"Ezhi-apiitenimindwaa Gigichi-aya"aaminaanig" (Honoring Our Elders)
Red Lake Hosts Seventh Annual Gathering of Elders
May 5, 2017
Anishaa (Just for Fun) made up much of the agenda when the Red Lake Band hosted it's Seventh Annual Gathering of Elders at Seven Clans Casino (Red Lake) on Monday and Tuesday, May 1–2, 2017.
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 does it "anishaa." Red Lake youth mixed with elders as volunteers, helping to serve 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, an evaluation form, nomination form for King and Queen, 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. Just before 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 2017 Gathering of Elders. Later it would be valued piece among a plethora of door prizes.
Turning around, one saw the convention center filled with nearly 400 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 1, 2017
The event began with registration on Monday morning at 8. Around 9 a.m., Emcee Gary "Rez Dawg" Jourdain welcomed the crowd and gave a brief overview of the agenda. Hereditary Chief Jim Loud offered the invocation. Drum songs by Eyabay filled the event center 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.
"500 years now, they've been trying to get rid of us, but we're still here," said Seki. "Drugs and opiates brought in by non-members we cannot prosecute. We have an unfriendly administration Washington, who continue with promises broken and treaties violated."
"Be friends with one another," said Seki, "talk to your children and grandchildren. We as elders, we are the teachers, we have an obligation."
Bruce Emmel of Clearbrook was first up. He spoke of personal care, provided home health care information and Medicaid funding
John Nicholson who presented a program called "Balancing our lifestyles" followed Emmel. Nicholson sat on the steps leading to the stage and demonstrated to sit down exercises and other positions. He led the group through some stretching exercises with most participating.
From 11 am to 1 pm, music entertainment was provided by "Travesty" a five-man group from Turtle Mountain, who played mostly Country/Western, but could rock out a tune or two as well.
A dance competition began at 11:30 with several participants competing for five monetary rewards with Travesty providing the upbeat rhythms for the dancers.
Originally set to have three prizes of $150, $100 and $75, for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place, a 4th and 5th Place were added with prizes of $50 and $25 due to the high turnout for the contest.
Dance Competition Winners
1st Place - Elizabeth "Pug" Kingbird
2nd Place – Armella Neadeau
3rd Place – Maureen Lyons
4th Place - Lorna Royba
5th Place - Melba Roy
During this noon two hours, young people and event center employees served lunch in a quick and efficient manner. Elders enjoyed a meal of roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, wild rice, corn, rolls, and pie.
After lunch, young people from the Ponemah Dance Troupe demonstrated several dances with individuals performing in several spots on the floor, in the aisle and on stage. Of particular interest and pride, and to the surprise of some, were hoop dancing performances by the young people.
For the final formal activity for the afternoon, Red Lake Director of Public Safety Officer Kelly Brunelle and other public safety personnel educated the elders on drug awareness and other topics. Brunelle 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.
From 3 to 5 pm was designated free time. Some took advantage of the free cell phones available, there was a beauty booth on hair, nails, and make-up, and clipper cuts for men. And some perhaps, migrated to the casino. On Tuesday elders could get free photos taken at the Photo Booth staffed by E. Jourdain Jr., Photography. A light supper was served at 5 pm.
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 Cribbage, and Slot Tournaments. Little by little competitors were eliminated with the following results as winners of first, second, and third place prizes of $150, $100 and $75 for each category.
1st Place – Anthony Strong
2nd Place – Margaret Traxinger
3rd Place – Raymond Lopez
1st Place – Sherrlene "Sugie" Roberts
2nd Place – John Dudley
3rd Place – Gabriella Atkinson
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
After a light breakfast, there was an opening prayer by Spiritual Elder and Hereditary Chief, Greeting Spears, and a welcome by Amaya Pemberton. This was followed by a much-appreciated Red Lake High School Band performance.
For the next hour, laughter abounds with a performance by comedian Don Burnstick, a Cree from the Alexander First Nation located outside of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Burnstick made wry observations about Indian culture and idiosyncrasies, often times contrasted with White and Black culture. "Any White guys in the audience," asked Burnstick? When a few hands rose, Burnstick said to heavy laughter, "Well, there are only two reasons why you are here. You're either getting paid or you married one of us."
King & Queen Selection
Emcee Jourdain had explained earlier the ballot process for the selection of the 2017 Elders Gathering's King and Queen aided by Barb Beaulieu and Lilah Beaulieu. Last year's Queen and King were Elizabeth "Pug" Kingbird and Murphy Thomas. Kingbird sporting her Queen sash during much of the Gathering could be seen dancing and performing on several occasions. Thomas was not in attendance.
The ballots counted, Barb Beaulieu announced that the 2017 Red Lake Gathering of Elders King and Queen, Roy A. Gordon Bailey and Carol Barrett. Bailey recently turned 100 years old and is the oldest known member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians. Barrett is very active in language and culture revitalization often working with youth. Bailey and Barrett take over from the 2016 King and Queen Murphy Thomas and Elizabeth "Pug" Kingbird.
Nearing the noon hour and the end of the 2017 Gathering, 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 2017, 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