Elders are cherished for their wisdom, knowledge and as living links to our history, culture and traditions. Our leaders relied on the experience of elders when planning the best places to travel and hunt. On long winter evenings, elders told stories of long ago times, how the world came to be and the adventures of the creatures who created it. When marriages were planned, elders were consulted regarding the ancestry of both people to ensure they were not too closely related or marrying someone from the same clan. Children learned important lessons from the stories of elders. Percy Henry recalled helping older people and receiving payment in stories:
“So we used to work for story when we were young. At night them days there’s no TV, no radio. So the storytelling – that’s a real big for kids …. The young people had to go listen to them. Because you had to learn how to look after your land, your water, your game, all this had to be done by elder.”
Ellen Silas holding Anne Jonas at Moosehide, ca. 1940.
Yukon Archives, Walter Jonas coll., 82/453 #2
Annie Henry, matriarch of a large family, lived to age 101. In 2000, she and her husband Joe had been married 79 years and were formally recognized as the world's longest married couple.
L-R: J.J. Van Bibber, Ronald Johnson and John Semple, National Aboriginal Day, June 21, 2009.