There are Indigenous Elders, and Elder-in-Residence, at UTSC and across the tri-campus:
- Josh Eshkawkogan, First Nation Elder
- Naulaq LeDrew, Knowledge Keeper
- Pearl Gabona, Metis Elder
The Important Work of Our Elders
Elders are respected individuals who play key roles in Indigenous communities. They are important knowledge keepers, and they also help to ensure cultural continuity. As living connections to the past, Elders serve as teachers, healers, advisors and counsellors. (Hele, Karl S. Canadian Encyclopedia https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/indigenous-elders-in-c...)
What is an Elder
Indigenous elders at UofT are very important members of our community who come from various First Nations, Metis, and Inuit communities.
The term elder can have many different meanings but often it refers to an Indigenous person who has attained great knowledge of history, carries wisdom, and traditional teachings. Since Pre-Colonial times, elders have been passing their wisdom, teachings, culture, and values through formal and informal education using Indigenous pedagogy.
It is important to know that not all elders carry the same teachings or knowledge and may not have the answers you are seeking. For example, a First Nation elder may carry different cultural perspectives and teachings than an Inuit elder.
How to Connect with Elders/Protocols
The University is committed to forming and affirming respectful relationships with Elders and the Indigenous knowledge they carry. Individuals recognized by the Indigenous community of Toronto as Elders are respected and honored as keepers of wisdom.
In order to maintain a respectful relationship with Elders at First Nations House, the following protocols should be followed:
Tobacco, sweetgrass, sage, and cedar are the four sacred plants.
A gift is offered in recognition of the wisdom the Elder will share. A gift, such as tobacco in the form of a tobacco tie (tobacco wrapper in a small, square cloth), can be given and are available at the front desk. Offering tobacco to an Elder establishes a relationship between you and the Elder. It is protocol to offer tobacco to Elders when you ask them to share their knowledge.
Start by introducing yourself: if possible and applicable state your name, your traditional territory, your clan, and present territory. Please note that it is important to be specific in making your request. If the Elder accepts the tobacco they are accepting the request and will do their best to help you. If they cannot do what you are asking they will say so and not accept the tobacco.
When offering tobacco, place it in front of the Elder and state your request. By picking up the tobacco, The Elder has accepted your request. If you hand it directly to the Elder you do not give them the opportunity to accept your request – it takes away their choice.
Do not touch sacred objects used by Elders (pipes, eagle feathers, medicine pouches, etc.) unless the Elder has given you permission. Photographs of these objects should not be taken unless permission has been granted by the Elder who cares for these items.