By Mel Sheldon, Chairman of The Tulalip Tribes
Elders are the heart of our tribal community.
To understand the place they hold in our culture it is important to first consider our notion of time. The generations, one after another, are bound together across and through time by our culture. To this end, the past, the present and the future are lived simultaneously. Respect, responsibility, and sharing are the foundational and most important values we aspire to as a people. We have learned this from our elders.
Elders are the knowledge keepers of our traditions. They are our first and greatest teachers. Without them we would not have the stories and teachings that help us to understand how we should conduct ourselves in the world. They see it as their responsibility to share what they have learned. It is our responsibility to listen so that we can share these teachings with the next generation. This is how we have survived here in the Puget Sound since the beginning of time.
The right to self-determination, to govern ourselves according to the political autonomy reserved by the Point Elliot Treaty of 1855, and prioritized by generations of our leaders, starts with the determination of our elders to hold on to our culture. Many of the institutions we have built over several decades at Tulalip are simply a reflection of the values that have bound us together for eons. Respect your elders, listen to their teachings, honor their sacrifices, keep the children safe, and ensure culture and natural resources are available for future generations.
Today, even as we continue to navigate the tensions of living in two worlds it is our belief in the soundness of these ancient lifeways that inform the most important decisions we make.
We raise our hands in honor and respect for all of our elders in the Puget Sound community!
The Tulalip Tribes Charitable Fund TulalipCares.org is a grant maker to the Bayview Intergenerational Children’s Center.
Banner Photo Title: Darkfeather, Bibiana and Eckos Ancheta, Tulalip
Matika Wilbur Photography