The National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA)’s collection of digital stories share the personal journeys and experiences of American Indian and Alaska Native elders as they relate to current issues, programs, and how to integrate them with Native ways of life.
The stories were created, written, and voiced by elders and paired with their personal photos and other media to provide a visual storytelling aspect to the traditional oral storytelling. Through these stories, NICOA seeks to help educate and encourage tribal communities, the Aging Network, and policymakers to positively impact the future of American Indian and Alaska Native elders.
NICOA worked with the Native group nDigiDreams to gather elders to share their stories about their lives and how their experiences were impacted by federal programs such as the Older Americans Act, Social Security, healthcare and the Senior Community Service Employment Program. The nDigiDreams video production team is made up of Native women who have created over 1,500 digital stories across the country.
Our stories help to highlight the value in the services and programs NICOA provides, which includes workshops and educational materials on social services and health programs. Some of the stories focus on financial capability and the resiliency of Native people, opening difficult but important discussions about finances, debt, and budgeting.
In these videos Native elders share their hardships, lessons, and successes related to money with beautiful words and imagery. These stories help to provide insight into NICOA’s Elder Equity program, adapted from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Your Money, Your Goals toolkit. The program was developed to build American Indian and Alaska Native elders’ financial capability and help them avoid financial exploitation.
The power of storytelling has been a Native tradition for time immemorial. Through digital storytelling we can share, heal, and inspire our communities. Digital storytelling offers unique differences from other approaches which is why it is a great fit for Native elders.
NICOA presents heartfelt videos by Native elders about lives lived with courage, humor and resilience. Each elder’s story is a living legacy for generations to come.
NICOA gratefully acknowledges the participating elders for being an inspiration, and for their contribution to the life of our people. Our videos are posted below, but can also be found on NICOA’s YouTube channel.
Each elder’s story is a living legacy for the generations to come. The National Indian Council on Aging gratefully acknowledges the participating elders for being an inspiration and for their contribution to the life of our people.
Stephanie Ballew is Penobscot, Irish, and Slovakian. She shares the valuable lessons she learned from her grandparents and how those lessons carried her through divorce, being a single parent, meeting her educational goals, and surviving the loss of her second husband to cancer.
Former National Indian Council on Aging Executive Director Randella Bluehouse tells the story of her Navajo roots and familial influences. She describes how these have shaped her life and vision to serve elders in Indian Country.
Denver March Powwow Executive Director Grace Gillette, from the Fort Berthold Reservation of North Dakota, shares her story.
Clara Fernando, an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna in New Mexico, talks about being a successful self-employed artist. She shares how she was inspired by watching her father work hard to provide for the family. And just like her father, she’s passing the life lessons she learned to her two young sons.
Ms. Villarreal, of Pojoaque Pueblo, New Mexico, reflects on her over 40 years serving in many roles within the Pojoaque Tribal Council and how caring and tradition (including encouraging a return to traditional dancing) has helped her village and people.
Elder Norby Blake, an enrolled member of the White Earth Tribe, shares his history as a community organizer and how he helped build the very first urban health clinic in the nation for American Indians in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Ms. Navarro shares the rich history and influence of her Comanche heritage. She reflects on her role as interpreter for her grandparents as a young child, her career as a nurse, and her dedication to teaching the Comanche language to future generations.
Linda Woods, a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians in Michigan, tells the story of her family’s maternal lineage and how three generations of strong Odawa women were the heart of their families.
Sandra Romero, an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Pojoaque in New Mexico, tells her story of attending an all English speaking school and being bullied. She shares what she learned from the experience as well as lessons learned from her parents that she’s passing on to her own children and grandchildren, along with the beautiful Tewa language and culture.
Ms. Romero, of Pojoaque Pueblo, New Mexico, tells of her challenges and resiliency in navigating her health journey, and the importance of cultural competency in successfully delivering services to Native elders.
Deborah Joan Guerrero, from the Eagle Brown Bear Clan, is Tlingit and Filipino on her father’s side and Snohomish Cowlitz, French Canadian, Irish and German on her mother’s side. She shares the story of her upbringing, education, career, her tumultuous relationship, and becoming a role model for her family.
Roland Cheeku (Paiute/Zuni) tells of his long and dedicated service to Indian Country, in a variety of capacities. He sends a message to leaders, employers, educators and policymakers that there is a growing number of highly trained and qualified elder American Indians and that programs like the National Indian Council on Aging’s Senior Community Service Employment Program need more funding.
Ms. Garcia tells the story of her upbringing with her family on the Santa Domingo Pueblo of New Mexico, the rich cultural traditions that influenced her career as a professional nurse, and the current chapter of her life — learning new job skills through the National Indian Council on Aging’s Senior Community Service Employment Program and what this means for her.
Kathy Brito has worked in various capacities all her life. As an elder now, she describes the discrimination she experiences in spite of being an accomplished and dedicated worker. She credits the National Indian Council on Aging’s Senior Community Service Employment Program as the answer to her prayers, and is now developing new job skills to continue working as an elder.
Cassandra Manuelito Kerkvliet, the first Native woman to lead a mainstream university, shares the financial knowledge she learned from her family and how she taught herself about saving money, budgeting, planning ahead, and money management.