The essential traits of elders in the tribe are:
- Before transitioning to elder status in the tribe, they were adults who were community leaders and cornerstones, and who actively participated in helping youth in the tribe transition to adulthood.
- They care deeply about the whole community, and provide vision and guidance to the youth and adults.
- They are wise and patient and can apply and/or communicate their wisdom and experience effectively.
- Their guidance is based on supporting the long term growth, nurturing and protection of the tribe for the next seven generations.
The essential responsibilities of the elder to the tribe are:
- The elders take care of the tribe, but in a less immediate and material sense than adults. While adults of the tribe generate capital and take care of societal functions from farming to civic leadership, elders take a longer, seven generation view of the needs of the tribe and advise the adults based on this vision.
- Elders mentor and transition adults who are capable and willing into elder status.
- Elders maintain the tribes history and customs, and pass these on to the next generations.
The responsibilities of the tribe to the elders are:
- The elders are to be respected. (This doesn't mean that everyone will agree with them all of the time - far from it. Indeed, one of the responsibilities of the youth is to shake things up and have new ideas.)
- The youth and especially the adults of the tribe will help the elders transition to ancestors. This responsibility involves some combination of physical, material and spiritual care before death, as well as honoring their memory after death. The elder may continue to advise the tribe in writings and legacies left behind and, in the spiritual practices of some tribes, communication may continue to him/her/hir.