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Honoring Elders: Aging, Authority, and Ojibwe Religion [Paperback]

Michael D. McNally

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Book Description

Aug. 6 2009 Religion and American Culture

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 naïve 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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Product Description


This work presents thoughtful philosophical reflections on the very idea of tradition...the author offers refreshing insights... highly recommended.

(Choice 1900-01-00)

A terrifically thought-provoking study of what honoring elders means.

(Heid E. Erdrich The Circle)

An excellent resource for scholars studying aging, eldership, or the Anishinaabe people.

(Shelly E. V. Nixon Religious Studies Review 1900-01-00)

This is an extraordinarily fascinating book; an insightful and scholarly exploration of Native American attitudes toward aging and eldership.

(James Woodward Reviews in Religion & Theology 1900-01-00)

Honoring Elders will prove an important foundational springboard for future studies on eldership to come.

(Cary Miller American Indian Quarterly 1900-01-00)


Honoring Elders presents a sophisticated, insightful examination of Native attitudes toward aging and eldership. It challenges scholars to add the figure of the elder to their categories for studying religion and urges them to rethink the category of tradition as something fluid rather than fixed. This book even provides a resource for thinking about how to view (or to experience) aging in America today.

(Catherine A. Brekus, University of Chicago)

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST Read - Feb. 22 2012
By Aanzhen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book on the history of Nishnaab eldership discussed impact of zhaaganash contact and how the whole community was effected. Well done. Helped me understand the impact of the IRA on tribal vs urban nishnaab communities.

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