Honoring Elders: Aging, Authority, and Ojibwe Religion

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Overview

Like many Native Americans, Ojibwe people esteem the wisdom, authority, and religious significance of old age, but this respect does not come easily or naturally. It is the fruit of hard work, rooted in narrative traditions, moral vision, and ritualized practices of decorum that are comparable in sophistication to those of Confucianism. Even as the dispossession and policies of assimilation have threatened Ojibwe peoplehood and have targeted the traditions and the elders who embody it, Ojibwe and other Anishinaabe communities have been resolute and resourceful in their disciplined respect for elders. Indeed, the challenges of colonization have served to accentuate eldership in new ways.

Using archival and ethnographic research, Michael D. McNally follows the making of Ojibwe eldership, showing that deference to older women and men is part of a fuller moral, aesthetic, and cosmological vision connected to the ongoing circle of life—a tradition of authority that has been crucial to surviving colonization. McNally argues that the tradition of authority and the authority of tradition frame a decidedly indigenous dialectic, eluding analytic frameworks of invented tradition and naïve continuity. Demonstrating the rich possibilities of treating age as a category of analysis, McNally provocatively asserts that the elder belongs alongside the priest, prophet, sage, and other key figures in the study of religion.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

The Circle - Heid E. Erdrich

A terrifically thought-provoking study of what honoring elders means.

Religious Studies Review - Shelly E. V. Nixon

An excellent resource for scholars studying aging, eldership, or the Anishinaabe people.

Reviews in Religion & Theology - James Woodward

This is an extraordinarily fascinating book; an insightful and scholarly exploration of Native American attitudes toward aging and eldership.

American Indian Quarterly - Cary Miller

Honoring Elders will prove an important foundational springboard for future studies on eldership to come.

Choice

This work presents thoughtful philosophical reflections on the very idea of tradition...the author offers refreshing insights... highly recommended.

Choice

This work presents thoughtful philosophical reflections on the very idea of tradition...the author offers refreshing insights... highly recommended.

The Circle
A terrifically thought-provoking study of what honoring elders means.

— Heid E. Erdrich

Religious Studies Review
An excellent resource for scholars studying aging, eldership, or the Anishinaabe people.

— Shelly E. V. Nixon

Reviews in Religion & Theology
This is an extraordinarily fascinating book; an insightful and scholarly exploration of Native American attitudes toward aging and eldership.

— James Woodward

American Indian Quarterly
Honoring Elders will prove an important foundational springboard for future studies on eldership to come.

— Cary Miller

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231145039
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 8/6/2009
  • Series: Religion and American Culture Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 408
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael D. McNally is associate professor of religion at Carleton College. He is the author of Ojibwe Singers: Hymns, Grief, and a Native Culture in Motion and Art of Tradition: Sacred Music, Dance, and Myth of Michigan's Anishinaabe 1946-1955.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations Preface Acknowledgments Introduction 1. Aging and the Life Cycle Imagined in Ojibwe Tradition and Lived in History 2. Eldership, Respect, and the Sacred Community 3. Elders as Grandparents and Teachers 4. Elders Articulating Tradition 5. The Sacralization of Eldership 6. The Shape of Wisdom Notes Bibliography Index

Columbia University Press

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