Are you checking up on your Elders?

News Unsettled Opinions

The importance of family connections during COVID-19

News Unsettled Native Students Union column
Graphic provided by the Native Students Union.

All of us are trying to continue on with our lives, and looking towards the Dec. 7 date when the tighter BC COVID restrictions will be reviewed. Although this might be the main focus of many, there needs to be a place at the front of our minds where we are focused on our Elders. Most of this year has been difficult, especially for those of us trying to juggle school, employment, pandemic anxiety, and all the other responsibilities that are given to Indigenous youth. More important than any of these aspects of our lives, however, are the lives of our Elders.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard for our older population. Since the beginning of the virus, those who belong to cultures that do not have the same respect for their Elders have argued that harsh safety measures are unnecessary. In their minds, because the elderly are more at-risk if they contract COVID-19 younger people should not face restrictions.

This is putting our Elders in a terrible position. They hold our languages, our histories, our stories. We are given so much from them and we need to give back, not simply abandon them. Many people are worried about jobs, money, and education through the pandemic; but, the gift of families, our Elders, and our communities is worth more than any material gain that we may acquire through any crisis. 

Victor Underwood, and many of my (Peter’s) family members teach that as long as we have strong family connections, we’ll never be poor. My grandparents have about 70 descendants, with the inlaws, and we still try to do holidays together by renting the gym or a conference room at the band office or in their yard, so we’re a pretty close family. If my grandparents need something there’s always someone to help them out, so in that way we’re a rich family. 

Building family or community wealth like this takes time, and unlike Canadian money you don’t start by saving — you start by giving. Giving time to your loved one’s is always appreciated and there are plenty of elders in our lives who would appreciate a phone call or an errand run for them if they’re worried about being in public. 

If you’re missing the First People’s House’s Elders in Residence, then you can get on a zoom call with them. Indigenous students can book a time for a call through Diane Sam (iacecpl@uvic.ca), Cultural Protocol Liaison of the IACE office. 

Even if you are non-Indigenous there are things you can do. We encourage you to research local organizations or causes that support Elders and community. One such group is the COVID-19 Coming Together (Victoria/Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ Lands) Facebook group. People often post requests for help with things like money, food, household items there. 

It may not be the easiest time for anyone right now, but in the words of Uncle Iroh:

Sometimes the best way to solve your own problems is to help someone else