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Abstract

E.L.D.E.R.S. Gathering for Native American youth: continuing Native American traditions and curbing substance abuse in Native American youth describes the efforts of Native American Elders, traditionalists, and non-native volunteers interested in preserving the culture and traditions of the Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse), also known as the Iroquois. This event is held every summer at the Ganondagan Historical site located near Victor, in upstate New York. The purpose of this week long gathering is to bring together Native American youth who are interested in learning more about their traditional ways with Native American Elders who practice these traditions. Much of the program's efforts focus on developing the "good mind" of the youth participants so that the youth and Elders are more likely to refrain from substance abuse. Youth participants begin to learn how to incorporate traditional values and beliefs into their lives while also developing leadership skills for use when each returns to their home environment hence, the acronym E.L.D.E.R.S. (Encouraging Leaders Dedicated to Enriching Respect and Spirituality). Many participants make the annual visit from reservations and urban areas in the New York state area while some have come from as far away as California. In addition to describing this program, a literature review that highlights some of the issues facing Native American youth in contemporary society accompanies this report. Insight and suggestions for developing similar programs are presented as well.

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