This short film explores the bond between Aboriginal youth and Elders and unites them in talking circles with the goal of sharing of words of wisdom. Elders from the Dene, Cree, Blackfoot, and Metis from across Alberta helped provide the guidance that was central to the program. The relationships were coordinated by the Alberta Native Friendship Centers Association and the Alberta Aboriginal Youth Council. This summary of their work was filmed in Jasper, Alberta – August, 2007.
The film begins by reminding us that Aboriginal youth are the fastest growing segment of Canada’s population and facing a strong set of challenges. Like their ancestors overcame, the conviction is conveyed that through belief in their culture, in their own self-worth, and through a sense of belonging, these difficult times will be overcome. Through the guidance of Elders (always capitalized), Aboriginal youth are coming to know their culture and appreciate their traditions and customs.
A focus on emotion characterizes much of the film. Many of the youth require emotional guidance and have been subjected to discrimination. Many Elders mention that lack of spirituality – lack of a belief in a power greater than yourself – is harming youth and getting them caught up in the material world that is full of ills such as violence, drugs, alcohol, and disengagement
One girl describes being the only one of 8 in her family who does not drink or do drugs. This is a sobering reality for some in the Indigenous community. Becoming human and humble and moving away from the arrogance that characterizes substance abuse is described as a healing quality that needs to be spread among the youth. This type of wisdom is passed on during hours and hours of informal discussion with Elders.
It’s interesting that most of the Elders featured in the film were women and many of the participating youth were teens in crisis. The ability of the women to be both nurturing and candid seems to have played a role in helping the youth who are interviewed to move away from harmful behaviours.