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 na?ve
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.
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