It’s important to respect your Elders in Inuit culture, said Iqaluit Coun. Paul Quassa.
“Elders are knowledge-holders and that’s why it’s so very important. It’s very attached to our culture that you respect your Elders,” he said. “They’ve lived longer, they’ve experienced more life than you.”
Now in his 70s, Quassa remembered when he was young and Elders’ names were not even used.
“We were just allowed to say either Ittuq or Ataatasiaq. You don’t say their name because of respect. That’s how much respect we had for our Elders,” he explained. “I was told whenever you go to a camp, if there’s an Elder that’s the first one you go visit. Just to go see and say hi and that’s about it — at least see them.”
Quassa, former Nunavut premier and former Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated president, hopes future generations learn the cultural values Elders have as knowledge-holders.
“An Elder’s an Elder, whether it’s a woman or a man. It’s being respectful because of their experience,” he said.
While Quassa agreed that 60 and above is a good number to be considered an Elder, he added those metrics weren’t always used to measure such criteria.
“In the olden days we didn’t have numbers to say, this old you’re an Elder now. It was the facial expression, the physical being of being an Elder — it’s how you see them rather than looking at it as a number.
“An Elder in a community may not necessarily be a leader but a respected Elder,” he said, stressing the importance of holding Elders in high regard.
“I encourage all Nunavummiut to respect the social values of Inuit, which is respecting our Elders at all times.”