The Elders of the Cree communities are deciding to get organized to help strengthen the Cree culture and provide advice to the Cree Nation.

“The Elders are the foundation of the Cree culture, and they hold the key to the revival of the culture and need to get organized,” said Robbie Dick, the former Chief of Whapmagoostui.

Robbie was recently hired as coordinator of the work to set up Elders’ councils at the local and regional levels.

He said Elders need to get organized because their wisdom is needed in the times ahead.

“This is a forum where the power of the Cree Nation can amalgamate.”

Robbie said the youth in particular seek guidance from the Elders.

“They want answers and they have a lot of questions, so it’s only appropriate that something be put in place. What these Elders can do is unravel this confusion and they have to start with themselves by getting organized,” he said.

“This applies to the leadership too. Instead of us always relying on outside help like consultants and lawyers, we can use our gift from our Creator—the Elders.

“This is a road we should have taken a long time ago.”

Elders approached the Board of Compensation for funding for the organizing work. In April, they got most of what was requested and Robbie was hired as coordinator.

One of his first steps was to tour the communities and meet with Elders along with Robbie and Sally Matthew and David and Susan Neeposh.

In early July, Elders from all communities met in Ouje-Bougoumou. They decided Elders’ councils should first be created at the local level with the involvement of the grassroots people. Once that’s done, a regional council will be the next step.

The Elders also had preliminary discussions on a mandate for the Regional Elders’ Council. The feeling is it should be a non-political organization with the goal of strengthening the Cree culture and customs.

Robbie said the council will also provide input on “issues that affect the whole nation. Not necessarily be involved in politics, but to have input on the political level.

But, he added, “There’s still a lot to be discussed by the Elders.”

Two issues that require more discussion are Christianity and Native spirituality.

“One of the most confusing things for our Elders is Native spirituality, how it refers or defers to Christianity. They need to be understanding about these things because both sides are good—there is a lot of good in Christianity and the teachings of the Bible and a lot of good in Native spirituality. There’s a lot of similarity there and a lot of differences,” said Robbie.

“These are questions the youth want answered and our Elders are not at a stage to answer that.

“This is one of the things I would ask the Elders and youth is to open up their hearts and minds… This is what the youth want and this is a way to bring the youth and Elders back together, because they are drifting apart.”