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Honoring elders

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  • Honoring elders

    I've been reading alot of posts about respect and learning from elders and whatnot. I've also read alot of posts about new changes to traditions ie. women at the drum, dancing mens traditional,etc... The old ones had a way of life that they loved so dearly, they nearly were wiped out trying to keep it the way it was. Through the indian wars, assimilation, termination,boarding schools,etc. they held onto these ways with little change in there general nature. Nowadays it seems that everyone wants to change these ways to fit what they see as the right way. My question is, if you love these ways and respect these elders so much,why change everything that they cherrished so much?

  • #2
    You hit the nail on the head. I was talking with someone yesterday and I showed them a picture of some women on a drum. They were a crystal rubbing, borna ngain ndn drum group.
    I said they shoudlnt be on the drum. I was immediately called a chauvinist(I am no where near a chauvinist) anyways, I said that things are done the way they are done for a reason. There is a reason why the women sit behind the men and I explained it.
    The reply, this is the year 2000, if women want to sing then they can, who is going to stop them. There are too many RULES with your people.
    I couldnt make any head way at all. THis eurocentric mindset is what is destroying our traditions. YEs, traditions evolve and change with time but there are aspects of that tradition that have to stay the same. Those things have to stay that way for more than a physical reason. I said, ok so its ok to do communion with graham crackers and a coke right?
    IF you want to, it doesnt say anywhere that you HAVE to use bread and wine. Its symbolic, yeah its symbolic, but its also tradition, you are honoring the way it has always been done. Maybe there is a spiritual connection with using bread and wine I dont know Im not White and even if I was I think the spirituality was taken out of Christianity but thats another topic.
    Point being, look at the way of life here parallel to the way of life in Europe before 1492. Our rules defined a purpose and meaning for everything we did in our lives. It kept a balance that was shattered and now we are trying to keep these things alive, but because of the lack of RULES or enforcment of them you see things like the powwows here in the SE, you see people desecrating the Lakota spirituality, you see the degradation of our race for money, you see that we are a silent thorn in the govts side, we are a voice that is not heard anywhere in the media or news.
    There is a balance that has been shifted and those that still follows ways taught to us are fighting a hard battle with those who dont care just because they want the glory of saying they are Indian. Make up what you dont know, it wont matter. No one will know any different. And if your confronted about it, scoff and laugh because you are the "traditional one" not the skins that just tried to correct you.
    How can you honor your ancestors when you distort and desecrate everything that they suffered and died for?
    A Warrior without character is nothing more than a brute.

    I have lots of freinds, you just cant see them:)


    • #3
      If everyone kept changing traditions, how traditional could we be?


      • #4
        honoring elders by listening to them is tradition.

        on women at the drum...some tribes have always had women at the drum.

        I stand only behind my own man if I am at the arbor.

        I have respect an honor and responsibility just being a woman. There is a place for my voice and a time for my strength. Traditionally and inherently we have roles that a man cannot mimic or replace and vice versa for a woman.

        Personally, I don't care what happens at contest pow -wows. But traditional pow wows should remain traditional-the elders must have the say there and as a visitor to that community I should accept the customs of that community.


        • #5
          Absolutely, Thre is a HUGE difference between contest and traditional. The contest powwows focus on money takes away from the old style powwows. The thing is down ehre they try to fuse the two together and if they dont know the tradition then they make it up. Granted no skins go these powwows but they still pop up everywhere. There are alot of post about these types of powwows and how different it is here as opposed to in ndn country.
          Traditions are passed down by our elders and are lived by those of us who choose to listen.
          The more things change the more they stay the same, right
          A Warrior without character is nothing more than a brute.

          I have lots of freinds, you just cant see them:)


          • #6
            we travel to about twenty pow wows or more a year.

            Most of the time our travel decisions are based on where certain drums that we want to be with are. The drums are the men that my husband has sung with for his life.

            The people and families on the "trail" are my other family. It is a good, safe, and sober place to be. This is a good place to be with my kids.

