Gwich'in native Elders: not just knowledge, but a way of looking at the world

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Publication details

Wilson, S 1996, Gwich'in native Elders: not just knowledge, but a way of looking at the world, Alaska Native Knowledge Network, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK.

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This study examines the role, characteristics, and needs of Gwich’in Native Elders of Fort Yukon, Alaska. Using participant observer and ethnographic methodologies, the researcher was able to make a distinction between respected Elders and the elderly. Through the literature reviewed, it was established that strong and healthy Elders are essential in the healing of their communities. Many community-oriented development projects call upon the Elders to lead the community to a healthier lifestyle. This research focused on what the community could be doing to help its Elders grow, and on what part the Elders play in gaining respect from the community. The research documents specific roles that respected Elders assume and are given in the community, the character traits that they are expected to display in the fulfillment of these roles, and also points out what the Elders need in return from the community. Recommendations for the empowerment of Elders are also offered.