Tag Archives: Elders

The vital relationship between Aboriginal Elders and Youth

Video Link

  • In the time of change of mother earth,
  • there would be a group of young people born,
  • and those young people would carry all the gifts of ancestors,
  • the healers, the visionaries, the dreamers, the leaders,
  • they would bring spirituality into their work
  • and they would empower their work with that spirituality.

Diane Longboat

The above passage leads us into this video that documents the efforts by Native Child and Youth Family Services (NCYFS) of Toronto to connect urban youths with Ojibway, Cree, and Iroquois elders.

What has remained constant among the many changes of the Macaw Hawk Youth Council in Toronto is a desire among members to learn about cultural traditions.

Some of the Elders and staffers with NCYFS mention how difficult it was for them as urban Aboriginals to connect with their cultural teachings when living or growing up in Toronto.  NCYFS has attempted to address this shortfall through the construction of a lodge in the heart of urban Toronto.  Through the efforts of Elders and connections with culture, youth have described feeling more empowered and unified than at any point in their lives.

The prevalent theme among interviewed youths is a desire to “know who they are.”  In urban settings, youth do not have the benefit community support from clans or families, and can become very isolated.  Once youth connect with Elders, it is felt that they are better able to identify who they are as brothers, sisters, and beneficiaries of a rich ancestry.

The video provides an example of how far the urban Indigenous have come in re-connecting with traditions in a short period of time.  One of the NCYFS staffers, Alita Sauve, mentions that when she was growing up it was difficult for her to acknowledge to others that she was Indian.  Now she helps youth re-connect with authentic traditional practices in the heart of Toronto.

In the Same Boat

In the Same Boat is an article that describes a large canoe journey of over 250 paddlers.  These paddlers include law enforcement, Aboriginal youth and Aboriginal elders.  The week long journey is made in an attempt to break down the divide between Aboriginal youth and law enforcement.  Most of the article focusses on the difficulty of the journey and indicates that those involved have felt tensions leave during the journey.  Probably the most interesting part of this article is the reaction in the comment section.  Have a read and judge for yourself.  Many of the comments are highly critical of this initiative with the most interesting comment pointing out that these students need to be in school and be clean and sober and that these may not be the youth law enforcement needs to win over.

Nicola Valley Institute of Technology

The Nicola Valley Institute of Technology bills itself as “BC’s Aboriginal Public Post-Secondary Institute.”  With campuses in Merritt and Vancouver NVIT targets Aboriginal youth and adults alike.  The goal of NVIT is to become the school of choice for Aboriginal students because they believe they are best suited to educate Aboriginal students.  They hope to create Aboriginal leaders who can make a difference in their communities.  NVIT states that it involves elders in the direction of the university and keeps it Aboriginal focus.

NAHO (National Aboriginal Health Organization)

I know that Joseph posted a link to the National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO) in relation to its mentorship program for youth
but aside from that great program, the site offers a wealth of health related info for aboriginal youth to share.
An additional link on the site that I found particularly interesting addresses the proper protocols to follow when interviewing Elders.
It is good to see that those overseeing the site have recognized the importance of ensuring that these protocols are transfered to the
youth; there is a recognition that there are many Aboriginal youth living in urban centers who may not have had these traditional practices
passed on to them.
While this site started as a Health site and includes info on HPV and natural Aboriginal healing practices, it also has excellent links to number of resources for scholarships and bursaries.

Canada’s Indigenous Languages in Crisis

Many reports and studies over the last 10 years indicate that most of Canada’s Indigenous languages are declining and are at risk of extinction. Onowa McIvor in 2009 reported that at first European contact there were an estimated 450 aboriginal languages and dialects, now there are only about 60 languages still spoken. Statistics Canada reported in 2001 that North American Indians with the ability to converse in their native language fell from 20% in 1996 to 16% in 2001.

The Assembly of First Nations in 2007 reported that there are only 3 First Nations languages expected to survive: Cree, Objibway and Inuktitut and in 1998 declared a state of emergency on First Nations languages. They also developed a National First Nations Language Strategy and a National First Nations Language Implementation Plan.

The Northwest Territories has the most advanced Aboriginal language legislation and policies in Canada supported by the 1984 Official languages Act. In 1999 the NWT Literacy Council published “Languages of the Land” A resource manual for individuals and communities interested in Aboriginal language development. In 2010, the Government of the NWT published an Aboriginal Languages Plan to set out a framework for strengthening their nine aboriginal languages over the next decade.