            The elders of the communities we visit are usually who exactly dictates the good ways of how things are done. We respect that and accept that.

            We mostly travel in Ontario, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan.


            • #7
              Oo, miigwan, I keep liking what I see you "saying" here.

              Seems to me, so much of the disrespect for traditions, etc., comes from lack of respect generally.

              I've seen a bunch of guys stood off to the side during gourddancing and laugh out loud at fellahs who wore their blankets over their straight-dance outfits and left their roaches on.

              At one dance, an elder stood up and harangued us because during honor dances people were shaking hands with the honorees and putting money in a hat as the honorees danced around. Not 10 minutes later, there was another honor dance - and people kept shaking hands and depositing money in the hat.

              People have made big deals of women coming into the circle before men just because "back home" it's the other way around.

              All-time favorite is when a co-worker called me on Monday morning and was complaining about a woman being at the drum. He hadn't even been at the powwow!!!! He was just passing along a gripe from a friend who was there.

              In these parts, where the NDN population is like 1.5% on a good day, and you can count on having a couple dozen tribes and bands represented in a crowd of 30 families , it just seems more important than ever for us to start out respectfully and to take time to find out what's going on and why.

              It's like the lady said: R-e-s-p-e-c-t may not be everything, but it sure is a lot.

              People keep telling me to act my age. How old am I, again?
              "As long as dancing is cultivated, civilization progresses; but no sooner is the interdict set forth against it, than the people who were once refined by its inspiration, relapse into barbarism."
              - Thomas Hilgrove, 1856


              • #8
                where is home-Lee?


                • #9
                  St. Louis, MO (all the heat and humidity of Cajun Louisiana, but just a fraction of the fun! )
                  "As long as dancing is cultivated, civilization progresses; but no sooner is the interdict set forth against it, than the people who were once refined by its inspiration, relapse into barbarism."
                  - Thomas Hilgrove, 1856


                  • #10
                    I can't say that I have witnessed gourd dancing- I can only assume that it has significance to the place and people of its origin.

                    As mentioned, I travel mostly here in the Northwoods to dance with my family. I have occasionally entered circles while travelling for work if I am lucky enough to find a pow-wow. Sometimes I have gone further south to southern Wisconsin and Illinois, southern Michigan-(that is south for me) The point I am trying to get at is that when I have wandered away from the bush, I have danced with other tribes and traditions and I find that I am a little uneasy when things are done so absolutely differently from what I know and I also know the whys of how we have been taught certain things.

                    When these choices are in front of me, I will often sit that dance out and spectate and listen to the people from the community that I am at. I am gaining understanding of a different way-or not. Which, just like the ways I have been taught-has a why as for why things are being done that way or will remain a mystery to me.

                    One of the reasons that women are respected is because they carry a mystery that has never been fully explained even by all the science we have created in this human race. The mystery that we carry is the ability to be the keepers and givers of life through our wombs.

                    This mystery is a miracle in any culture. It is one that is worthy of respect.

                    Many native cultures have also treated homosexuality with high honor because it is a mystery to so many. But so different from so many that it is considered "special".

                    The message is respect what you don't understand. It is up to no human being to stand in judgement of what is so different from themself.


                    • #11
                      I am new here and would just like to voice my opinion on respect. I was always taught to repect my elders. They might not always me right in my eyes, but who am I to judge for they have been around a lot longer than I have. being the person that I am thought I would take a gift of tobacco to them later and ask them to explain to me for I do not understand. The couple of times I have done so I have been showed why I was wrong. My elders have earned their honored place in my eyes. Now on the other hand for I am not a spring chicken I have had a certain person come to me when they thought I was wrong and came in a respectful manner. I was wrong that time and properly apologized. See you are never too old to learn.

