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Thousands of elders gather in Edmonton


Last updated 11/16/2017 at 10:36am

More than 5,000 elders of First Nations, Métis and Inuit descent gathered in Edmonton for the First National Gathering of Elders in September, 2017. The Northland's Expo Center in Edmonton is overflowing this week with Indigenous elders attending the first National Gathering of Elders.

The purpose of the three-day event was "so the Elders can come together and take their rightful place as advisors, teachers and leaders," conference organizers wrote.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said the historic gathering was happening at a time when knowledge from elders is greatly needed.

"I think more than ever, now when you look at what's happening around the world in terms of climate change-look at all the fires, look at all the winds, look at all the big storms. More than ever now, the world needs indigenous peoples and elders' knowledge," said Bellegarde.

"More than ever now we as leaders need their guidance, their strength, their ceremonies, their prayers on how to move ahead on issues like missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, the 94 Calls to Action on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, How do we implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples? How do we implement treaties? We really need the elders to come together and share their knowledge with us."

Elders make up the pillars of Indigenous society and culture and are unique to Indigenous culture, said Métis elder Tom Ghostkeeper.

"Indigenous nations in Canada are the only people that have elders," said Ghostkeeper.

"With language you have culture and then everything falls into place. The elders have kept the language alive. There's more and more young people that are very interested in their indigenous language and they're thirsting for indigenous spirituality, indigenous culture, indigenous language and they're highly respectable of their elders . . . so we are passing that on."

The three days featured various activities and breakout sessions, including discussions on reconciliation, climate change, revitalization of culture and language, and missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

The gathering was led by a National Gathering of Elders Advisory Council, along with a core group of organizers from Treaty 6, Treaty 7 and Treaty 8 First Nations, the Métis Nation of Alberta, Métis Settlements General Council, Inuit Edmonton and the Assembly of First Nations.


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