The world we live in is ever-changing and Elders are key to teaching, sharing and honouring the wisdom of our ancestors. Our Elders help to preserve traditional knowledge and offer guidance to create strong, healthy nations. It is important to be mindful about how we engage Elders when we include them in in language, arts and cultural heritage revitalization work.
With guidance from Dr. Lorna Wanosts’a7 Williams, FPCC has developed a free resource Working with Elders to support anyone who is interested in engaging with Elders. The guide also includes suggestions about ways to engage with Elders and Knowledge Keepers, even when we are unable to gather during COVID-19 restrictions.
“Elders are among the busiest people in our communities, patiently lending their guidance to support our youth, community programs, cultural revitalization and so much more,” says Dr. Suzanne Gessner, FPCC Research and Development Linguist. “FPCC is often asked for advice about involving Elders in language work so we developed these guidelines to support that work in a thoughtful way.”
Here are some of the themes included in the guide:
Plan ahead. Take time to plan before approaching an Elder and ensure that your project or event is a good fit, know why you are asking an Elder for their participation and confirm that the Elder you approach has the knowledge you seek.
Clear communication. Be clear about what you want to achieve so the Elder can identify how they can contribute. It is best to ask an Elder one-on-one for their participation and to provide enough time for them to plan ahead.
Consider the task. Be sensitive to the requirements of your task. Think about the impacts on an Elder, such as travel, the time required, the nature of the activities, and that they have the supports they need to do the task.
Provide compensation. Elders’ time and knowledge is valuable. You may want to inquire about the appropriate traditional or community protocol for compensation or gifts.
Go virtual. Virtual meetings are a safe way to keep people connected at this time and can accommodate large groups. Consider using video conference tools like Zoom when it is not safe to gather in person. Make sure they have the proper equipment and support for what is needed to participate.
Use technology. Devices like a cell phone can record audio and video of an Elder sharing. Be sure the Elder or Knowledge Keeper is comfortable with this format and ask their permission before recording.
Working together in a good way is an important part of everything we do. Thank you to Dr. Williams for advising us on this resource. Click the link below to view the full guide for what you need to know before involving an Elder in your project.
Working with Elders
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