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Vtla Kaliseji - Native American Diabetes Resources

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An Open Appeal To Our Elders

I am writing this open appeal to Native American Elders with diabetes, and why they should take care of themselves.

Elders, we need you. You are precious, you are our history, you are our wisdom and we need you. A number of you don't care about your diabetes. You don't care about the problems, you feel that as an elder, you should be able to eat what you want, do what you want, you've earned it, and damn it, you're going to have it.

It's not working.

This young woman is asking you, is pleading with you, to please, please, listen to your doctor and follow the instructions to care for yourself. We need you, Elders. We need your advice, your wisdom and your strength to rebuild the Native American Community in the world, and to teach the traditions to a new generation who are growing up making up traditions as they go along.

Why do we need you, you may ask. What purpose would you serve? What could you do to help the generations to come and why am I attempting with this message to reach out to you and ask you to care about yourself? Allow me to tell you why.

I don't go to pow wows, our social gatherings, as much as I used to, and I've been a traditional dancer for over 25 years. Why don't I go? Because I see children, young people, pretending that they know protocol and traditions, behaving like spoiled brats in the arena. I see the drum disrespected with drugs and alcohol - the heartbeat of our Mother Earth is being dishonored. I see the blessed arena crossed, showing disrespect for the arena and for the dancers, and more importantly, for Mother Earth, who we, as her children, are supposed to honor. I see regalia not worn correctly. I see regalia that is inappropriately colored or made without the respect and dignity of the tribe who the dancer is supposed to represent. The tribes, whose ancestors fought and died to have that regalia worn with respect, are being dishonored and disrespected. I see fighting near the arena, disrespecting it and the drum. But the worst I see are pow wow committees, who, without the guidance of elders, are allowing this stuff to continue, and are doing nothing whatsoever to prevent it. Is it not our duty to teach the young ones, to teach them proper respect for our culture and that of others? Is it not the duty of the elders to prepare the young generations for the future, using the wisdom that has been handed down to them from generations past?

Here are a few incidents from the recent pow wow history that are prompting me to make this open appeal to you, our most treasured of people, our elders, to please care for yourselves and help our children learn the right way:

1. A young dancer, in the arena, has her traditional coming out. She is wrapped in cotton gauze and comes out twirling to the dance club mix of Mariah Carey's "Butterfly." I didn't know that traditional dancers came out that way. Not what my elders taught me.

2. Dancers wearing regalia that show deliberately naked behinds or naked genitalia, worn deliberately so that as the dancers move, modesty is thrown to the four winds.

3. Dancers wearing regalia in colors which are taboo for their tribes, worn because it looks nice, but bringing dishonor to the tribe because those colors were assigned to SPECIFIC classes of people or for SPECIFIC reasons.

4. Dancers wearing regalia that is "pseudo regalia" and not what is correct historically or culturally for their tribe, or wearing pow wow regalia that is not correct for the style of dancing they are doing (Northern, Southern, Jingle, Fancy).

5. At a pow wow to honor a fallen Cherokee veteran, an "honoring fire" was lit and kept lit with scrap lumber, not with the woods appropriate for this purpose. The fire keeper did not do his job, did not know his job, and eventually passed it off to someone who knew nothing about the significance of fire and who basically slacked as well.

6. Inappropriate dances being performed in public settings or at inappropriate times.

7. Complete disrespect during Veteran's Songs, such as goofing off, acting up, not removing hats and not showing appropriate respect for our Veterans, who have bled for their people and are deserving of all the respect we can give them.

8. Songs being sung that are inappropriate and in one case, foster hatred of other tribes and superiority of other tribes.

9. Drums being mocked by the Master of Ceremonies because they are not the style the MC prefers.

10. Tribes being mocked, abused or humiliated by pow wow staff, particularly the MC, because the MC doesn't like that particular tribe, or because it's fun to do so.

Elders, it's time to take the pow wow arena back from these brats (and I call them brats because that is exactly how they are behaving), and teach the traditions that we have guarded so preciously and so carefully in our hearts and minds. The purpose of the pow wow is to gather, to pass on wisdom and teach the young ones the ways of our ancestors because that is how we maintain and keep our living, breathing culture.

It is only by you, OUR ELDERS, keeping yourself well, caring for yourself, that you will have the strength to go and help teach our young ones the traditional ways. We must do this, if only to keep the honor of our ancestors, who fought and died to keep these traditions alive for our generation to carry and enjoy.


I ask this not for myself but for all future generations. Wado (Thank you).

Vtla Kaliseji Administrator