“The auction is the highlight of the MIEA (Michigan Indian Elders Association) conference,” said NHBP Language Associate Jenniffer Wethington, whose handmade Ribbon Skirt was sold at auction for an astounding $340 during the four-day-long event in October 2022.
At NHBP, generosity poured out of the hands, hearts and wallets of Tribal Elders, Tribal Members and Team Members alike, all to support MIEA in raising funds for the MIEA educational scholarship.
“I asked and received many generous donations from Tribal Members and several departments across NHBP,” said Wethington. “The auction lasted a very long time, thanks in part to the gifts I received from those at NHBP. I also donated some of my best handmade pieces for the auction.”
The auction raised more than $9,000, breaking all previous records for MIEA.
The association has representation from 11 of Michigan’s 12 federally recognized tribes, including NHBP, which hosted the last conference in October 2019. Typically, MIEA hosts three scheduled conferences annually but has taken a pause during the pandemic until now.
The auction gathers donations from Tribal Elders and Members from all 11 Tribes it represents.
MIEA officer-at-large and NHBP Tribal Elder Rebecca Kladder, 63, is responsible for running the auction to raise funds for the youth educational scholarship.
MIEA values education at all levels. For students in grades 1-12, MIEA offers a Student Incentive Program to recognize students who achieve all “A’s” for a marking period, as well as students who achieve perfect attendance for a marking period. According to its website, there is a set minimum available each year. The awards of $25 are made for each qualified entry, up to the minimum available funds in the program. In the event that the number of eligible entries exceeds the funds available, the winners will be determined by lottery.
Kladder does not take for granted the benefits of being a Tribal Elder of NHBP.
“At the association, they recommend certain things for Elders,” said Kladder. “At NHBP, we are so blessed because we are able to do so many of these things, for example, a welfare program for our Elders. Other Tribes may not be able to do so.”
Kladder says it was easy to become involved with the MIEA.
“Once I became an Elder, I started going to more Elder events as my schedule allowed,” said Kladder. “My sister would go to these MIEA events and suggested I try them out, too.”
Kladder ran for election for the MIEA in October 2018 and has been an officer-at-large since then, a role significantly impacted by COVID-19.
“It’s been challenging to lead the association during the pandemic, so we are excited to be able to meet in person again.”
Formed in 1997, “the purpose (of the MIEA) is to aid and assist in the improvement of the economic, social, healthful and spiritual well-being of those Elders through a forum where the Elder may speak, learn, grow and exercise control over their environment by having representation, enabling access to services, provide prevention training, and act as an advocate for Member organizations,” according to the MIEA website.
To launch the start of the conference, each Tribe has three Elders delegates who attend a dinner with the hosts to discuss the presented topics. Karen Bush, Gradus TenBrink, Jr., and Dale Anderson represented NHBP as Elder Delegates to the MIEA Conference.
“Global warming and the environment were major topics at the conference this year,” said Wethington, who attended the conference.
Although still several months away, Wethington is already planning what she will donate for the next MIEA Conference in April 2023 in Hannahville, Michigan.
To learn more about future conferences and how to get involved with MIEA, please visit Michigan Indian Elders Association – Michigan Indian Elders Association.