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Holiday Giving: Indian and Native Elders Need Your Help!

The National Indian Council On Aging (NICOA) needs the help of the gaming tribes, especially the wealthiest 20 percent of the gaming tribes. (It is estimated that just 20 percent of the 565 recognized tribal entities control 80 percent of the gaming wealth in Indian country.) The Alaska Native Corporations and other Native American Contractors Association members should also be contributing to our elders.

NICOA is the premier national advocacy group for the needs of Indian country elders (55 years and older). This organization was started in 1977 by some of our late Indian country heroes like Joe DeLacruz (Quinault), Wendell Chino (Mescalero) and others that saw a need for an advocacy organization that was strictly focused on Indian and Native Elder issues and needs. James DeLacruz (Quinault) is the current Chairman of the Board. My good friend Eddie Tullis (Poarch Creek) is also a board member. A dozen other board members are elected at NICOA Regional Caucuses.

Except for those tribes that are fortunate enough to have the resources to see to elderly needs in Indian country, for the most part, our elderly citizens exist day-to-day, many on fixed incomes. Some continue to work until well past 65 years of age. The recession and current economic stagnation has hit our elder population particularly hard. Anyone who is a follower of the history of Indian country knows that we had our own “baby boom” and our 55+ population is second only to our youth population (under 30 years). Conservative estimates place the number of Indian and Native Elders at 300,000. Most of these people have had to accept the harsh reality that the “retirement” they expected to enjoy is gone. Most will have to stay employed well into their seventies. Seventy-five has become the new retirement age for them, if ever.

NICOA not only assists our elders with advocacy with the U.S. Congress, state legislatures and tribal governments, it actually facilitates retraining and employment sources for elders who want to remain employed in their communities. It assists elders that are raising grandchildren and those that are caring for elderly relatives. It assists elders with access to resources so that they can remain in their communities in their elderly years. It also works to prevent elder abuse and educates communities in identification and prevention elder physical, mental and financial abuse. NICOA actually provides direct employment to elders in seven states and will continue to expand that employment as it finds resources. However, NICOA has experienced more than a 30 percent budget reduction since 2008. Elder budgets and services continue to be slashed at all levels.

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In this time of gifting (Christmas), what better gift can you and your tribe give to our Indian and Native elders, but to help their organization stay viable and strong and help NICOA advocate for the budgetary resources and services that our elders deserve. If the top 20 percent of the wealthier tribes gave a gift of just a half-day of your gaming revenue, NICOA could create an endowment that would generate revenue for the next two decades. NICOA could rebuild its capacity to qualify for grants and contracts that it used to be able to access but are now going to other non-profits and institutions that do not have the focus on our elderly that NICOA does.

NICOA will be embarking on a “capital campaign” in the new year (2011). As you and your tribe sit down to write those checks to local charitable organizations, write one out to a national Indian organization that impacts the lives of all of our elders. One of NICOA’s ongoing goals is to utilize the latest technology to link all of our elders into local and regional chapters and the national organization so that all our elders have an impact on decisions that are made regarding “their” issues and “their” budgets. Currently, only a fortunate few can afford to attend the national bi-annual conference. Your donation will help more elders to attend but also help those that cannot attend be “linked” to the advocacy effort that is conducted on their behalf. Elders will be able to advocate for themselves and be heard, especially by those in Washington, D.C. who have so much impart on their lives. PLEASE GIVE TO:

THE NATIONAL INDIAN COUNCIL ON AGING: 10501 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Suite 210, Albuquerque, NM 87111 (505) 292-2001. Email Executive Director, Randella Bluehouse at Google "NICOA" to read about its history and services to Indian and Native Elders.

(No I don’t get a finder’s fee and or a percentage. I do get the satisfaction of using this forum to try to get NICOA the help it needs and deserves.).

Harold Monteau is a Chippewa Cree Attorney resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico and is a visiting professor in Indian Law at the Southwest Indian Law Clinic at the University of New Mexico. His e-mail is