25th Annual Elder Day Celebration Returns
Gila River Indian News
It was a beautiful morning, with the sun shining upon Gila River Resorts & Casinos Wild Horse Pass, while over 400 elders from the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) gathered for the return of the 25th Annual Elder Day celebration on Nov. 17, hosted by GRIC’s Elderly Services Program staff and Community Services department, beginning at 7 a.m.
The celebration aimed to recognize the Community’s elders (55+), with special acknowledgment of 16 Community elders aged 90 years and older, who embodied this year’s theme of “Strength and Resilience as a People.”
“Today is about honoring our past and honoring our legacy, honoring our Huhugam,” said Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis, who found inspiration in listening to former GRIC governors and lieutenant governors who were present considering them a part of the wisdom and history that founded the Community.
The event commenced with a blessing from former GRIC Lt. Gov. Robert Stone, accompanied by the posting of colors from Haskell Osife-Antone Post 51 and the national anthem sung by Rebecca Rowe, District 4.
Comedic entertainment was also provided by GRIC member Antonio “Gohk” Davis and Richard Sanders from the Tohono O’odham Nation, known as the “Hu’uli Ch’ Ga’gi” (Grandmas), and traditional dance performances by the Estrella Mountain Bird Singers and Dancers from Maricopa Colony.
“I’m glad to see friends and family members here; it’s a good feeling,” said Donna Pinon, District 4.
Community elders were served breakfast and lunch, while distribution of raffle prizes and speeches were shared from past GRIC governors and lieutenant governors throughout the event. All those who became part of the founding influences of the Community were celebrated.
“It’s nice to be remembered; as an elder, I’m 86 years old, and it’s good to see people remember me from back in the day,” said former governor Donald Antone Sr., District 4. He expressed that Elder’s Day is a good day, because it brings back the Community atmosphere and demonstrates the respect the younger generation has for Community elders.
The event also featured arts and craft vendors promoting their products, along with 14 GRIC departments providing informational incentives. Community elders were visibly delighted to accept gratuities from the departments and were happy to have the opportunity to shop for gifts, especially with the holiday season approaching.
The event concluded in the afternoon at 3 p.m. with video and in-person acknowledgments of 9 out of 16 community elders celebrating their age of 90 years and older.
Gov. Lewis and Lt. Gov. Monica Antone distributed shell necklaces and teddy bears as the video played, allowing other Community elders to hear the personal life stories of the past. The celebration was a heartwarming experience, witnessing elders reunite with their friends and loved ones as they commemorated their years of age.