In Aboriginal societies, Elders play a prominent, vital and respected role. The Elders shared wise counsel, advice, and guidance about maintaining harmony and balance in the community. They provide wisdom to daily life and bring order to chaos and are considered the ‘teachers of heritage and survival and strength’.
Elders today endure many hardships; however, through their spiritual and personal strength, their commitment to their language, culture, and people have sustained their important role in the community. However, for this role to thrive they must continue to have a prominent role in the survival of the Métis.
Most Elders are deeply spiritual in nature and everything in their life has spiritual significance, the day-to-day activities, their thoughts and actions, their relationships. They are the models by which their people see spirituality being lived. They make great effort every day to live by principles, values and teachings that they are entrusted. To learn and experience the ceremonies we must go to the Elders and ask for their help and guidance for it is an essential part of their role to teach and share.
Elders’ lives are centered in the natural world and the earth is their mother and they are committed to it in consciousness and instinct. The attachment to the natural world grows with age and the ‘old ones’ will sit upon the earth when possible to be closer to its life giving forces. The rhythms of the earth, the sounds of the wind and water, the smells of earth and air, the warmth of fire, the purification of rain, all reaffirm the kinship that the Elders experience on mother earth. Elders help others to understand and experience the great lessons from the natural world. Elders teach those that do not respect mother earth become hard and lack respect for growing, living things that eventually leads to lack of respect for humans.
Through the Elder’s depth of understanding concerning the association of all earthly beings, they further teach us of the importance of kinship within our extended families. The wisdom has been so greatly respected that Elders are sought out to support and maintain harmony within the family. Their efforts have defended the significance of family values through example and Elders assume more and more responsibility for the care of their family’s well being. Presently, as some families move farther apart it is not unusual for an Elder to travel a great deal to visit and attend to family or community matters.