                      As for woman drumming I have seen one all female drum tean. They were good. I was taught that in order to keep balance the men drum. For as a female we feel 2 heart beats (one for ourselves & one for the child within) yet man does not, so therefor in order to balance they feel the 2nd heartbeat by drumming. This is just my personal opinion on this one. I was also taught to take care of my elders when ever I felt it was necessary. I was at one Powwow ( dont ask which one please) when I noticed their Chief was running around trying to make sure all went well, yet he had not eaten. I fixed him a plate and took it to him. This is something I felt his own people should have noticed, yet didn't. Another example was My husband and I ahd been invited to a bbq. This bbq was a minority family function. The elder here (grandmother) was also over looked by family members, yet I made sure her plate was fixed and got what ever she needed. This is not to pat myself on the back this to let you know my respect for elders go to all. The elders are the ones with the stories & memories in thier minds to tell us. What we can learn just by listening is wonderous.

                      In another forum someone was talking about the Gourd Dance. The very first time I saw one I cryed like a baby and didn't even know why until my husband explained the meaning to me. This is a very special Dance in my h eart. Since we all come from different areas we can learn from each other what some are afraid to ask. I look forward to talking with all here soon.


                      • #12
                        In my pow-wow and ceremonial travels in the past 35 some odd years i have seen and met many people who call themselves elders. Many of them I consider to be "Olders". This is because they are simply older than myself and not worthy of the label of elder. Many men and women here in BC call themselves elders, yet they only recently sobered up, never grew up with Indian way or ceremonial life. Many discovered it through treatment centres in Alberta, pre 1975, when Indian culture made a big comeback. Now there are Olders everywhere running sweats, calling themselves sundancers and healers. Yet not that long ago they were rapists, drunks, rowdies and a..holes. Today I watch and listen to those who say they are elders or healers. I ask about them and talk with them. I observe them if I am not aware of their repuation.
                        At home in the prairies, there still are many many authentic healers and elders who never attended residential school and whose first language is not english. They were rasied and taught in a traditional home setting.

                        I was told and still hear today that respect is earned not by age but by lifestyle over a lifetime and that one should only respect others who treat everyone else in a respectful way. There is of course always those whose interpretations vary greatly, but for myself, an elder who grew up with the language, culture and teachings carries alot of weight, whereas one who grew up in the city without their language or cultutre does not become an elder when thye turn 50 or begin to act like an Indian. I was raised by elders and medicine people so I am very familiar with their attitudes, ideas, opinions and beliefs. I have never seen any of them act, but simply live as they were taught and believe.

                        Olders regardless of who or what is said to them will always search out a forum where they can reinvent, brag or call down others. Often money, and alot of it is involved and often they have groupies of wannabees, born again injuns and other olders of varying ages. Their goal is attention, power and control, things they rarely had in their lives and they disrespect the pow-wow and ceremonial traditions by imitating and inventing raditions and protocolss that suit their quests. Sound familiar doesn't it boyz?



                        • #13
                          This is truely a historic moment. I think I am in complete agreement with you Kakakew! What you've said is sad but true and I believe it is one of the causes of the situation on the east coast( and other places too).Alot of those yahoos actually did "learn" from fullbloods or elders of the type you describe and instead of keeping their eyes, minds and hearts open to other information, or even seek it out, they took the words of these 'traditionals' as their bible and that was it. I have a simple rule but it works most of the time. If an Indian person is proclaiming all kinds of holyness and chieftanship but lives 1000's of miles from home, I must ask why. The purpose of being a medicine person or leader is to help the people, your people. If that person is not respected enough in thier own home land to keep them around, and if they feel some kind of missonary calling, then they're probably fakin' it!
                          Back to my original post though, traditional people are still around and those ways still exist yet since we're in the year 2000, evryone gives this as a reason to change and 'progress' the cultural traditions. I'm not against growth and progress but we should really think about a change and what effects it might have before we actually make it. Many people have suffered more than any of us can imagine to hold on to thier ways and to just flippantly make changes in these traditions because it's 2000 or whatever, is like telling those who suffered that they didn't matter. Now that's disrespecting our elders.


                          • #14


                            • #15
                              Double that "amen", RW!


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