Elders and traditional teachers have a vital and respected role in the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit cultures. We always honour our Elders when we invite them to provide traditional welcomes, share their knowledge within classrooms or at events, or attend a function as an honoured guest.
We recommend that specific protocols be followed when working with or engaging with Indigenous Peoples and communities. At UNBC we have the following procedure in place when inviting Elders to campus.
An invitation should be made at least two weeks in advance of an event or scheduled meeting. The invitation can be made in person, by mail or by email. If making the request in person, you would first offer tobacco as this is following traditional protocol. If the request was made by telephone or email, tobacco can be offered at the first meeting. Through relationship building it is important to note if it is culturally appropriate to gift tobacco as not all communities use tobacco as gift giving.
Giving the opportunity to invite Elders to campus is very important. This is a chance to learn about their ceremonial practices. We suggest using that chance to ask them what their ceremonial gifting practices are, tobacco offerings are a great way to start, but learning and practicing the many ceremonial/traditions of each Indigenous group is very important.
When inviting the Elder ensure to give them as much detail as possible about:
- Event name and details such as date, time, duration, and location
- Who is the audience they would be speaking with
- Transportation (This is a good time to also ensure that the Elder has a way arrive to UNBC as some Elders do not drive, do not live close to public transit, or need accessible parking due to mobility issues. Prince George Taxi does have a taxi voucher program, contact UNBC Purchasing for more information.)
- Request for/Intention of invitation:
- Are you requesting a Traditional Territory Welcome? A reminder that only First Nation members can provide a territorial welcome.
- Are you requesting knowledge sharing within your classroom? What is the information you would like covered or discussed?
- Always ensure that the Elder is comfortable with the invitation and request. Elders are experts, but this does not mean they are comfortable speaking on all topics of leading or participating in all ceremonies.
Planning for the visit
- Include a pre-meet and greet with the Elder (new Elders) to show them the parking, entrance, direction to the venue or class and who they should be looking for when they get here. Also, during the pre-meet ask them any questions regarding their presentation if they have specific needs or wants, and if giving a traditional welcome provide them with the traditional welcome for the particular campus that the University uses if they don't have their own.
- Ask the Elder if they have an escort that will be assisting them and/or always ensure a host has been dedicated to the Elder’s visit to campus. This person should meet the Elder on arrival and stay with the Elder while they are at UNBC so they can answer any questions and make them feel welcome here. Provide the Elder with their host’s contact information.
- Provide a map of campus along with highlighting the Elders parking stalls. If the Elders parking stalls are full, they can use the accessibility stalls or regular parking. If an Elder requires the use of regular parking, ensure that the payment for the parking is taken care of.
- Make transportation arrangements if necessary.
- Call the Elder a week/few days before the event to confirm the date, time, meeting place, and any other details for the day of the event.
- Ask the Elder if they have a preference for room setup – i.e. should the room be set up in a circle format? Facilitating sessions in a circle creates a safe and open environment where everyone is equal around the circle.
- Plan for any accommodations as requested by the Elder. If they have mobility issues, ensure the event setup is designed with them in mind.
- Provide the honorarium for the Elder at the end of their visit and/or submit a claim to process reimbursement of travel or accommodation.
- Check out this checklist to ensure you are ready for the visit.
UNBC's Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) is also available to any First Nations Elders. For any questions regarding this please reach out to Human Resources.
Hosting (day of visit)
- Provide your phone number and advise them to call you once they arrive and meet them at the parking lot or agreed upon entrance/location.
- Offer water or a hot beverage to the Elder before the event begins.
- Point out the closest washroom facilities.
- Offer the Elder water, snacks and meals as appropriate throughout the day.
- Be sure to thank the Elder at the end of their visit, provide them with the honorarium (and gift if applicable) that you have prepared and relay any information regarding reimbursement of their travel or accommodations.
It is the responsibility of the person/group seeking the presence of an Elder to provide a monetary honorarium for the Elder’s time, expertise, and sharing of knowledge. Include a personalized thank you card as part of the honorarium process.
If you have further questions or looking for information, please contact the Office of Indigenous Initiatives.