Dear Editor and to my beloved relatives,
With all of the uncertainty and fear circulating through the media right now, it can seem difficult to stay centered, feel safe, and express affection to our elders, who are most at risk during the current outbreak. I hope the communities I love find these thoughts and communities helpful as we all go through this time together.
First, do the simple things to keep everyone safe: wash your hands with soap and water often, keep a 6 foot distance from others, avoid gathering in groups of 10 or more, sneeze or cough into your elbow, and stay away from others if you feel sick.
In our communities, keeping six feet away from our loved ones can be a challenge, especially with kids and elders. We value our elders in Native communities above all other than our children, and our children love the elders in their lives fiercely. However, because this particular illness can be potentially deadly for our treasured elders, we need to do everything we can to protect them, while still expressing affection. So, how might we accomplish this?
One suggestion might be for each family to create a nonverbal gesture you can do to show affection from a distance. One idea might be to wrap your arms around yourself across your chest while making eye contact with your loved one to communicate, “I love you and want to be hugging you right now.” Also, “blowing kisses” can be liberally employed to show affection while keeping our elders safe. Social distancing doesn’t have to mean disconnecting.
Similarly, we can take advantage of this time at home to listen to our elders. Get them to tell the stories, sing the songs, and teach the things they carry that are your heritage. Take the opportunity to learn more of your language, and practice speaking it with your family. Drum together, dance, celebrate life! Express who we are as Native people. These things will nourish our spirits, and fortify our hearts and our bodies.
Be well and take care.
Lonnie A.Nelson, PhD
Research Partner with
Missouri Breaks Industries Research, Inc.