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Judy Foreman: Respecting Your Elders and Celebrating Age

Chumash elder Julie Tumamait-Stenslie, 83-year-old author Beverlye Hyman Fead share a cross-cultural perspective on aging

Chumash elder Julie Tumamait-Stenslie, left, and 83-year-old author Beverlye Hyman Fead provided some unique, anthropological perspectives on aging during a recent presentation before the BOAS Network. Click to view larger
Chumash elder Julie Tumamait-Stenslie, left, and 83-year-old author Beverlye Hyman Fead provided some unique, anthropological perspectives on aging during a recent presentation before the BOAS Network. (Judy Foreman / Noozhawk photo)

Having grown up in an era when respecting your elders was just something that was expected of me, I was drawn to a recent presentation of the BOAS Network lecture series, Anthropology Straight Up.

The subject was “Celebrating Age: A Cross-Cultural Perspective,” and it turned out to be an inspiring and educational evening at the historic and tradition-rich University Club of Santa Barbara.

Anthropologist Kohanya Groff founded the nonprofit BOAS Network as a way to provide opportunities for education, information and even entertainment for anthropology and those interested in it.

“The Anthropology Straight Up series was my idea to make free education and information accessible about anthropology through public outreach, social media and videos,” said Groff, who has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from UC Riverside.

The concept, she added, was to help connect with and invite the public into the world of anthropology.

A previous BOAS Network lecture featured Natalia Reagan, a primatologist and Discovery and NatGeo host. The July lecture explored how two separate cultures embrace age.

The evening’s first speaker was Julie Tumamait-Stenslie, a Chumash elder and chairwoman of the Barbareño/Ventureño Band of Mission Indians. She opened with a prayer before sharing her insights on the Native American perspective on aging and honoring it.

Tumamait-Stenslie spoke of her family history, which dates to 1811 in Meiners Oaks, in the Ojai Valley, and how she has been influenced by the traditions, experience, history and songs of the Chumash culture.

She serves on the state Native American Heritage Commission and vigorously advocates for the protection of Native American archeological sites. She often consults with museums.

“Women who take a role of leadership and advocacy are an important tradition in the Indian culture,” she explained. “Many chiefs were female and were the keepers of traditional stories, myths and lore.”

As an elder in her tribe, she continues that long tradition.

Tumamait-Stenslie was followed by Beverlye Hyman Fead, a Montecito resident, author, TEDx speaker on aging, and a cancer survivor who turned her highly popular blog into a book by the same name: Aging in High Heels.

An advocate for the think tank, Global Healthspan Policy Institute, Fead is a frequent speaker — locally and nationally — on the beauty and changing mental attitude of aging.

In her talk, she maintained that it’s a good time to be alive because people are living longer and staying stronger.

Fead’s message? “Don’t be afraid of aging, aging is a privilege.”

That mindset is reinforced by her own personal story of power and beauty at age 83. In fact, “Aging in High Heels” is itself a metaphor for confidence and optimism — and not wearing stilettos.

The BOAS Network will continue its series every other month, with the September presentation featuring the history and cross-cultural perspective of psychics, shamans and mediums.

Click here for more information about the BOAS Network. Click here to make an online donation.

— Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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