkande," mai.

                              The Creator said, "A foreign race of white people will come, who will become your friends. You should treat them well."

                              The Creator sure had a strange sense of humor!

                              Comment

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