‘Be proud of who you are’: Indigenous elders offer advice to the young about self-respect and reconciliation – Edmonton

Canada’s first National Gathering of Elders earlier this month in Edmonton brought together more than 5,000 leaders and teachers from Inuit, Métis and First Nations communities.

The event was initiated by Tallcree First Nation and Grand Chief Rupert Meneen and organized by various First Nations from across Canada.

The objective was to honour those whose wisdom and insight are helping shape a new generation of Indigenous people. The cultural gathering was rich in ceremony and ideas.

We asked five of the elders who attended to share their thoughts on culture and reconciliation and offer some advice for the next generation.

Doreen Bergum

Olds, Alta.

Doreen Bergum is a Métis elder from Olds, Alta. (Terry Reith/CBC)

As an elder, Doreen Bergum spends many hours each week on the road, bringing prayers on behalf of the Métis Nation of Alberta Region 3 to gatherings big and small. Born in rural Alberta, Bergum grew up in a large family filled with culture.

Home wasn’t much. The family lived on a road allowance — “the land between the ditch and the river,” as Bergum described it — in two buildings smushed together.

“From there, our parents taught us our culture.”

Music and dancing were rewards at the end of the week, as her family would break out fiddles and guitars and play and dance the night away. “That was our time to relax and enjoy our life together as Métis families.”

Bergum feels it is important for First Nations, Mé​tis and Inuit people to share their culture in the broader community. She says family is important, and urges young people to embrace their culture.

“Respecting the elders and listening to the elders and just enjoying your family. Be proud of who you are.”

‘Be proud of who you are’2:01

Ronnie Alec

Burns Lake, B.C.

Ronnie Alec is an elder and hereditary chief from Lake Babine, B.C. (Terry Reith/CBC)

A drummer and hereditary chief from Lake…

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