Protecting Elders from abuse, neglect, exploitation, and maltreatment is a concern that must be addressed by all. As our elder population increases so do the concerns of how to treat them with respect and courtesy.
I will introduce my clans in the Navajo Way.
Yá’át’ééh (It is good; welcome; hello) shik’éí dóó shidine’é (my family and my people, friends) Shí éí Gwendolyn yinishyé (I am called Gwendolyn)
In Navajo culture, every person has four clans in the following order: the mother’s first clan, the father’s first clan, the maternal grandfather’s first clan, and the paternal grandfather’s first clan.
Mother’s clan bilagáana
Father’s clan bilagáana
Maternal grandfather’s clan Cajun/French
Paternal grandfather’s clan Welsh/Irish/English
Ákót’éego diné asdzáán nishłį́ (In this way, I am bilagáana woman).
I was born and raised on the Navajo Reservation in Northern Arizona. Navajo culture refers to the elderly as “grandma” and “grandpa” regardless of any blood relation, so I am considered a “granddaughter” to many. I have a responsibility to assist them in any way I can. Seeing the poverty and starvation, prompted me to raise awareness and begin a few projects via Facebook.
My first project was named Native Shawls for Native Elders. I began asking for handmade shawls to be made to hand out to the Elders here at the Tsehootsooi area. I had access to elders through Chapter Houses and the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona. Donations started coming to my house in July of 2017 and the gifting began. By Christmas of that year, we had gifted more than 60 shawls. We combined food baskets and clothes items to create Santa bags. My dad dressed up as Santa and drove me around to do house visits and play Mrs. Claus. That tradition has remained with our family.
My next project was the babies. Many of the families I knew did not have blankets for their babies or children. I love babies, and I babysit many nights. I asked my mom how she could help me get gift baskets to the new mothers upon the Obstetrics ward. Another call on Facebook was placed and baby items began pouring in. It was a gift to move from Elders to babies. The grandmothers are usually the caregivers for the infants. It became a full Circle, The Circle of Life.
Recently I collected food to deliver to the Elders during the COVID 19. This has been one of the hardest things to assist with. I had been around poverty but not on this level. We masked up and drove down the dirt roads for hours to get to the desolate remote houses. Honking the horn and watching the Elders hobble out of their one-room Hogans is heartbreaking. If anyone needed help it is this population.
Considering what I can do for my community to assist the Elders, I would continue doing all of my projects. I would keep asking for help and still love all that I come in contact with. I believe that you should do whatever you can to help where you are planted. Growing and blooming everywhere. I believe we all must Walk In Beauty.
Scholarship Essay by Gwendolyn Mechelle Morgan-Flowers