Indigenous

Indigenous elders gather in Winnipeg to talk about climate change, MMIWG

First Nations, Inuit and Métis elders from across the country are meeting in Winnipeg to share knowledge and talk about issues like missing and murdered Indigenous women and climate change at the 2019 National Gathering of Elders.

2nd National Gathering of Elders to also discuss culture and language revitalization

Maurice Sam is a Tsimshian elder from Kitsumkalum, B.C. He has been planning the trip to Winnipeg for the second National Gathering of Elders since he attended the gathering in Edmonton in 2017. (Lenard Monkman/CBC)

First Nations, Inuit and Métis elders from across the country are meeting in Winnipeg to share knowledge and talk about issues like missing and murdered Indigenous women and climate change at the 2019 National Gathering of Elders.

Peguis First Nation is this year's host for the four-day event. Peguis Chief Glenn Hudson said his community put in a bid two years ago after the inaugural event was held in Edmonton in 2017.

"It's an amazing, blessed opportunity that we have in terms of hosting our National Elders Gathering," said Hudson.

During the grand entry, hundreds of elders and dignitaries including Sen. Murray Sinclair and Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman danced their way into the circle while people carried flags representing their home nations.

Over 4,000 elders from across Canada have gathered in Winnipeg for the week to share their knowledge and connect with each other. (Lenard Monkman/CBC)

One of the people who helped to carry in a flag this morning was Maurice Sam.

Sam and a group of elders travelled from the Tsimshian village Kitsumkalum in northwestern B.C.

"Seeing all of the nations getting together, that's really a precious thing," said Sam.

Sam said it was beautiful to see all of the different colours of regalia and that being in a room full of elders from across the country was uplifting.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman with Peguis First Nation chief Glenn Hudson. Hudson said Peguis put in a bid to host the event two years ago and he hopes to gather and share information related to this week's discussion themes. (Lenard Monkman/CBC)

"It's just an amazing feeling, it lifts my heart," said Hudson. 

Hudson said there were 4,000 registrants as of Monday morning but he expected up to 6,000 registrants for the week's events at the RBC Convention Centre.

Elders forum topics will include culture and language revitalization, reconciliation, missing and murdered Indigenous women and climate change.

Organizers have also planned intertribal (powwow) showcases, a friendship unity concert, a social dance, a full trade show and a bingo night at the Assiniboia Downs.

Elders take a break for lunch during Monday's sessions. (Lenard Monkman/CBC)

Reclaiming roles

Mary Rose Sundberg, Dene from Dettah, N.W.T., has been planning the trip to Winnipeg for months. She attended the previous National Gathering of Elders and manages a language centre in her community.

She said she travelled to the gathering because she loves meeting new people and seeing the various Indigenous cultures represented.

Mary Rose Sundberg is a Dene elder from Detah, N.W.T. She talked about the importance of communities recognizing the role of elders. (Lenard Monkman/CBC)

She said that elders need to reclaim their roles within their communities.

"We need to put the elders where they should be," said Sundberg.

"I think we've lost our roles. Each First Nation, each community, every family member has a role to play, and we're kind of overlooking the elders." 

She said the gathering is an opportunity to share information with each other and take those teachings back to their respective communities.

About the Author

Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He is the co-founder of Red Rising Magazine and has been an associate producer with the CBC's Indigenous unit for three years. Follow him on Twitter: @Lenardmonkman1