Red Lake Hosts Sixth Annual Gathering of Elders
"Ezhi-apiitenimindwaa Gigichi-aya"aaminaanig" (Honoring Our Elders)
Anishaa (Just for Fun) made up much of the agenda when Red Lake hosted it's Sixth Annual Gathering of Elders at Seven Clans Casino (Red Lake) on Monday and Tuesday, May 9 – 10, 2016.
Red Lake Elders 55 and older came not only from reservation communities, but from Bois Forte, White Earth and Leech Lake, Duluth and the Twin Cities. They were coming home, coming home to visit with relatives and long-time friends.
An important part of the Gathering has been to provide a venue for youth and elders to interact and learn from each other and do it "anishaa." Red Lake youth mixed with elders as volunteers, serving meals, and providing information and entertainment.
Upon entering Seven Clans, the lobby was abuzz with old friends catching up on the latest news. Some were lined up registering for the Gathering. They received a recyclable tote bag (imprinted with the familiar Gathering of Elders logo), which was filled with agendas, a family history questionnaire, and an array of small gifts.
Informational booths on tribal programs and services available for elders filled the available space left and right. Some visited these displays registering for prizes, while others chatted on comfy couches and chairs at the center of the lobby.
Others already seated in the Event Center sipped coffee and nibbled away at a light breakfast. Entering the center and off to the right, "Gatherers" chose a souvenir T-shirt and signed a canvas wrap poster printed with the logo of the 2016 Gathering of Elders. Later it would be valued piece among a plethora of door prizes.
Turning around, one saw the convention center filled with more than 300 registrants with nary an empty chair available. Many young men and women scurried about visiting with and assisting elders, highlighting again a key part of the Gathering, the mixing of youth and elders in intergenerational activities.
Monday, May 9, 2016
The event began with registration on Monday morning at 8. Around 9 a.m., Emcee Murphy Thomas welcomed the crowd and gave a brief overview of the agenda. Spiritual/Cultural advisor, Miskwaanakwad/Red Cloud (Eugene Stillday) offered the invocation. Drum songs by Eyabay followed as the Red Lake Honor Guard, followed by Red Lake Royalty, posted the colors.
Next came a welcome by Red Lake Chairman Darrell G. Seki, Sr. Seki, as is his custom, began his remarks in his first language, Ojibwemowin. An elder himself, Seki encouraged those present to talk to young people about this maazhi-mashkiki (bad medicine) that is ravaging the youth of the nation, drugs, alcohol, gangs, and suicide. "Be friends with one another," said Seki, "talk to your children and grandchildren. We as elders, we are the teachers, we have an obligation."
Host and emcee Thomas then introduced Larry Yazzi and the Native Pride Dancers. Yazzi, who will turn 50 this year and dressed in colorful regalia, first played the flute before performing the beautiful eagle dance to the drumbeat of Eyabay. Also demonstrated were jingle dress and fancy shawl dancing. Near the end, the Native Pride dancers went into the audience and asked elders to come to the stage and dance with Yazzi and the dancers. Among the volunteers were Chairman Seki, Red Lake Treasurer Annette Johnson, and this writer.
On to more serious subjects, Karen Holstein Bedeau and Carol Priest did a PowerPoint presentation on Dementia Awareness. There are many types of dementia, Alzheimer's being just one kind and the one with which we are most familiar. They described ten 10 symptoms of dementia to pay attention to for yourself or others. If diagnosed early, dementia can be slowed down. Bedeau and Priest also described how to make plans if you or a loved one is diagnosed with dementia.
Connie Berg then introduced Tammy Fluto who would present a session entitled "Working with Social Security." Fluto, who works in the Social Security office in in Bemidji, gave some very good information about who is eligible for Social Security benefits, when one becomes eligible, and much more about the services of the office.
Young people and event center employees served lunch in a quick and efficient manner. Elders enjoyed a meal of walleye, roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, wild rice, beans, rolls, and cherry or blueberry crisp. While lunching the band Black Bird, an all-Native group from Belcourt, ND, began setting up on stage for a later performance.
