An Elder’s responsibility with other family members will necessitate the involvement in discipline. The Elders are keenly aware that social disorder and lack of harmony evolves from the erosion of cultural values in family and community structures. They also know that to maintain those values and structures requires discipline.
Traditional discipline requires a commitment to the Aboriginal way of life. It requires behaving in a way that is respectful of the traditional teachings, and to make efforts to live each day in a way that enhances our relationships to the Creator, to Mother Earth, to each other and to ourselves. Elder’s support with children, young people and adults will help them to address their insecurities and animosities. The Elders will teach balance in emotions, behaviors, thinking and spirituality through traditional discipline.
Elders, however, do not lose touch with joy, laughter and playfulness. In their own search for life’s meaning they recognize the need for balance between seriousness and joyfulness. They believe humour, teasing, joking and laughter assists others to keep life’s issues in perspective. The relationship of small children and Elders is a special one in this regard. They know they are soon to return to the ‘Great Mysterious’ and that young children had recently come from the ‘Great Mysterious’, and they are together – nearly at the same point.
Elders also possess specialized, individual gifts and these special attributes may have been acquired through visionary experiences or through training but most likely a combination of both. Some Elders may carry the responsibility to keeping the history of their people through the oral stories they have been told while others have been trained all their lives in medicine and healing.
A main role of Elders is teaching. One reason for their ability share with people who seek their teachings is that they see themselves as learners. Elders often express that they are just learning themselves and are aware that to completely underst and world in all its complexity is beyond human capacity. For some, Elders have been part of their up bringing but for many others this has not been the case. The oppression and racism of the past century has left many individuals, families and communities with deep psychological and spiritual wounds. The destructive forces have corroded family and community values.
When reaching out to Elders, there is a proper protocol to use when we are requesting help from an Elder. We offer tobacco, a cigarette or a package or pouch depending on what you can afford. This offering has special significance that an Elder will explain if you ask them. Elders are the spiritual messengers who will guide Aboriginal people toward renewed strength, pride and hope for balanced lives.