Who is an Elder?

An Elder is an individual who leads, inspires, consoles, and transmits spiritual guidance to another person. An Elder is sought after for advice in the Aboriginal community. One is NOT BORN an Elder : it is something that is given to you, because of your trials and how you were able to cope with the issues at hand. An Elder must have traveled his/her own healing/spiritual journey. One cannot self-identify as an Elder. An Elder is highly redeemed in their community because of their respect to everyone, and their treatment of equality to those who they serve in their communities.

An Elder is someone who is respected for their gifts that they bring to the group; their spiritual knowledge and insight. When requesting information or assistance from an Elder, one has to follow the proper protocol. Traditionally a gift offering of tobacco was given. Today, a gift offering could include: an article of clothing, food, or even offering to pay them for their trip (gas) and an honorarium.

An Elder by his/her wisdom can transform a person by their speaking and by their actions. You can trust an Elder with your family, your life. An Elder is one who is willing to share culture/spiritual guidance/ food, if necessary, if that is what the individual requesting support needs. As Aboriginal people we respect that title that we bestow upon them. The respect that is shown to an Elder is similar to that is shown to Royalty. They are the Aboriginal people’s Kings and Queens. Elders are trustworthy, wise, and compassionate for the people they serve. An Elder is sincere with their words. Quote from the widely respected and reverend Chief Dan George, – ”Be careful of your words, think carefully before you speak, your utterances once they leave your mouth, cannot be taken back”.

An Elder is someone who believes in encouragement, to honor you giving you permission to talk and to be a good listener. Elders have come through a lot, Residential Schools, Racism, and the struggles of life in general.

Source: Ministry of Advance Education, skills, Training and Labour
Elders Council – Colleges and Universities