Oneida Nation of the Thames
A member of the turtle clan of the Oneida Nation, Erica Elijah chose to follow her Longhouse ways at the age of nineteen. Today as the mother of three children, Erica is committed to raising her children in the culture and language that she did not experience herself as a child. She names her son as her motivation for learning as much as she could. She learned their Atuwa songs to sing to him and used traditional medicines. The love for her son motivates her to continue her healing journey and growth as a mother and human being.
Love is a powerful motivator. Erica demonstrates it in service to her community. She spent nine years working at a youth residential healing society and has supported her longhouse community for twenty years. Seeing the need for language programs for young people, Erica started a summer language program that has persisted for the last five years. She started a language nest program with adult language learners and collectively they are working on another language nest. Erica appreciates the power of collaboration.
Many elders have shared generously with Erica, and she credits them for completely changing her life. She has experienced how language awakened her spirit and reignited her with purpose and truth. Erica would like others to have the opportunity to experience the joy from connecting with their language and culture. She believes that this requires more than a program or weekly class. She understands that it necessitates real connection and involvement in the lives of young people, through their social and ceremonial ways. Erica believes there are many ways to reach the heart.