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University of Regina Policy

Respectful Engagement with Elders

Audience:All University employees
Issued:December 17, 2018
Revised:March 02, 2023
Owner(s):AVP (Indigenous Engagement)
Approved by:President and Vice-Chancellor
Contact:AVP (Indigenous Engagement) - 306-337-2944


The University of Regina is committed to supporting and advancing equity, diversity, inclusion, anti-oppression (EDI-AO). EDI-AO is defined as an institutional value that addresses the University of Regina's commitment to creating and promoting equitable systems for students, faculty and staff. Indigenous Engagement remains an overarching priority in the University Strategic Plan.

The University recognizes that Indigenous (i.e. First Nations, Inuit, and Métis/Michif) students, faculty, staff, and community members value relationship-building as a pathway to learning, teaching, researching, and facilitating traditional ways of knowing. The University also recognizes the diversity of cultural and ceremonial connections that First Nations and Métis peoples represent. The LifeSpeakers, Kihci-anihsinapek, Elders, Traditional Knowledge Keepers, and/or Old Ones (hereafter abbreviated as “Elders”) carry sacred teachings that include responsibilities and protocols. This policy is meant to provide guidance to the University community in engaging in these traditions and indigenous knowledge systems.

The University respects its relationships with Elders as a basis to help the University community to learn more about Indigenous ways of knowing. These individuals are understood to provide a variety of short-term, one-off, or longer-term services in places of higher learning. Some services may include, but are not limited to:

  • Hosting an Elder at an event or meeting.
  • Leading a ceremony (e.g. smudge, pipe, sweat, etc.).
  • Sharing knowledge as a guest lecturer in a class.
  • Providing consultation and guidance related to university governance.
  • Attending meetings with the ta-tawâw Student Centre or The Office of Indigenous Engagement.
  • Providing guidance and knowledge for a research project.
  • Participating in graduate student thesis committee membership.
  • Informing course re-design and curriculum development.
  • Providing counsel for faculty, staff and/or students.

Elders enrich the university experience by informing students, faculty and staff of traditional knowledge(s) and leading cultural events on campus. When making initial contact with an Elder, please discuss their cultural and ceremonial protocols and follow their guidance.

For more information on extending invitations and making requests, please refer to the “Processes” section of this policy.

The University understands that building mutual respect is the best path to maintaining good relationships with Indigenous communities and their Elders. Thus, it is best to establish policies and procedures that provide a common shared understanding of how to engage in a good way.


The University of Regina recognizes that working with Elders is essential to the preservation, restoration and revitalization of Indigenous traditional ways of knowing; students, staff, faculty and visitors are encouraged to invite, engage with and learn from Elders.

The support of diversity is a shared responsibility at all levels of the University. This policy reflects recognition for the shared responsibility for Indigenous Engagement for all faculty, staff, students, and visitors at the University.

The related purposes of this policy are to establish protocol and guidelines for working with Elders to ensure consistency, respectful invitations and interactions, and to provide recommended rates and guidelines for honoraria and related costs.

Roles and Responsibilities

As a University employee, it is your responsibility to respectfully approach Elders to establish an understanding of what you are asking about, to listen and follow protocol, and to process honoraria. Please follow the University of Regina’s Human Resources’ “Guide to Honorariums” to process honoraria.

If needed, the Office of Indigenous Engagement can help guide the process of engaging with Elders. At all times, remember to give respect for the time and teachings of the Elder. 

  1. For one-time event invitations, staff and faculty are encouraged to:

Discuss and respect the cultural/ceremonial protocols as identified by the individual Elder, as some protocols will differ. Please refer to Appendix A for guidance and process regarding honoraria. Please also see the "Processes" section of this policy for more information.

It is important to complete the paperwork for honoraria two weeks ahead of time so that the Elder may receive their monetary gifts at the time of the event or ceremony.

Please refer to existing policies with respect to purchasing commitment limits (see GOV-010-035 Purchasing Goods and Services). It is also recommended that you consult your faculty or administrative unit head prior to requesting an Elder, and, when necessary, you comply with other policies or guidelines (such as external grant funding policies).

  1. For short-term employment/contract invitations (i.e. Elders in Residence), staff and faculty are encouraged to:

Contact the Office of Indigenous Engagement for guidance to develop a relationship with the Elder. Contact Human Resources to “set up” employee, if applicable.

  1. Associate Vice-Presidents, Deans, Directors, Department Heads and Supervisors are encouraged to:

Provide information to their staff regarding the importance of Elders in supporting, maintaining, and revitalizing the Indigenous traditional modes of knowledge transmission.

  1. The University Executive are encouraged to:

Support diversity and inclusivity among the University community, and encourage the traditional forms of knowledge transmission reflective of the relevant Treaty territory and traditional homeland of the Métis.

Consequences for Noncompliance

Failure to comply with this policy may result in delays in payment to an Elder. Failure to respect and adhere to cultural/ceremonial protocol may result in a breakdown of a working relationship with an Elder.


Extending Invitations (How to make a request)

A request should be sent well in advance when extending invitations to Elders. When invitations are sent with little notice prior to an event it can seem as though the presence of an Elder might be tokenistic in nature. Invitations are best made in person; however, a phone call is also an appropriate way to reach out. Email should be used as a last resort to make a request.

When speaking with the Elder for the first time:

  • Introduce yourself and give a brief explanation of the purpose of your request.
  • If you are in person and presenting a gift (e.g. tobacco/tobacco tie), hold it out in front of you and give your request, including information such as date, time and duration of the event, as well as expectations for their involvement. An example of this request might be:

“I would like to offer you this tobacco to ask if you would consider being involved in an event at the University of Regina. Our Faculty is hosting a student awards night on the evening of Tuesday, October 3rd. We would be honoured by your presence at the event and if you would consider providing us with a teaching.”

  • If you are extending the invitation over the phone or by email, indicate that you have a gift to present to them when you see them in person.
  • If the Elder is not able to give an answer to your request right away, thank them for considering your request and ask them if, when and how would be the best way to reach them to follow-up.
  • If the Elder accepts the request, thank them, and set up a follow-up meeting to provide more information. Ask them when, where and how they would like that meeting to happen.

At the event (How to host an Elder)

Elders have different skills, interests, and life experiences. Before your event, plan ahead for the person you will be hosting, considering matters such as transportation, parking and wayfinding, mobility, seating, technology, length of event, time of day, and refreshments/meals.

If you are unsure, ask.

The practices of each Elder will vary based on their ancestry, traditional knowledge, and practices.
As you build a relationship with the individual, you will begin to learn about their preferences. It is helpful to identify a primary contact (host) who will communicate with the Elder prior to the event, greet them upon arrival, follow their instructions regarding protocol, and be available to assist them throughout the day (even if they are also accompanied by an Elder’s Helper).

Related Information

Appendix A: Honorarium and Activity Guidelines for Respectful Engagement with Elders (644 KB)

GOV-040-020 Smudging/Pipe Ceremonies

OPS-100-005 Food Services (includes Feasting)

EMP-010-005 Employment vs Contracted Services

University of Regina Human Resources Guide to Honorarium (requires employee login to URSource)