The NFB is committed to respecting your privacy

We use cookies to ensure that our site works efficiently, as well as for advertising purposes.

If you do not wish to have your information used in this way, you can modify your browser settings before continuing your visit.

Learn more
Urban Elder

Urban Elder

| 28 min

In the last forty years, Canada has seen a major population shift of Indigenous peoples to the urban centres like Toronto which has become home to the largest urban Indigenous population in the country (an estimated 65,000).

Today's urban Indigenous peoples (both those with a direct connection to land-based reservation life, and those who have always lived in cities) are developing an urban Indigenous culture. They are discovering ways to integrate important expressions of traditional culture into city life, including the tradition of the Elder: a person of great wisdom who dispenses advice, settles disputes, and acts as a model and arbitrator of acceptable behaviour.

Meet Vern Harper, Urban Elder, who walks the "Red Road" in a fast-paced, urban landscape. The camera follows Vern as he leads a sweat lodge purification ceremony, watches his 11-year-old daughter Cody at a classical ballet rehearsal, conducts a private healing ceremony, participates in a political march of 150,000 people, and counsels Indigenous prisoners at Warkworth Federal Prison.

In his own voice, Vern Harper tells the Urban Elder story of how he reaches into the past for his people's traditions, blending those old ways into the present so that the future can be a time of personal growth and spiritual strength.

  • director
    Robert S. Adams
  • producer
    Robert S. Adams
    Peter Starr
  • executive producer
    Louise Lore
  • associate producer
    Cornelia Principa
  • photography
    John Holosko
  • sound
    Patrick Rowan
    Adrian Tucker
    David Findlay
  • editing
    Denis Takacs
  • sound mix
    John Darrock
  • music
    Don Ross
  • participation
    Vern Harper
    Rodney Bobiwash
    Sylvia Maracle
    Laura Spencer
    Dan Smoke



Pedagogical evaluations and study guides are only available to CAMPUS subscribers.


Features designed specifically for teachers. Learn more

Already subscribed? Sign in

Urban Elder
Also available

Embed this code on your site

Video player width

by Reset