What is the importance of a First Nation's elders?What do they do?  Yes, they pass on there ancestry, and are like Judges in their courts, but why are they so significant and important?

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ladyvols1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The “Path of Life teaches that the elders must be honored and respected because they are the recipients of the gift of long life from the Creator.”  Within First Nations societies, Elders are viewed as the keepers of the cultural knowledge; it is their responsibility to pass this knowledge on through the oral tradition to the young people.

The Elders in the First Nation societies are the most important part of the social structure.  They are honored first and foremost because they have been given the gift of long life.  They are the key to passing on the cultural identity of the tribe.  The Elders are expected to teach the others about the culture and traditions of their society.  Without this teaching there would be a loss of cultural identify.  The young would not have a concept of their heritage without their elders.  Just as in our society we teach our families our cultural traditions so do the Elders of the First Nations.  The Elders teach the vision of life which is important to be handed down from generation to generation.  They teach how to adapt to the modern world while still holding on to their traditional ceremonies and beliefs.  The elders are also important as a “symbolic connection to the past.  They are approached for solutions to tribal conflicts, health issues, negotiations of treaties with the government and overseeing the rights of the First Nation.  Without the elders the Nation would not have cohesiveness and their traditions would be lost forever.