British Columbia has 32 of Canada’s First Nations languages and about 59 dialects. At the time of colonization in BC 100% of the First Nations people were fluent in at least one language. This number has dropped dramatically since the late 1800’s to just 5% today. The First Peoples’ Heritage, Language and Culture Council published a report on the Status of BC First Nations Languages in 2010 with a real need to act to save and preserve what is left.

One common theme throughout all of these reports is to find opportunities for youth to connect and communicate in their native language with fluent speakers and elders. This can be done through immersion camps, language nests and other intergenerational ties.

Dechinta: Bush University Centre

Dechinta is a new concept in education rooted in indigenous knowledge and values. It offers a land-based University credited education led by northern elders, leaders, experts and professors to engage youth in transformative curricula. It is located near Yellowknife NWT, is off the grid and accessible only by float plane, snowmobile or dog team.

A video is available describing the Dechinta experience. CBC North did a special news story on Dechinta on June 22, 2011 highlighting the first semester. Dechinta was recently in the news at it was one of the premier stops that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Will and Kate) made while visiting Yellowknife on July 5, 2011.

UBC Aboriginal Portal

UBC has an Aboriginal Portal that provides information about anything Aboriginal at UBC. The landing page has a welcome video from Larry Grant, Musqueam Elder, Resident Elder at UBC First Nations House of learning and Adjunct Professor in the First Nations Language program. Of particular interest to module three, are the research pages. This includes current faculty, student and community research projects. The site also has access to the Xwi7xwa Library; the only dedicated Aboriginal branch of a university library in Canada.

The faculty pages include Bios of all UBC Aboriginal Faculty members including Michael Marker in the Faculty of Education. Hey Michael, you don’t have your picture posted.

Module 2: Climate Change: Who to Trust?


This video from Alaska identifies the irony between traditional knowledge and climate change and scientific knowledge and climate change.  Aboriginal people in Alaska have been discussing climate change for over 40 years, but supposed modern science has only started seeing a trend in the last 20 years and only in the last 5 has the gravity of the situation begun to sink in.  The Aboriginal people of Alaska are seeing new species that do not like the cold waters of their oceans and new diseases in the animals.  Also pressing to their situation are increased deaths due to fragile ice–it’s melting sooner and faster.

I particularly like how advanced the traditional knowledge of climate change is here versus scientific knowledge.  I’m wondering if the connotations of “traditional knowledge” imply too much antiquity and render it less reliable than scientific knowledge, or if it is a ethnocentric stubbornness that is preventing scientists from working with Elders.

What’s important about First Nations Culture?

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vNXKC8qT8s[/youtube]     After reading the Prins article, I decided to go hunting on youtube to see what was available regarding First Nations Culture.  I wasconcerned that I would find cultural artifacts that might be of a sensitve nature and that are being misused.  I haven’t found that yet, but I did find this clip.  Steve MacDougall, of the Garden Hill First Nation in Manitoba describes what he feels is important, the elders and the children and that we can learn from both.  I like the activity of creating something important out of clay and then discussing what it means to you.  Young students would love that and it gets them in touch with each others feelings.

Prins, Harald E.L., “Visual Media and the Primitivist Perplex: Colonial Fantasies, Indigenous Imagination, and Advocacy in North America,” in Media Worlds: Anthropology on a New Terrain, eds. Faye D. Ginsburg, Lila Abu-Lughod, and Brian Larkin, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002, 58- 74

Weblog Connections – Elders & Technology

Elders play a vital role in teaching the generations after them how to continue telling important stories of their heritage; culture and traditions; spiritual connections and rituals; language; community relationships and relationships and connections to nature and the land.  The idea of traditional wisdom being appropriated by technology is reality and cause for concern for elders today.

My weblog will focus on analyzing treatment of elders now that technology is infiltrating their communities and how technology has affected elders’ lives and their roles in their communities, including the traditional cultural transmission of knowledge, language and spiritual connections and relationships with the land & nature, and relationships in the community.  I’m curious as to how the relationships (between elders, their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren) have evolved due to the intrusion of technology, including how they interact and communicate.  The sites visited will include international and local sites.

There are many questions to consider including the following:  Has technology, social network sites and peer groups taken the place of elders’ direct influence on the younger generations?  Do elders feel marginalized due to technological invasion?  Do they or would they be interested in participating in the creation of educational resources to educate their youth about their traditions, history, spiritual life (somewhat), language and cultural values?

I plan to create a resource for Indigenous cultures as well as the staff at my school and in my school division, as due to our location we tend to have a number of Indigenous students in our schools that have moved to town from one of the nearby reservations.