Northern Plains Reservation Aid (formerly American Indian Relief Council)
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Success Stories

Honor Your Elders

Photo of Elder and child

One of the greatest lessons a child can learn is to honor his or her Elders. Not only does this practice pay tribute to our older Americans’ contributions to society, but the child gains new respect and empathy.

Elders have an important role in sharing knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of Native American history. This is a priceless gift and is deeply ingrained in the Native American culture.

One wonderful young lady, Linay, has taken this to heart.

Linay is the Activities Director of a nursing home in South Dakota. She has implemented some multi-generational activities using her own young son, Alex, as inspiration.

“The first time I brought Alex up, he was shy,” shared Linay. “I invited his classroom to give ornaments to the Elders during the holidays and he opened up.” Apparently, Alex took more of an active role once his peers were with him. He was pleased to show them around the nursing home.

One Elder, Paul, appreciates the time Alex spends at the home. Linay explained, “They like to chat.” It’s great that Paul and Alex have a visit whenever Alex is at the nursing home.

This made for a perfect backdrop when one of our long-time Program Partners, Mary, of the Martin Community Action Program (CAP), approached Linay with a proposition.

The pitch was to “improve generational activities by sponsoring interactions between 4-H members, CAP students, recipients, and Elders of the Bennett County Nursing Home.” Mary had utilized many of our services to benefit her community… particularly the Elders. The Community Event service was a perfect complement to this meeting of minds and hearts!

Photo of Study Quote

Linay was happy to accept the offer of this community event and invited community youths to visit the Elders at the nursing home.

She said, “In the summertime there are youth groups that come in and participate in community service. They come by for a couple of days and help out around here.” That’s nice, but then they are gone and the Elders may not see them again. The idea of inviting youth from within the community is more sustainable and has the ability for a longer impact on both students and Elders.

Linay is always looking for new and fun things for the Elders to do at the home. Bingo is a popular activity with them. So popular that it’s offered a couple of times a week and they receive small prizes. A representative from the Oglala Lakota College Center has also visited. They told stories and sang Lakota songs to the residents. Many of the residents appreciated this connection with the language and culture. “Quite a few speak Lakota as their first language,” Linay shared.

Photo of Elder students

Linay was a CNA (Certified Nurse Assistant) at the nursing home before becoming the Activities Director. She had quit to stay home with her children, but after a year couldn’t stay away any longer.

She has learned a lot from working with Elders. According to Linay, some of those lessons included, “patience and respect, as well as learning to be non-judgmental.”

When asked what she enjoyed the most, Linay stated, “seeing the residents have fun.” They make her think of her own grandmother and the things she would do with Linay as a child to keep them busy. She added, “She was always thinking about things to do with the kids. She taught us to sew and do dishes. Playtime was best when you used your own imagination.”

How wonderful it was to hear this young woman honoring the teachings of her Native grandmother and passing on these values to a new generation!

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