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A collection of resources to support and incorporate Indigenous Education into the curriculum

Lesson Resources

Learning from Story

Protocol For Inviting Elders

Examples of School Division Protocols and Guidelines for Aboriginal Elders

Excerpts from :  ABORIGINAL ELDERS AND COMMUNITY WORKERS IN SCHOOLS A Guide for School Divisions and Their Partners; Community Education Saskatchewan Education March 2001

Protocol for Elder

The following is a guide for schools to use when planning on approaching an Elder to request a school visit.

1. Know what information you would like to find out.

2. Phone the Elder to schedule a person to person meeting. If there is no phone, then arrange for a meeting through the tribal council or band.

3. Person to person meeting:

  • Greet the Elder with a handshake.
  • Offer a package of tobacco for his or her guidance and ask the Elder what information he/she is to explain to the students or you.
  • The Elder will give thanks to the Creator for the tobacco by prayer.                         
  • If you have the opportunity to transport the Elder, please do!
  • Give a small gift to the Elder at the end of the presentation.
  • The Elder will again give thanks by prayer for the gift.

Contact the Tribal Council for more information regarding names of Elders to contact.

To be Respectful of an Elder Following are some strategies and other considerations, which may be useful and encouraging.

  •  Get to know the protocol customary in your region. You may wish to seek assistance from your local tribal council, friendship centre or Aboriginal Education Consultant. 
  • Invitations should be made in person. A gift of tobacco or cloth could be made at this time.
  • Accept offering and suggestions made by an Elder. 
  • Avoid interrupting or correcting an Elder.
  • Discuss what the students are learning and what you hope the Elder’s visit will provide. This will allow the Elder to adequately prepare for the visit with reflection and prayer.
  • Ensure that the necessary transportation, meals and lodging for the visit are provided.
  • Have a staff member or parent, preferably one known to the Elder, available to greet the Elder upon arrival, 20-30 minutes before the class starts. Your hospitality will make the Elder feel welcome and comfortable.
  • Ensure that the staff and students are aware of the Elder’s visit beforehand, including appropriate behaviour.
  • Be flexible regarding the class length. You may suggest guidelines beforehand. Be particularly sensitive to ending the visit with dignity.
  • Arrange for smaller groups that do not require a microphone (unless requested by the Elder). Arrange the students in a circular or semi-circular seating arrangement.
  • Give the Elder a gift(s) and/or honorarium, as well as expense reimbursement.

Aboriginal Role Models/Resource Persons

Aboriginal role model/resource persons differ from Elders in that they would be valued for knowledge or a particular skill which is culturally enriching for students. It would be unlikely that they would meet all the criteria accepted for the identification of an Elder. Visits by these individuals may be sought and carried out much the same as other business transactions, or voluntary services, whichever the case may be. It is appropriate to determine beforehand whether the service is being done voluntarily or if remuneration is required.