Heritage Site / Ethnography Site / Nakawé / Family Life

Article: Old Age

The term in english for a person who is of old age in life is known as an Elder. Elders are conceived of as extremely important members of the community. They are spiritual advisors, guidance counsellors, and teachers. They were not only involved in spiritual matters but also acted as healers and advisors to both adults and children. They taught the children Saulteaux customs through song, dance and stories. This was just as important as teaching children practical skills such as fishing, sewing, cooking and all the other things that children had to know.

Elders were respected because, in their own right, they were (and still are) a gift to the people. Their life experiences and wisdom were seen to be a guide for all the people on how to live and behave. Such wisdom helped the people in their well being and survival. When a person wanted to approach an Elder for guidance or advice on a matter, the utmost respectable behaviour was shown toward the Elder. An offering of tobacco was the usual gift but at times monetary gifts such as blankets or housewares were given as well. As well as respecting the Elder in such a fashion, other signs of respect were also given. Examples of the type of behaviour that was expected in an Elder's presence were (and still are):

· Never talk while an Elder is talking
· Never walk in front of an Elder
· Always offer to assist an Elder when they are doing something
· Elders always get served first at feasts
· Never look an Elder in the eye when addressing them
· Always offer an Elder some tobacco before asking anything of them