The Terrace Nisga’a Elders Association met with other First Nations, Inuit and Métis elders from across the country at a national gathering in Winnipeg last week.
“The gathering is similar to the provincial gathering of elders, but it’s huge,” says Nisga’a elder and group president Louisa Gray.
The 2019 National Gathering of Elders brings thousands of elders together to build ties and discuss collaboratively a variety of topics, including missing and murdered Indigenous women, cultural preservation and traditional knowledge. The conference took place Sept. 9-12, and is to be held every two years — the first one took place in 2017.
“It means so much to us,” Gray says. “We get to witness different cultural events, we get to watch the dancers from different cultures like the Cree nation and nations from Ontario. Even provinces like New Brunswick — we don’t have an opportunity to meet other nations unless it’s at the national gathering. “
Gray travelled with seven other northwest B.C. Nisga’a elders, including Henry Bob, Hazel Nyce, Diane Smith, Marlene Robinson, Stephen Ward, Moses Stewart and Maryanne Stanley. The association began raising money two years ago to attend this year’s gathering, collecting between $10-15,000 through several community events.
“We’ve had a lot of support from our families, they’ve just been incredible.”
The chance to meet with thousands of Indigenous people from across the country and participate in various cultural activities with them is a huge opportunity, Gray says.
The Terrace Nisga’a Elders Association first started out with 25 people, but due to tragedies and death, a lot of them dropped out, Gray says. With the amount of knowledge elders carry with them, it’s all the more important to have gatherings like this to bring people together from across borders.
“The opening ceremonies, the parade of nations, is just breathtaking,” she says.
At the gathering, elders usually exchange gifts and souvenirs that represent their nation with each other. Gray says the group brought Nisga’a pins for any elders they meet to remember them by.
And before the group left, Gray said she looked forward to meeting Nisga’a members living in other parts of the province.
“Some of them have always lived in Vancouver, and so we don’t see them that often. We’re pretty excited.”