Elders Are Our Memory Banks. Taking the COVID-19 Vaccine Can Save Them.
January 20, 2021
Native Americans in California and across the country lost two giants on the same day at the end of December-Joseph Myers and Chairman Marshall McKay. Both were my longtime friends. Their influence and fierce protection of our culture and traditions were invaluable. Mr. Myers was a leader in fostering legal justice and a pioneer in tribal law and successfully helped reverse the termination of 17 California Indian Rancherias. He passed away from long-term cardiac issues. Chairman McKay, who passed from the novel coronavirus, co-founded the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation on the board of the National Museum of the American Indian and served as the first Indigenous Chair of the Autry Museum of the American West and led his tribe to economic sustainability. Both accomplished much more than I can list here.
Earlier this month The New York Times published a story about the impact of losses to the virus of so many Native American elders like Chairman McKay. Elders are our memory banks, our resource guides, the Encyclopedia Britannica of our spiritual traditions, language, culture, history and knowledge of the natural world. They are the bridges from the past to the future. This is why protection against the virus is so critical to everyone in the nation, but particularly for America's First People, who have been systematically and historically deprived of so much of our heritage.