I am very excited to share with you the forming of an:
Indigenous Elders Council,
How that is defined and why it is an exciting prospect: An Elders Council is actively involved in every aspect of the community and not only the ceremonial rites. It is the transmission of the language, teachings on language and culture that helps with protocol, customs, leadership, and cultural practices that the elders are looked upon foremost. The elders advice and teachings are based on the oral histories, oral governments and laws. I still ask my elders for advice in everything that I say and do each and every time.
To avoid future confusion as to who may or may not speak on behalf of the American Indian population here in Kansas City we have decided to partner with this Council and will be endorsing and supporting the Elders by announcing who those Council members are and how they can be contacted, we will then place an information & contact page on our website to include meetings, times and dates.
Some questions you may be asking yourself:
What makes an Elder?
The big challenge in answering this question is that not all communities are the same and it really depends on the culture or community to define what makes an Elder.
One common trait amongst Indigenous Elders is a deep spirituality that influences every aspect of their lives and teachings. They strive to show by example – by living their lives according to deeply ingrained principles, values and teachings.
Do you have to be a certain age to be an elder?
Being an Elder is not defined by age, but rather Elders are recognized because they have earned the respect of their community through wisdom, harmony and balance of their actions in their teachings.
Can both men and women be elders?
Being an Elder is not gender specific as in my own experience I know both male and female Elders.
Is the role of an Elder the same everywhere you go across the country?
While the exact role of Elders may change from community to community, there are common principles that Elders try to instill in their community members such as respect for the natural world and that the earth is their mother. Indigenous Elders are deeply committed to share their knowledge, provide guidance, teach others to respect the natural world, to learn to listen and feel the rhythms of the elements and seasons.
Has the role of Elders changed over time?
In some communities, when families move apart, Elders will travel to visit the family members in order to keep in touch and to prevent them from forgetting their connections. In some jurisdictions, Elders have a real presence in the schools. Some Elders have also formed organizations, with regular meetings and websites such as the AIEBC.
What are the duties of elders?
In my experience, the duties of an Elder today can include: conducting smudges, sweats, prayers, opening prayers, counseling, sweetgrass ceremonies and negotiations to name but a few.
Are gifts welcome or expected?
There are four sacred plants: tobacco, sweet grass, sage and cedar. A gift of one of the four sacred plants is seen as recognition of the wisdom an Elder can share. In Inuit culture, tobacco is not used ceremonially.
Are you claiming that you represent local American Indians?
Just some of the issues faced by the local American Indian community is that people with little or no experience what so ever are stepping up and addressing problems that they have no idea of and in many instances the issues are arising from non Indians and organizations that are multi cultural or have no ties to the Indian community but yet use misleading titles like “National” with the word Indian in its title and the community does not have a direct voice in the matter and they find themselves simply at the mercy of these “people”. This Elders Council gives a voice back to the American Indian community and the actual people that bear the barriers placed in front of them daily.
Want to learn more? Attend a meeting or an event such as our Christmas event (there is no cost to come out and join us) where we honor our Elders and speak on issues such as misrepresentation and the watering down or marginalizing of our culture.
Absolutely Everyone is invited!