Elders and the Environment

By Shae Hadden

I attended the David Suzuki Foundation’s first Elders for the Environment Forum today in Vancouver, Canada. The event drew 200+ people, including Elder representatives from several First Nations and concerned ‘older’ citizens from Canada and the U.S. Following are some of the highlights from an inspiring talk given by Miles Richardson, former Grand Chief of the Haida Nation and a member of the board of directors of the David Suzuki Foundation.

  • "We are all in the same canoe, and we have to begin paddling together in the same direction."
  • "An Elder is very importantly and universally recognized as a knowledge-keeper. But we look to them for more than that. We depend on them for wisdom, the distillation of that knowledge gained from living and experieneces, and we depend on them to pass that on from generation to generation. We look to them for guidance when we face the huge challenges that life puts in front of us. We look to them for validation when we are doing what we believe is right when others can’t understand or cannot see what we see."
  • "Being an Elder is not about age. You don’t become an Elder because you’ve grown old. An Elder is someone whose integrity I trust and whose wisdom I respect. That must be earned and real."
  • "Talk is good. Actions are stronger."
  • Overheard at the 4th World Wilderness Congress: "Economic growth is an interpretation. The environment is a matter of survival."
  • Wisdom from an Elder given to Miles when he was complaining about the loss of his native culture: "Before you take another step forward, take a step back and listen."

Check back later this week for more highlights from the speakers at this event.