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 lifea 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.
About the Author
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
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
What People are Saying About This
A beautifully and intelligently written, brilliant synthesis of soulful ethnography and sophisticated social theory. Michael D. McNally does us a great service by pointing out that we need a fuller reckoning of the centrality of social ethics to Native religions, and then delivering it.
Honoring Elders presents a sophisticated, insightful examination of Native attitudes toward aging and eldership. It challenges scholars to add the figure of the elder to their categories for studying religion and urges them to rethink the category of tradition as something fluid rather than fixed. This book even provides a resource for thinking about how to view (or to experience) aging in America today.