After lunch, former Elder's Conference organizer and now Family & Children Services director Cheri Goodwin took the mic for a presentation entitled the "Current Drug Epidemic and Raising Healthy Children." After reminiscing for a while and sharing a bit about her new job, Goodwin introduced Red Lake Public Safety Officers Dana Lyons and Ron Leyba. Lyons and Leyba narrated an excellent PowerPoint presentation on drugs, detailing recent drug busts, photos of what various drugs look like, and what to watch out for and symptoms of those who might be engaged in dangerous drug use or activity. The elders were very engaged in this exercise with many questions and comments.
Due to time constrictions, a session called "Balancing Life styles" with John Nicholson was postponed and instead Cherilyn Spears and Sarah Lussier with Michael Vanhorn shared some gardening tips and did a food demonstration.
The day finished up with music from the eight member family band Black Bird, limo rides, and a light supper. During the course of the one and a half hour performance a dance competition was held. The prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place were $100, $75 and $50.
1st Place – Elizabeth "Pug" Kingbird
2nd Place – Vicki Schnepp
3rd Place – Marilyn Spears
In the evening people went their separate ways, but for those so inclined, a Late Night Session provided a little friendly competition for cash prizes. They included Black Jack, Cribbage, and Slot Tournaments. Little by little competitors were eliminated with the following results as winners of first, second, and third place prizes of $100, $75 and $50 for each category.
1st Place – Doug Spears
2nd Place – Phyllis Johnson
3rd Place – Deb Bissonette
1st Place – Charlys May
2nd Place – William A. May, Sr.
3rd Place – Douglas Roberts
1st Place – Maggie Spears
2nd Place – Evelyn Smith
3rd Place – Tony Mattson
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Following a light breakfast, the eldest of the elders, 99-year-old Gordon Bailey gave a welcome and opening remarks.
Up next was the always-popular talent show with several elders telling stories and singing songs.
Talent Show Winners (Prizes $100, $75, and $50)
1st Place – Anna Gibbs, (Singing)
2nd Place – Elizabeth "Pug" Kingbird (story if 3 Little Pigs in Ojibwemowin)
3rd Place William Spears (guitar/singing)
"We are fulfilling a prophecy! One of the old prophesies said young people will be born with old spirits. Young people will be going to the drum and singing the old songs. Young people will go to the elders and start asking, asking for directions. And this is what these young people are doing. I'm very proud of them." ~Larry Stillday, (The Camp at Ponemah Round House, 2013) "The Road to Ponemah."
The event center came alive when 15 to 20 four and five year-olds climbed the stage and sat cross-legged for a Youth Showcase with the Red Lake Head Start Ojibwemowin Immersion School. As Head Start classroom elder Frances Miller moved from child to child singing a song in Ojibwe, the children would answer back in song and in Ojibwe. Cameras flashed and smiles were all around as the elders heard the young ones singing and speaking their language.
King & Queen Selection
Emcee Thomas explained the ballot process for the selection of the 2016 Gathering's King and Queen aided by Barb Beaulieu and Lilah Beaulieu. Last year's Mindimooye (female elder, literally "One who Holds Things Together") and Akiwenzii (male elder, literally "Earth Protector") were Susan Johnson and Willie Strong. Strong spoke to the crowd about how proud they were to travel about and represent Red Lake during several events over the past year.
Nominated candidates for 2016 Queen and King took seats on the stage. The ballots already counted, Barb Beaulieu took the crown and moved it above the heads of the candidates back and forth and eventually settling on Elizabeth "Pub" Kingbird and Murphy Thomas, who will represent Red Lake elders in that capacity over the next year.
Many door prizes were quickly handed out, with nearly all winners in the room having stayed for the duration. A Closing Ceremony followed with Eyabay playing a Traveling Song.
The 2016, Gathering of Elders Thanks the Following Programs and Enterprises:
* Red Lake Tribal Council
* Red Lake Gaming Enterprises
* All Community Coordinators
* Comprehensive Health
* Red Lake VFW Post
* Red Lake Nation Royalty
* Red Lake Net News
* Jourdain/Perpich Extended Care
* Red Lake IT Department