News / Edmonton

'This will bridge that gap': National Gathering of Elders reaches out to youth

Elders from all over Canada are gathering to share culture, traditions and experiences

Treaty 8 Grand Chief Rupert Meneen helped organize the National Gathering of Elders at Edmonton EXPO Centre

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Treaty 8 Grand Chief Rupert Meneen helped organize the National Gathering of Elders at Edmonton EXPO Centre

The organizers of Canada's first ever National Gathering of Elders hope the summit--which brought people from 623 First Nation, Metis and Inuit groups to Edmonton starting Monday--will help young people connect with their culture in new ways.

“There is disconnect in our communities with the elders," said Treaty 8 Grand Chief Rupert Meneen, who helped create the event.

"This will bridge that gap and somehow bring the youth back into learning and respecting their elders, going back to learning their language and culture,” Meneen said.

The gathering is being held at the Edmonton EXPO Centre until Thursday, and will include health and wellness sessions, a trade show, ands discussion on climate change, missing and murdered indigenous women and revitalization of indigenous languages, culture and reconciliation.

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There are approximately 4000 elders attending.

“We had heard stories about these gatherings of the elders in British Columbia, how much it means to the elders to come out and be a part of a big event and ceremony like this,” Meneen said.

“It makes them feel included in everything we are doing and let’s hopefully moving forward from here we involved them in everything we do and we can learn from them.”

He's hopeful that young people in particular take advantage of the gathering.

“Hopefully they can be here with the elders and learning and talking and hearing their stories and hopefully, you know, something can happen,” he said.

For Brittney Pastion, 23, of Treaty 8 territory, the gathering will do just that.

"To see something like this and see a demand for it from our youth, even from our elders is quite a moment for everyone," she said.

Brittney Pastion, 23 attends the first Elders Gathering in Edmonton.

Kashmala Fida

Brittney Pastion, 23 attends the first Elders Gathering in Edmonton.

Pastion dedicated herself to learning traditional ways when she was 17, and started dancing at powwows and learning Indigenous languages, but there have been some challenges.

She's half Dene, but hasn't had much access to Dene elders, she said.

“I don't have much access to Dene language, so having our elders down here is really good," she said.

“It’s super moving to have everyone here and to have access to all the knowledge, all the elders as a youth."

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