By Shari Narine
First Nations, Métis and Inuit Elders will gather in Edmonton this fall to share their wisdom and their strength.
“I have called upon my Elders, many Elders, for their counsel on many occasions. I value them. They sit in high regard,” said Treaty 8 Grand Chief Rupert Meneen.
“But they are starting to leave us, and now we have an opportunity with this gathering to show them that we value their words, their teachings and we honour their legacy and their resilience.”
The National Gathering of Elders, to take place Sept. 11 to 14, will mark the first time Elders from all three distinct Indigenous groups have come together.
“Our focus will be … (to) create opportunities for sharing our cultures, perspectives and fostering good relations between the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island,” said Meneen, who was instrumental in bringing about the event.
Assembly of First Nations Alberta Regional Chief Craig Mackinaw said the event, endorsed by the AFN, will help “build bridges.”
Indigenous Relations Minister Richard Feehan says the gathering is an “incredible opportunity” to learn and share and use those teachings on a path toward reconciliation.
But beyond that, he said, the Elders will be able to get support from each other.
“To create really beneficial mutual relationships across the country so they can support each other in an area that has not always been well-respected over the years,” he said.
Gerald Cunningham, president of the Métis Settlements General Council, says the more than 1,000 unique Indigenous communities do share similarities.
“We recognize that there are many common themes to be found in examining our unique histories,” he said. “It’ll be an opportunity for Elders from all three distinct groups to come together, to share stories, laugh, educate and learn.”
Feehan pledged $100,000 in core funding from the province to support the event, but Meenan says that money won’t go far. No specific funding has been forthcoming from the federal government yet, but Meenan said some is expected.
He noted that industry and organizations have been approached to see if they want to set up booths and promote their companies and organizations.