By Trevor Greyeyes
Peguis First Nation hosted the second National Gathering of Elders 2019 that ran from September 9 through to September 11, 2019 with the RBC Convention Centre serving as the host facility.
On the last day, Peguis Chief Glenn Hudson said, “We put in the bid back in 2017. We were so excited when we were awarded the event. The last three and a half days have been a huge success for us.”
Over the four days, more than 4,000 elders participated in an event that saw works shops, sharing circles, cultural demonstrations and even live entertainment as part of the event.
And the gathering has had a definite economic impact on the city as well, Hudson said, “Anything we do in terms of our First Nation contributes to society overall. We can put on top notch events anywhere including Peguis First Nation or even facilities like the RBC Convention Centre.
It brings in hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions to the City of Winnipeg. I know you couldn’t get a hotel room anywhere throughout the city this past four days.”
As the host community, Peguis had 350 elders from the community attending the event.
Bill Shead, ostensibly a Peguis elder, talked about what being an elder is and a little bit about what it isn’t.
He pointed out that being an elder is more than just reaching and passing a certain age.
Ruefully, Shead hands me a card that reads “Old Guy” under his name.
“There is more to being an elder. I know people will assume your an elder because your elderly,” said Shead. “Elders have to earn respect for how they contribute to their community. There are others who are elders in the church. While others are elders because of their skill in a certain cultural aspect.”
For Shead though, he was impressed with the numbers of people attending the gathering and from all the places across the country that they came from.
The National Gathering of Elders seems to be structured much like the Indspire Awards, I think. In that host cities, First Nations or organization can bid on hosting the event.
Critics of the event in Winnipeg, including more than a few elders, complained that the price of the event was too much for a regular person with no affiliation or sponsor to attend the event.
However, from what I experienced at the gathering without having registered was that no one was turned away or excluded.