Respecting Our Elders - Right Relation: Living in Sacred Balance

Kindling the Native Spirit: Sacred Practices for Everyday Life - Denise Linn 2015

Respecting Our Elders
Right Relation: Living in Sacred Balance

When we live in right relation, we cherish our elders. In Western culture, we diminish our elders and don’t hold them in esteem. In native cultures, the older that one is, the more they are revered. Elders are treated as wise beings, and hence respond in kind. In our present-day culture, our elders are often viewed as second-class citizens, and this can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, for if one is treated as useless there’s a tendency to feel a lack of worth.

When I’ve visited native cultures, in which elders are respected, I’m often called “Auntie” or “Grandmother” with fondness, even though I have no blood affiliation. This honoring of the elders is not an uncommon tradition. These terms of endearment are a kind of cleaving of community and a declaration that we are connected. Nundjan Djiridjarkan talked to me about the place of elders in his Aboriginal culture:

In our tradition, the elders were honored because they were the ones who had the knowledge. Before the white man came, there was no written knowledge. We passed on our laws and our knowledge through the oral tradition. And the old people were the keepers of this. They were the ones who had lived longer and experienced more things. They knew what to do if a big storm came or something like that. They were the ones who had the answers. See, it might have been a hundred years since such a big storm or drought had come. And these were the people who had the knowledge in that area. No one else had it. You couldn’t just get the information out of a book; you had to get it from one of the old ones. So that’s where the respect came in.


It doesn’t take a cardboard box with ominous messages written all over it for us to know that things are out of balance and to know that something needs to change. It’s self-evident. We intuitively know that the more we connect with our native roots and live in right relation with the world around us, the more our bountiful Earth can care for us all. We know that it is possible. There are many things we can each do. It can be a matter of simply changing our mind-set, and honoring the spirit of the earth in gratitude, or even taking time to sit in council to hear the truths of others with an open heart, or creating ceremonies in honor of a new paradigm for the future. Even something as simple as looking to our elders for wisdom can help to kindle the native spirit and bring balance to our planet.

Perhaps just one person can’t turn the tide, but there are many ways that we each can share the sacred responsibility, as Earth-keepers, to carry the wisdom of the past into the present and into the future. And the wonderful thing is that together we can do something; even the smallest thing can make a difference. All of our actions together, all of our hopes and dreams surging into a mighty river of consciousness, can create a better world—one we can look forward to, where our children’s children can live and love, right on down to the seventh generation and beyond.

I hold a vision of this future cresting on the horizon. I’d like to believe that together we can ignite the light of the native spirit so that for a thousand years from now it shines bright and bold for future generations. If we don’t do it, and do it now . . . who will? You have my love and support on this journey of the heart.