Baker proclaims June 15 World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
Principal Chief Bill John Baker signs a proclamation declaring June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in the Cherokee Nation on June 14 at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – With 2019 marking the 14th annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Cherokee Nation officials signed a proclamation on June 14 at the W.W. Keeler Complex declaring June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in the CN.
In 2006, the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, with the support of the United Nations International Plan of Action, first proclaimed a day to recognize elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue.
“Cherokee elders should be treated with respect and dignity to enable them to serves as leaders, mentors, volunteers and active citizens of the Cherokee Nation,” the proclamation states. “The Native American elder population nationally is growing at a rapid pace, with an estimated almost million Natives reaching 65 or older by 2050.”
The National Indigenous Elder Justice Initiative and the CN recognize the importance of creating social change in raising awareness of and preventing elder abuse, according to the proclamation. The NIEJI website lists the types of elder abuse as physical, sexual, exploitative, neglect or abandonment and spiritual.
Family Assistance Manager Lisa James said it’s important to teach people what elder abuse is.
“We don’t like to think that Cherokees abuse their elders, but we have found that it’s just like the rest of the population, they’ve started to do that,” James said. “It affects every part of Cherokee life when you disrespect or abuse your elders. It tears down your society. It tears down your culture because the culture was not based on that kind of behavior. They took care of their elders, and they looked to their elders for their knowledge and the wisdom they had. We want to help make that happen again and to stop the abuse, and we want people to get the help they need.”
Elders can seek help through the tribe’s Elder Services.
Elder Services provides nutrition services, the Cherokee Family Caregiver program, elder advocacy, victim of crime advocacy, comprehensive tribal victim assistance, the Elder in Need program and elder housing and protective services.
“If it’s financial abuse, like if they have their electric turned off because they can’t pay their bills because someone took their money, we’ll assist them with their utilities or their house payment, or water, (or food),” Elder Services family advocate Shelli Dunham said. “We’re just there in support of them. If it goes to court, like exploitation charges or they’re needing to put a protective order against their abuser, then we’ll do that. We’ll help them with that. We’re here for them and we can be a voice.”
For more information on Elder Services, call 918-453-5422 or visit www.cherokee.org/Services/Human-Services/Family-Assistance