Our elders are our knowledge-keepers. We look to them for wisdom, guidance, and validation. Guidance when we face the huge challenges that life puts in front of us. Validation when we must do what we believe is right – especially when others cannot understand or cannot see what we see.
We depend on them for wisdom, the perspective that only they can have that distills all the knowledge and experience they have gained from living. We depend on them to pass that wisdom on from generation to generation.
Being an elder is not about age. You don’t become an elder because you’ve grown old.
To me, an elder is someone whose integrity I trust and whose wisdom I respect. That trust and respect must be earned to be real.
Our culture is based on respect. We value respect that is earned. The trust you acquire, the standing you have in your community, is earned by living with integrity – by sharing your wisdom with words and demonstrating it with your actions.
Talk is good. Actions are stronger.
We need what our elders bring forward.
Kilsli Kaji Sting
Miles G. Richardson
Former President of the Haida Nation
Former Chief Commissioner of the British Columbia Treaty Commission
Board of Directors, The David Suzuki Foundation
Officer of the Order of Canada
From a keynote speech
David Suzuki Foundation Elders Forum 2009