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Traditional Roles of Elders

“We are tribal elders, with an ongoing responsibility for safeguarding the tribe’s survival and protecting the health of the planet. To do this, we must become society's futurists, testing out new instruments, technologies, ideas and styles of living. We have the freedom to do so, and we have nothing to lose.”

Maggie Kuhn  

Traditional Roles of Elders in Indigenous Cultures 


  •  Counselor and wisdom holder
  • Initiators for adolescents


  • Resolving conflicts: civil, racial, and intergenerational 


  • Keeping an eye on public officials
  • Monitoring big business & government


  • Storytellers
  • Visionaries, seers


  • sacred ecologist - 
  • Inspiring action for the public good

Mothers / Nurtures

  • Taking care of the young and vulnerable.
  • Providing support and encouragement


  • Providing role models for what it means to act wisely
  • Modeling active conscious elderhood

From Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Revolutionary Approach to Growing Older   Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi