May is recognized as Older Americans Month, a time to celebrate the contributions and achievements of older Americans, particularly our elders. For American Indian and Alaska Native elders, this month holds a special significance as they are the keepers of our cultural and traditional knowledge.
Native American elders have a wealth of knowledge and experience that has been passed down for generations. They are the guardians of our stories, traditions, and customs, and they play a vital role in maintaining our cultural heritage.
As we celebrate Older Americans Month, it is important to recognize the unique challenges that Native American elders face. Many Native American elders live in rural or remote areas, making access to healthcare, transportation, and other essential services difficult. Additionally, language barriers and cultural differences can create obstacles to receiving the care and support they need.
Despite these challenges, Native American elders continue to be active members of their communities. They serve as mentors, teachers, and leaders, passing on their knowledge and wisdom to younger generations. They are also active in community events and ceremonies, ensuring that our traditions and customs are kept alive.
As we honor our Native American elders during Older Americans Month, it is important to remember that they are not only valuable members of our communities, but they are also deserving of respect and care. We can show our appreciation by volunteering our time, advocating for their needs, and providing them with the support they require.
In conclusion, Native American elders play a vital role in our communities and in preserving our cultural heritage. During Older Americans Month, let us take the time to recognize their contributions and honor their wisdom and experience.
For over 45 years, we at the National Indian Council on Aging have worked to ensure the best for our Native elders, their families, and communities. We are committed to providing services for Native elders, but the power to provide starts with you.
Your involvement and support bring attention, education, and improved services to elders and people with disabilities across Indian Country. Every elder deserves access to the services and resources necessary to age independently, with dignity, and in their chosen community.
The Native Elder Storytelling Project
The National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA)’s collection of digital stories share the personal journeys and experiences of 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 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. Our videos can also be found on NICOA’s YouTube channel.