By DR. JOHN EDWARDS
Former Governor, Absentee Shawnee Tribe
AARP Oklahoma Executive Council
According to Native American tradition, leaders should always look seven generations behind and seven generations ahead when making decisions. It’s a way of making sure that our past is always connected to our future.
What can we learn from the past? As Indian people we are taught the ways of our people through stories, song and language. We know the value of respecting and honoring our elders and the importance of passing on their wisdom to future generations.
For the past five years, AARP Oklahoma has honored Indian elders in a special program held annually in the fall. The AARP Oklahoma Indian Elder Honors brings together all 39-federally recognized tribes and nations in a spirit of harmony and unity to celebrate the contributions of our elders.
Past honorees have included artists, dancers, language preservationists, ministers, tribal leaders, mothers and fathers. You can nominate an Indian elder to be recognized by AARP by clicking HERE. Nominees must be living and must be an enrolled member of a federally recognized tribe in Oklahoma. Deadline for nomination is June 30th.
But AARP’s work with Oklahoma’s Native American community is not limited to the past. During my six years as a member of the AARP Oklahoma Executive Council, I have had the chance to work on projects that are planting seeds for the future.
A good example of this seed planting is AARP’s partnership with the Osage, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Muscogee Creek and Cherokee nations, the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center to present the 7th Generations Conference April 14-16th in Midwest City.
Native Americans in Oklahoma suffer greater health disparities than most other people in the state. The 7th Generations Conference will focus on improving health access and disparity in Indian Country and caregiving. AARP will also present a healthy cooking demonstration that will offer education on how to break the cycle of unhealthy nutrition among Indian people. World-renowned Chef Loretta Barrett Oden, a member of the Potawatomi Nation, will present the demonstration.
Click HERE to register for the 7th Generations Conference.
Finally, I want to encourage my fellow tribal members to consider getting involved with the AARP Oklahoma Inter-Tribal Community Group. We’re working on projects and events – including health, cultural preservation and the Indian Elder Honors – that will help fulfill AARP’s mission in the Native American community: to enhance the quality of life for all as we age.
For more information on the Inter-Tribal Community Group, the 6th Annual AARP Oklahoma Indian Elder Honors or the 7th Generation Conference visit the AARP Oklahoma Indian Navigator HERE.
(Dr. John Edwards is former Governor of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe. He has served as a member of AARP Oklahoma’s Executive Council for six years, is a minister and a Peacekeeper in the Chickasaw Nation’s Peacemaking Court.)