An elder plays an important role in the First Nations community. The elder is someone can speak to for advice and guidance.
Shirley Williams is the elder here at Durham College. She often makes visits to the Aboriginal Student Centre, located in the Simcoe Building.
Williams was born in and raised in Wikwemikong. She is a part of the Birdclan Clan of the Ojibway and Odawa First Nations. She was a Native Studies professor at Trent University. She is now retired and lives in Peterborough but makes time for students at Durham College.
She says students come and talk to her about their troubles going on in their everyday lives.
Students may speak to an elder for “many different things,” she says, including counselling, school work, problems with the school, or cultural things.
Sometimes they also want “to find the different meanings of things in the room here.”
She points out a dreamcatcher on the purple wall before her.
“Dreamcatchers are used to dream for the babies. When they are born, you put up the dreamcatcher. (They) are used when the children have nightmares,” she said.
“The holes in the (dreamcatcher) are where the good dreams come through for the babies. Dreamcatchers have significance, other than dream. You might set what your career is, what you want to become and you will always have that spirit to walk with you. The spirit is the one who guards your life that helps you and gives directions.
James Guajie is a student worker at the Aboriginal Student Centre. He says anyone can gain knowledge by speaking to an elder.
An elder can share advice or experience that guides people to deal with their problems.
“They seem to have a practice of being non-judgmental and they are very open to discussing almost anything, so it’s often quite a pleasure to talk with them,” Guajie says.
Elder Shirley Williams’ next scheduled visit to the Aboriginal Student Centre will be on Nov. 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.