American Indians have deep respect for the age, knowledge and wisdom of
the elders. They value the counsel of the elders, which includes the belief that
the grandmother in American Indian tradition is the first teacher of the
children. Tribal governments have recognized this value and provide many
services to the elders. Tribes provide for special housing units for the elders
and elders receive such services as transportation for shopping, church and
medical appointments, as well as elder nutrition programs. The community
as a whole pays special attention to elders by recognizing them at special
events. Another example of the respect given to elders in the community can
be seen at powwows or feasts. The elders are the first in line at a feast, or
children are seen filling plates and taking them to the elders. This can be
seen in the home of traditional American Indian families as well.
Community organizations often have a designated position on committees for
elder representatives. Adults in the community will often drop in to visit the
elders, include them in family celebrations and keep them involved in
community activities. Adults in the community will provide for the elders by
bringing a portion of their gifts, such as deer meat, wild rice, syrup and fish.
Children imitate this behavior. Many communities continue to teach young
people that the first deer harvested is shared with the community,
particularly the elders.