I have been reading many books lately on Native American Indians. I have been told many times over the years that I am part Cherokee Indian. So several years ago I set out on my journey to find the connection between myself and my Indian ancestors. With all this aside, I have instead found traditions that I was taught as a child and didn’t even think about the Indian in me.
I ran across this book that talked about the elders in a tribe. They were looked to for their wisdom and were not expected to help out with the chore of moving the camp from the summer place to the winter one. The young warriors were to do this for them. The elders didn’t do any of the chores or help to find food. Then one winter, the camp was moving again, only this time food was scarce and many people in the tribe were starving. The Chief had to make the worse decision of his life. He would have to leave the elders behind.
The elders were left with only a hatchet for their survival. The tribe had left. The elders, after many hours of weeping, decided that they were not going to sit around and wait for eminent death. They had remembered a camp they had visited long ago as children. They remembered the stream and how rich it was with fish. One elder even remembered how to make a small animal snare.
The elders packed up their belongings and headed for the camp. It was hard on them, for they were using muscles that hadn’t been used in years. It took them four days to reach the new camp. They were sore, tired, cold and hungry, but they celebrated anyway. For this was a victory for them. As the sun started to set, the elders decided to set up their camp. They slept long and hard that first night. The next morning they fished and trapped small animals like rabbits and squirrels. They had made it through the winter, and with much more food than they could eat.
In the meantime, the tribe was heading back to the summer camp. All of the people in the tribe were thinking that they would find the bones of the elders, but no one said a word about it aloud. When they reached the camp, there was no sign of the elders. The camp was gone and there were no bones. The tribe all looked at each other, stunned and bewildered. The chief ordered his scouts to go look for the elders. After a day and a half, the scouts stumbled upon the elders. The elders welcomed the scouts inside, but made no bones about how they felt for being left behind. The scouts were fed and sent back to the tribe with a message.
The hungry tribe awaited the return of the scouts. When the scouts returned, and the tribe was told that the elders were alive, the Chief was relieved. The scouts then delivered the message from the elders. The tribe could move to the elder camp. The elders would make sure that everyone was fed. However, the elders were to be left alone and not to be bothered by any of the tribe. The Chief agreed, and they were united once again.
Now even in today’s society, we look up to our elders and we respect them and help them as much as possible. However, in our busy lives, we find that we no longer can take care of our elders. So we place them in nursing homes or assisted living homes. Here they are left to die alone, just like the tribal elders.
We, as a society, need to take a step back and re-evaluate our family values, and remember that without our elders, we would not be here at all.