In Indian Country, our elders hold prominent places within our families and tribes as keepers and stewards of Indigenous knowledge, guardians and caretakers of children and grandchildren, and as community leaders, all roles vital to the health and wellbeing of Native communities
In celebration of this year’s National Grandparent’s Day, the staff at Native Americans in Philanthropy took the opportunity to reflect on the influence their own grandparents have had on their lives.
Dawn Knickerbocker, Vice President of Development & External Engagement
“My Grandma, Delores Payshowcumig Cassaway, loved her children, grandchildren, and great-grands. She was an advocate at heart and dreamed of a day when we could have our land back. She was born on the White Earth reservation, Gaa-waabaabiganikaag, and lived through several stages of removal, yet thought it all held the family together with all of her might. I think that tenacity is what was passed on to me through her. “
Joseph Little, Data & Research Associate
“I am who I am today because of my family. From my Grandma Margaret, I carry with me every day what she taught me about remembering who and where I come from, and to always hold this close. There’s never a day that goes by where her love doesn’t radiate from the spirit world to our family here on Turtle Island.”
Greg Masten, Vice President of Tribal Nations Engagement & Special Projects
“Grandmas fill a special place in our hearts. Their undying love give us a strength to carry on even when times are tough. They’ve endured love, and heartache, and still continue to love without bias. No matter where we find ourselves in life’s journey we could always return home to Grandma. I’m grateful for my Grandma Vi who has always been there for me. And my Sweet Grandma who is always there with love and encouragement. When I was a young boy running on her lawn bare foot and got stung by a bee, Grandma Vi was there to wipe away the tears. Or when I when I walked the stage to get my college diploma, Sweet Grandma was there with beaming with pride. I don’t know that we can ever express how much our grandmas mean to us except to love them back. We love you Grandmas, thank you for always believing in us.”
Toni Sanchez, Engagement & Communications Coordinator
“When I was young, my Tribe opened up a cultural center on my reservation. My grandma had been hired to work in the cultural chickee. I wish I could say that I was excited to learn our traditional languages or improve my beadwork techniques, but frankly, I just wanted to hang out with my grandma after school. Sure, Mary Motlow Sanchez is absolutely a treasure trove of cultural knowledge, that is true. However, I believe the fact that she’s the world’s best human kinda takes precedence over that. Her influence on my cultural and ethnic identity as an Indigenous woman cannot be overstated but the most powerful influence in my life is her kindness, generosity, and neverending capacity to love.
She is unequivocally the best person I know.”
Brittany Schulman, Director of Indigenous Knowledge & Power Building Networks
“I didn’t realize how fortunate I was until I realized not everyone lived with their grandparents. Homer and Eileen were always together. They were a dynamic duo that were leaders in our community and our church. Watching them in action, they lived our values. While I cannot say that I always enjoyed the lessons they taught on the farm, such how to plant crops together to support their growth, how to harvest and preserve strawberries, blueberries, and grapes, or the best way to butcher a squirrel, I can say that I am a more knowledgeable person because of those lessons. When we had our Waccamaw Siouan Cultural Day Camp, they would always make time to come and share our stories with the children as well as show off some the toys they had in their childhood. Much of who I am today is because of their lessons and their love.”