My parents moved out of the state during my last two years of college. During that time I visited my grandparents--who still lived nearby-- weekly for dinner. I had never spent that much time with my grandparents. Our conversation quickly became more personal and intimate. My grandfather provided advice for my first job. Granny rubbed my back when I cried over senior year projects and post-graduate job rejections. I always left their house with leftovers for my next meal. My grandparents became my parents during those years. Of course they did—grandparents are parents too.
In a general sense, the Western world has shed the term ‘elder’. Grandparents are there to spoil their grandchildren more than provide guidance or demand respect and honor. The lack of mulit-generational family homes in this country means that grandparents are more removed from family life than ever before. Grandparents Day is this month and any day commemorating a person means that some respect is due. Our grandparents deserve honor. There are grandparents, specifically grandmothers out there, that are worthy of honor today.
Thirteen grandmothers, to be exact.
The International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers are a global alliance of “prayer, education and healing for our Mother Earth, all Her inhabitants, all the children, and for the next seven generations to come”. The members of this council come from four continents, numerous tribes and a variety of peoples. The grandmothers believe that traditional medicine, ancient healing rituals, and prayer are the keys to establishing a more stable future for humanity.
The grandmothers first gathered in 2004 on the land of the people of the Iroquois Confederacy. They felt compelled that the planet needed a “new global” alliance to combat environmental destruction, a widespread materialistic culture, nuclear weapons and waste, and the destruction of indigenous ways of life. A trailer for the film “For the Next 7 Generations” opens with the story that the members of the council all received a message: the world is in agony. We must come together to heal her, and all her inhabitants.
How beautiful. How beyond beauty. How important: these grandmothers are spending the final chapter of their lives working for the future.
It is easy to point out that not all grandparents made decisions with “the next 7 generations” in mind. Many selfish decisions were made in the past. Those choices lead us to wars, environmental crises, and social inequality. This is true but like any generalization, there are exceptions. There are grandparents out there working hard for the future.
The thirteen indigenous grandmothers are bringing back ancient rituals that connect us to nature, like the ceremony to welcome the returning Salmon in Oregon. They are working for sustainability in our agricultural practices by collecting and cataloging a diverse supply of seeds. Most importantly, the grandmothers are fighting to protect our water: to keep it clean, and available to all people. Water may not be the root of all life, but the root of life will die without water.
I like the term elder, because it doesn’t necessitate being a parent, or grandparent. Anyone with enough years under their belt has collected wisdom, stories and a unique perspective in time; our journey through life allows us to speak for the future. What does it say about our world when even the elders are worried? While they are still with me, I want to ask my grandparents about the future.