Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
February 26, 2000 - Issue 04

Wisdom of the Elders
By Sue-jin Yim of the Oregonian

Rose High Bear lost 20 years before she was able to embrace her Native American heritage because her grandmother had been forbidden from teaching her the Alaskan Athabaskan ways.

Now, she's devoting her time to make sure other youths don't live that trauma.

"The ways of our people are never lost; sometimes it's us people who get lost," High Bear told a crowd of more than 110 people Saturday evening at Portland State University.

That's why it's so important to nurture and create bonds from generation to generation and family to family, whether they're Native American or not, she said.

Drummers, singers, dancers, storytellers and spectators gathered Saturday for the kickoff of the second annual "Afternoon with the Wisdom of the Elders" series. The four-part series, which runs through May, is designed to celebrate the heritage and common experiences of Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos.

High Bear co-founded Wisdom of the Elders, a Native American organization with a mission of preserving its elders' wisdom and experience, in 1992 with her late husband Martin High Bear, a Lakota medicine man who lived in Portland.

The evening's program included Mary Louise Defender Wilson, a storyteller from North Dakota, and Arlie Neskahi, a musician. African Americans were represented by the Buffalo Soldiers Color Guard and the Drama Queens Theater Company.

The intentionally multiethnic performances were designed to show the connection and commonality between different groups. Rose High Bear urged the audience to join in racial dialogues to heal the rifts between groups.

She also reminded the crowd that the performances were more than entertainment.

"We're not here to entertain you; we're here to educate you of the vibrancy, the beauty of our culture," High Bear said. "So you can know what it is that we are."

To learn more about the Athabaskan people, visit this excellent school site:

Ella B. Vernetti School

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