Was visiting out in the Reserve the other day. Visited with my Dad for a bit. After that I went to visit with a couple of Elders over at the Health Centre. Ken Courchene sat with me for about 2 hours. We had a very good visit. He was telling me about the art of visiting. Wishing more people visited in the old way. He also gave me some good Teachings. I need to learn Ojibway real good. You miss so much when the Elders have to go back and translate into English. My friend and Elder Fabian Morrisseau is always fun to visit with. I was wearing a Fedora hat and he said "Boy? You're looking like a whiteman, you got to come to the Rez". He was laughing. I like him alot he really knows how to cheer you up.
Ken and I spoke about the initiative of some Elders in Winnipeg that would like to see some type of "system" to validate Elders. A very controversial concept. You are moving into a certification area and that is a no-no. There are people that are concerned over the false medicine men/women and Elders. In the Traditional world Elder is bestowed on the Learned Ones and the Gifted. Age brings a validation but not all old people are titled with Traditional Elder. It is subjective of course and there in lies the issue. Who is an Elder and what constitutes an Elder? At the same time Elders are concerned of government attempts to determine who is an Elder. They are afraid that the mistakes of a few individuals will harm the reputation of Elders. That is a concern and they (Winnipeg group) want to ensure there is some accountability.
I ran into another Elder in the Reserve and we got to visiting for a short time. He works in Winnipeg and is concerned about Elders that crop up. He said we have "Elders that grew up in the city and have never been to the Reserve but have Elder status, they should go and spend some time in the Bush". That was his opinion. I am not sure how we got on that topic, but it was timely.
I have ideas like all people. But Ken was very right in his telling of some Teachings. I won't repeat the Teachings as I have to digest and learn, but one thing I can share is the aspect of 'freedom'. He said people are free to choose who they see. Some people won't go to some Elders and will go to other Elders. It is not about flash/style but of comfort and substance. People will go with what comforts them. So to try and regulate who people can see is a difficult concept and idea.
However, I do think having a list of people that are Elders/Teachers/Advisors/Medicine people can only be a good thing. Say you want to see someone for medicine and you don't know who to contact. Well a list can be helpful. After all you can't go into the yellowpages and look under Elder or Medicine man for a phone number. :D
You know, that is one thing about my Reserve, there are a lot of Traditional people there. It is great because it could be have been the other way. After all we had a very busy trade route; large Religious footprint (both Catholic and Anglican) in the community. The amount of pressure to abandon all forms of Traditionalism would have been tremendous. But yet there are many gifted and knowledgeable Elders in our Reserve. That is an awesome thing.