From one perspective, elders have simply lived longer than the rest of us, no more and no less. But with more years comes more experience. They have seen more, heard more, had more time to ponder the mysteries of this world. We all grow deeper into our land all the time. Those who have lived longer have learned its ways more thoroughly, have more experience with it, have a deeper and older relationship to it than the rest of us.
The line of our elders weaves the fabric of our families. They know our stories better than anyone else, because they’ve heard them repeated longer. They embody the knowledge and wisdom that our family has won through careful attention, hard work, and many sacrifices over many generations. Only a great fool would dismiss that.
Every elder in a family in the Fifth World represents the sort of accumulated knowledge that the modern world would find in a library. They have their faults and foibles like anyone else, but people in the Fifth World accord them great honor and respect for their experience.
However, this doesn’t mean that people worship or obey their elders, or that elders fill the role of chiefs or kings. The people of the Fifth World respect individual autonomy. Only a fool would disregard the counsel of an elder who has proven her wisdom, but everyone has the right to disagree. Elders cannot compel or coerce anyone to obey them or listen to them. They often have more influence than others, but only through the respect they’ve earned, not because they have any power to command others.