Who is an Elder?
An Elder is any person recognized by a First Nations’ community as having knowledge and understanding of the traditional culture of the community, including the physical manifestation of the culture of the people their spiritual and social traditions. Knowledge and wisdom, coupled with the recognition and respect of the people of the community, are the essential defining characteristics of an Elder. Some Elders have additional attributes, such as those of traditional healer.
In addition to having led an exceptional life based on the traditions, customs and culture of First Nations, an Elder is expected to have qualities such as:
- Will be knowledgeable of First Nations’ heritage and history;
- Will be knowledgeable and supportive of traditional First Nations’ ceremonies, protocols and songs;
- Possess fluency and competency in a First Nations’ language;
- Wll be an advocate of traditional leadership, traditional governance and traditional law;
- Wll be aware and supportive of Treaty rights and history;
- Wll acknowledge the diversity of First Nations cultures, languages and traditions in Saskatchewan;
- Wll work to ensure the intergenerational transfer of traditional First Nations’ knowledge, history, culture, language and practices to the youth;
- Wll support and observe the sacredness of First Nations’ traditions, ceremonies, sites and practices;
- Wll have an understanding, be supportive and play a leading role in their kinship ties; and,
- Wll have a knowledge of First Nations’ traditional healing that may include the use of traditional plants used for healing.
Please note that this list is a starting point towards answering the question: Who is an Elder? Each First Nation has a term that defines these wisdom keepers, knowledge keepers, medicine people, healers and ceremonial persons. The term 'Elder" is a contemporary English word commonly used for these individuals. Many of these individuals are not comfortable with this term, as it does not adequately describe their role. Today, many of these individuals are reverting to the traditional term in their own language. Being an 'Elder' is not just about reaching a certain age but includes many principles.
The SICC is guided and advised by several Elders. Saskatchewan has eight First Nations language groups. Thus, there are eight Elders that comprise the SICC Elders Council (EC). The EC and SICC meet seasonally to discuss the work of the SICC and to discuss future work of the SICC.