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10 Ways to Tell: ‘You Know You're a Native Elder When…’

Indian Country Today Media Network asked the question “You Know You’re a Native Elder When …” and readers responded, here are the top 10.

As the years begin to pass us by and it seems there are more and more young ones running around at pow wows, how is it we know when we are becoming a Native Elder?

We decided to reach out to Indian country on social media by asking the following: Finish the following phrase: "You Know You're a Native Elder When…” we received hundreds of responses on our Facebook Page.

So if you were wondering if you might be a Native Elder check this list we have compiled below from the hundreds of comments we received. Then you too will be able to finish the phrase, You Know You're a Native Elder When…”

10. When all the kids call you Grandma or Grandpa, even if you are not related to them

Are you Grandma or Grandpa to every young person that you see? Even to those young ones you don’t recognize? Then you are definitely a Native Elder. If they are using auntie or uncle, you are getting close.

We have to give credit to Agnetha Gloshay on Facebook for coming up with this, the most popular comment with 76 likes and growing. A lot of folks also gave similar comments including 60-year-old Inupiaq elder, Lena Oksoktaruk-Wood who said everyone calls her grandma even though she doesn’t have grandkids.

9. You tell stories that contain “back in my day, when we were children” and usually end with ‘we played outside with a stick and imagination”

Yes, the good ole days…these words often may leave your lips if you are a Native Elder according to Heather Trevino Baroch from Great Falls, Montana. Other phrases also count like, “when the water was clean, when there were a lot more trees on the earth and before the white man came here.”

8. The ravens and eagles start to follow you everywhere

Trish Courtoreille from Lethbridge, Alberta gave us this pointer about Native elders. We think it might have something to do with the years of dedication toward respecting the world and the animals and now they are deciding it’s safe to hang around.

7. When you say “Young one,” and the whole tribe turns around.

If everyone in the tribe is younger than you and saying the words “Young One” causes every head to turn around, yes, you are a Native Elder. Thanks to Tonia Hart Roberts on our Facebook page for this one.

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6. When your spirit animal or the animal in your name is extinct

“You know you’re an Indian Elder when the animal in your name is extinct!” Al Garza of Oceanside, California came up with this one. If your animal is on the endangered species list, it might be time to consider yourself an elder as well. (Worth a mention – Dan Bailey also commented - When the grizzly leaves you alone because you`re too tough to chew!)

5. When you finally accept it and park in the elders spot

You know you have been eyeing that spot at the front of the building for a while. But when you finally decide to park there even you have decided to take your rightful spot as a respected elder. Thanks to Amy Sparck Dobmeier on Facebook for this one.

4. When someone random in your tribe walks up to you and says, you probably knew my grandparents... and you do.

Let’s face facts dear elders, we need you. Because you know everybody. You even know all of the gossip about everybody. Without fail you know our grandparents, even the embarrassing stuff. Thanks to you for that and thanks to Colleen LaBelle on Facebook for this one.

3. You interrupt a tribal council meeting and no one tells you to shut your trap!

Good one Jayson Brave Heart – and I’ve actually seen this happen. It doesn’t matter what is going on either, a tribal chief could be on the phone with another world leader and if an elder starts talking, everyone is going to allow it to happen.

2. You have put your teeth in to eat frybread

Thanks to Bill Standing Bear Lowells for this one. Of course we received many variations on frybread including having to put in your teeth to eat it, knowing all the recipes by heart and everyone comes to your house for the frybread.

And by far the most popular reason – You Get To Eat First

Considering there were almost a hundred comments regarding eating first at a powwow, being first in line and all the young ones bring you a plate of food. This seems to be the biggest indicator of being a Native Elder.

Also worth mentioning, when it’s time to say the blessing and everyone looks at you…you might be a Native Elder.