USA (MNN) — COVID-19 is killing elders in Native America, along with their tribal languages and history.
Many Native elders are keepers of the tribal languages, passing them on to the next generation when they can. They are also often the only ones who know their cultural traditions.
As Native tribes are quickly losing their elders to the pandemic, Brad Hutchcraft with Ron Hutchcraft Ministries says it’s shaking the communities.
“The reality is that in Native culture, they are taught a deep respect for elders — more so than a lot of places that I’ve seen and heard about. So losing those you have learned so much from and who have cared for you is not just felt in one home, but across a community and sometimes across an entire tribe.”
On Eagles’ Wings — an outreach of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries — empowers young Native Christians to reach their communities and tribes with the Gospel. On Eagles’ Wings is communicating with their Native partners in the pandemic and are saddened by the stories they hear.
“Some of these elders are living in remote communities,” Hutchcraft says. “They’re living in more traditional housing. A lot of them don’t have running water. So they are in these situations where they’ve not got a whole lot of help right next to them. They don’t have a store to run to that’s just a couple of minutes away.”
When a tribal elder contracts COVID-19, they often face significant challenges in hospitals because of pandemic restrictions.
“A lot of times they can’t have someone with them [and] you then have a language barrier. So it’s scary for them. It’s scary for the family.”
Hutchcraft shares, “We’ve heard directly from some of our friends. One comes to mind right now who their father…had to be taken to the city. They didn’t know where he was, how he was doing, what was going on, [or] what treatment he was receiving for three or four days because they had to find him first. And they had to break through some different barriers.”
But there is help and hope — Native believers are responding to the needs of their elders in Jesus’s name.
“It’s starting with both tribes and local churches,” Hutchcraft says. “A lot of times they are working together to try to reach as many as possible with the help they need. We have many friends who have stepped up in their areas to make sure that someone is checking on the elders, bringing much-needed supplies, and helping where they can.
“They’re living out Philippians 2:4, ‘Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.’”
Hutchcraft encourages believers across the United States to find ways to encourage our Native neighbors. If you live near a Native community, seek out a ministry providing aid and ask how you can help!
Finally, pray for elders in Native America to know they are loved and not forgotten by Jesus. Ask God to protect Native communities and stir spiritual revival in their hearts.
Header photo courtesy of Andrew James via Unsplash.