Peter Yarrow Concert to Benefit Native American Nonprofit


Peter Yarrow’s “An Evening of Love and Laughter,” a concert benefiting Portland-based Wisdom of the Elders Jan-13-2014

(PORTLAND, OR) – Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul & Mary fame, will perform a concert for Wisdom of the Elders, a Native American nonprofit in Portland, at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 14, at Augustana Lutheran Church, 2710 NE 14th Ave., Portland. For tickets, visit

Peter Yarrow, of the famed 1960s folk group Peter, Paul & Mary, will perform “An Evening of Love and Laughter” to benefit Portland-based Wisdom of the Elders, a Native American nonprofit, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14, at Augustana Lutheran Church, which donated use of its facility at 2710 NE 14th Ave.

Peter Yarrow, of the famed 1960s folk group Peter, Paul & Mary
Peter Yarrow, of the famed 1960s folk group Peter, Paul & Mary

Yarrow, who wrote some of the trio’s hits, including “Puff, the Magic Dragon” and “Day is Done,” has merged music and social activism in recent decades.

Since 1993, Wisdom has served the Native American Community through cultural programs, including a Northwest Indian Storytelling Festival and a collection of video oral histories of Native elders.

Recently, the organization has begun to focus on the effects of climate change on Native communities; its Wisdom Radio for this season focuses on the issue. Joining Yarrow will be his son Christopher, who will sing and play the washtub base. The younger Yarrow, a Portland resident, plays with local bands Baby Gramps, KingniK and Tevis Hodge Jr.

Tickets, which range from $5 to $60, can be purchased through www.wisdomoftheelders/wisdombenefit. The $60 sponsor ticket includes a meet-and-greet with Yarrow and book signing.

What: Peter Yarrow ‘s “An Evening of Love and Laughter,” a concert benefiting Portland-based Wisdom of the Elders

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14

Where: Augustana Lutheran Church, 2710 NE 14th Ave., Portland

Tickets: $20 general admission; $15 seniors and students, $60 sponsor tickets, $5 children 14 and


Contact: Daniel Dixon,, 503-775-4014

Concern raised about self-proclaimed Elders

Elders Jerry Wood (seated in chair) and Leonard Saddleback preside over a ceremony
Elders Jerry Wood (seated in chair) and Leonard Saddleback preside over a ceremony. Photo: Jessica Jones Sweetgrass/AMMSA

By Jessica Jones Sweetgrass, AMMSA

EDMONTON – Aboriginal Elders hold prominent, vital and respected roles in their communities — positions that are bestowed on a select few.
This is why a local Elder is concerned with an apparent trend he has seen taking shape in Edmonton.

Jerry Wood, an Elder in Residence, educator and cultural facilitator at Grant McEwan University, says he is commonly encountering people of non-Aboriginal descent passing themselves off as Elders.

“This confuses people,” said the 72-year-old Cree First Nations Elder, who also sits on the Council of Elders with the Edmonton Catholic School District.

“Native people don’t want to see others play around with their culture, it’s very spiritual, something they hold sacred.”

Wood described two recent occasions where people self-proclaimed themselves as Elders. He calls these people “plastic” or “popcorn” Elders.

“I saw this happen in a women’s jail,” he said. “A woman self-proclaimed that she was an Elder and told the ladies everything they wanted to hear.”

People passing themselves off as Elders do not realize the harm it creates in their communities, Wood says.

“The young ones who are vulnerable and unknowing believe in the myth of who these people are,” he said.

Wood believes that Elders should only be Métis, Inuit or First Nation.

“It’s a way of life. I can’t be a priest, I haven’t been given that right,” he said.

Elders in Aboriginal societies are role models and share wise counsel. They provide advice and guidance about harmony and balance in a community. They are also considered the educators of heritage and language. Much like the differences in a doctor’s specialty, some Elders are teachers and some mentor youth or the community at large.

Others are Christian Elders, ceremonial Elders or they can take on the responsibilities while being a medicine man or woman.

But all Elders must be recognized by the community, Wood says.
“You just can’t be an Elder— it’s a process of becoming an Elder,” he said. “There is a process of learning, participation, ceremonies, such as sun dancing and fasting.”

Generally, Elders are older people in the community but sometimes youth can be “gifted” from the spirit world, Wood explains. Before being recognized as an Elder many people often act as “helpers” in the community.

Helpers, Wood says, are respected people who mentor under an Elder. All must also be alcohol and drug free.

But at the crux of the issue is that there is no Elder certification that proves people were “recognized by the community. You just can’t call yourself an Elder when you haven’t been given that right by the community,” he said.

“Even some Aboriginal people have not earned the title,” Wood said. “But there is a process… when people start calling you an Elder, seek your mentorship and you start sharing your knowledge in the community and you take on those responsibilities of Eldership, that is when you’re an Elder. You just can’t call yourself an Elder when you haven’t been given that right by the community.”

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Wisdom of the Elders Celebrates 20 Year of Good Works

Wisdom of the Elders is celebrating its 20 year anniversary on April 19, 2013

We’d like to you to join us. For the past twenty years, we have completed numerous oral history recording projects, three American Indian radio series, culturally tailored multimedia health and wellness curricula, sponsored seven Northwest Indian Storytelling Festivals and emerging tribal storytellers workshops, hosted Turtle Island Storytellers Network, and formed Wisdom Gardens. Our mission:  Wisdom of the Elders, Inc. records and preserves oral history, cultural arts, language concepts, and traditional ecological knowledge of exemplary American Indian historians, cultural leaders, and environmentalists in collaboration with arts and cultural organizations, and science and educational institutions.
The evening at Ecotrust’s Billy Frank Jr. Conference Center at 721 NW 9th in Portland (97209) will include music from Cedar Rose, featuring Nico Wind and Karen Kitchen; storytelling; and an account of Wisdom’s history. There will be a raffle to help cover event expenses and a paddle raising to welcome new Friends of Wisdom.
Please let us know that you can join us April 19 for our celebration. This is our “thank you” to our friends, board members, teams, and volunteers. And it is free, but seating is limited. So please RSVP:
Special acknowledgement goes to our colleagues at Ecotrust for the grant for the use of the Billy Frank Jr. Conference Center at The Ecotrust Building; and to New Seasons for their generous food donations. Also a huge thank you to all of our Friends of Wisdom, board members, teams, and volunteers from the past 20 years!
Please contact Lisa Lakes at for more info or if you have questions.