American Indian College Fund. "It's a blessing to help serve the meal," I said. "There were over 200 Indian elders there, from dozens of different tribes." My friend lowered her head shyly and asked, "What's an elder?" Her question made me ponder how we treat elders in the dominant culture of which I am a part. She knew, of course, what an elder was but not in the context of a special event held strictly to honor our elders.
The day after the Elders Dinner, Rick Williams, president of the American Indian College Fund, sent a thank you note to those who had helped. In the note, he shared something he had written several years ago about elders, and he gave me his permission to share it here:
"Our Elders teach us who are ancestors were. Our Elders are our connection to everything in our past. It is with their knowledge that we understand how we fit into the World. Every Grandmother and Grandfather are sacred in many special ways. It is because of this that we will always 'Respect our Elders.' Hau, Mitaku Oyasin."
I think I will start compiling a list of all the literary elders who have appeared in the books I love. Maybe even a list of the literary elders who have written the books I cherish. Like the old fisherman Santiago in Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea? Or the aged Wang Lung and O-lan at the end of Pearl Buck's The Good Earth. The list is endless. If you have some favorites of your own, leave a comment here with their titles. We'll grow a list together!
2009 River Writing and Sculpting Journey - Lorilyn celebrating on party night with her 80-year-young mother, Lorraine. You can't help but smile!
Thank you to Jaime Aguilar and the American Indian College Fund for use of the dinner photos.
Read The Denver Post article by Tina Griego.