Spirituality is central to the identity of the American Indian, and is viewed holistically. People and nature are interconnected. Every animate and inanimate form of life has a spirit and is considered sacred. For example, water is viewed as a sacred, life-sustaining source and a way of connecting with the earth. The head and hair are considered particularly sacred. Respecting and nurturing life and developing a positive relationship with the spirits is core to Indian spirituality. Indians nurture that relationship through prayer and a purification ritual in a sweat lodge. They burn sage and sweet grass, and smoke a special ceremonial tobacco for cleansing, blessings, and healing. Drumming, dancing, and singing also are traditional spiritual expressions associated with healing. American Indians have endured decades of assimilation policies designed to strip them of their identity and integrate them into the dominant society. Many Indian people who grew up in the mid-twentieth century describe a feeling of shame in their heritage during that time. This was partly due to the fact that it was illegal for Indians to practice their religious ceremonies until the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed in 1978. As a result, many Indians today have Christian ties or practice no religion at all.
Our elders have the benefit of years of experience and wisdom that we should respect and learn from. Some of their experience arises from mistakes they have personally made, and their knowledge can protect us from making the same mistakes.
Respect as a form of behavior and participation is especially important in childhood as it serves as a basis of how the child must conduct themselves in their community. Children engage in mature activities such as cooking for the family, cleaning and sweeping the house, caring for infant peers, and crop work. Indigenous children learn to view their participation in these activities are representation of respect. Through his manner of participation of activities of respect is how children not only learn about culture but also practice it as boi wel 
Most often it gets ignored but the fact is, elders make important contributions of knowledge to the young children in our families and communities. In the United Sates, more than million children live in households supported by elders. Children feel comfortable and secure in the presence of their grandparents. These children are then facilitated by elders in their transition from youth to adulthood. Such children grow up and inculcate the values of respecting elders in their own families. Teaching respect for elders comes easily to such children, who have been in similar situations themselves. Such assistance benefits all members of human society.
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Sometimes it can be difficult to relate to the generations that have come before us. Growing up in different circumstances can make us feel as if we have nothing in common with them. But older people have plenty of wisdom and knowledge to share with younger generations, and treating them with respect should be second nature for all of us.