Council of Elders

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There is wisdom in experience.

Intact communities already have longstanding, traditional Councils of Elders, and do not need to form new ones. Young communities like Occupy are in a different position, and are often looking for guidance.

There are "Councils of Elders" forming around the globe, but it can take time to learn who is and isn't a respected Elder. It seems these days there are elders and Elders all over the place. Some have been appointed as representatives, others are self-proclaimed, some are outright frauds who are capitalizing on a disparate, young community's need for guidance.

One thing to look for when you find a "Council of Elders" is to research who formed the Council, and who controls the group's contact with the media and other non-Council members. Make sure the "Elders" are not just random elderly people, or people selling something, but people who have been appointed as Tradition-Bearers and Advisors in the community they were raised in. People from outside those communities cannot say who is and isn't a respected Elder in that community. While we listen with our heart to their words, we must also trust the communities they speak for to choose who has the right to speak for them.

Our Occupy Boston definition of an Elder is someone we look to for guidance and mentorship. These are individuals who are given this position by consensus within their respective communities. Younger adults raised in wisdom from a young age could be selected to be mentored by an designated elder, and after a period of time become an elder when the community decides they are mature enough to handle this role.

Accountability, long history of serving the community in a beneficial manner, and grounded, non-exploitative spiritual practice is essential for an Elder, along with a demonstrated history of respectful, kind, and useful guidance that enriches the community as a whole. Mentoring skills, and generational and multi-generational thinking are also marks of an Elder. While Elders may sit in Council some of the time, they should also be grounded, integrated members of the community. They do not sit on pedestals; they are human beings who walk among us and choose for themselves what group activities they will or won't participate in. They are not to be objectified or tokenized.

Working Group

If you are an activist with experience with social change, please consider joining this new working group to help us recognize and develop a Council of Elders in our Occupy community.

The goal of our WG is to gather together (physically and on discussion lists) activists who have extensive experience, and to discuss these issues of importance. We also seek to gather "community" elders who can help advise us on issues of community development and societal change.

The goal is not to try and control anyone. The group is simply to gather people together that have ages of experience, to see what we as a group, and our advisors, think about issues specific to Boston.

Point of Contact: kendramoy8 @

Existing Elders Councils and Organizations

These are not necessarily endorsements, just some examples of existing councils. Unless otherwise noted, these groups have not offered to work directly with Decolonize/Occupy, and some concern themselves only with issues of protection of culture, but this is a sampling of groups for comparison.

  • The Elders - an international, multi-racial and multi-ethnic organization which includes very prominent politicians, clergypeople, artists and activists such as Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson.
  • The Council of Elders - an independent group of leaders from the farm workers, sanctuary and human rights movement, formed to address issues, and take an active role in, the Occupy encampments. Includes artists and activists like Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Rev. James Lawson, Jr. and Dolores Huerta.
  • Protect All Tribal Citizens Hundreds of false Indian groups are claiming to be sovereign tribes and are teaching their own fabricated culture and history as if it were Indian. Contains important documents such as statements from the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes.


Important information for those working in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples! Woody Vaspra, the man who formed one of the "Elders Councils" that was formerly listed above, is being protested by the real Lakota, Dakota and Nakota Elders (and their allies) for appropriating and selling fake Lakota ceremonies, for forming a largely-fake council, and for exploiting the few actual Indigenous people he has had contact with. This is his website:

Here is background info on exploiter Woody Vaspra and his unauthorized, fake Sun Dance: This particular post in that thread is about the efforts of Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people to stop Vaspra:

submitted by Sky Davis - asgasdiusdi @ gmail . com

Please be aware and make sure our community does not support frauds or exploiters, even unintentionally.