Protocols for Inviting Indigenous Guests

We suggest that specific protocols and procedures be followed when working with or engaging with Indigenous Peoples and communities. At Queen’s we have the following internal policy in place when inviting guests to campus.

The Office of Indigenous Initiatives recommends that the following procedure be followed when inviting an Indigenous guest to campus.

Offer an Invitation

We recommend making a request in person when possible, however; when that is not feasible, it is acceptable to make a request by telephone or 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.

For a list of Traditional Knowledge Keepers in the surrounding community, contact the Office of Indigenous Initiatives.

Planning for the Visit

  1. Ask the guest if they have any accommodations to be aware of, or if there is anything that you can offer to make their visit to campus more comfortable.
  2. Discuss the intent of the request, the audience involved and ask the guest if they are comfortable with what is being proposed.
  3. Ask the guest if they have a preference for room setup – i.e. should the room be setup in a circle format? Facilitating sessions in a circle creates a safe and open environment where everyone is equal around the circle.
  4. If the guest will be driving to campus, provide them with a campus map as well as, arrange for parking if possible. If the guest requires transportation to be arranged, make the necessary arrangements as needed.
  5. Provide the guest with a main contact for their visit –this person will host the guest throughout the day. Additionally, we recommend providing the guest with the contact person’s phone number in the event that they need assistance on their way to campus.
  6. Prepare to gift the guest at the end of their visit and/or submit a claim to process an honorarium payment and reimbursement of travel or accommodation(for guests external to Queen’s).

Hosting (day of visit)

  1. Offer the guest water, snacks and meals as appropriate throughout the day.
  2. Be sure to thank the guest at the end of their visit, offer them the gift that you have prepared and relay any information regarding reimbursement of their travel or accommodations as well as receipt of an honorarium.

Gifting and Honorarium

  1. The customary protocol of offering tobacco: The traditional tobacco should be wrapped and tied in a small bundle (piece of fabric). When offering tobacco, use your left hand to place the tobacco in front of them and state your request. The Elder will indicate acceptance of your request by picking up or taking the tobacco from your hand. Traditional tobacco is available at the Office of Indigenous Initiatives and Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre. For others, after the service has been provided, it is customary to provide an honorarium plus coverage of travel or accommodation costs to show your appreciation for this person’s time and the teachings that were shared.
  2. Gifts for Elders, Knowledge Keepers and Cultural Advisors were traditionally a means of support that would be used to feed, clothe and provide shelter for ones-self. While historically gifts of food or other essentials were provided for their help, today an honorarium is acceptable. A small gift of appreciation may be given rather than an honorarium dependent on the type of request and time commitment that has been fulfilled. For information on paying/gifting Elders, please visit “Payments to Indigenous Elders/Participants” on the Financial Services website.
  3. Travel and Accommodation: There is no set amount that you should provide, the current hourly rate provided by Queen’s University is $75.00/hr plus coverage of travel and accommodation costs (if applicable). We encourage giving only what people or groups can afford.
  4. Equity: We ask you to recognize that Elders, Knowledge Keepers and Cultural Advisors are acknowledged at the same level as visiting scholars and academics, therefore their honoraria should be the same.
  5. Customary Fees: It is also important to determine if the visiting Elder, Knowledge Keeper or Cultural Advisors has an expectation regarding the amount of honorarium and if so to honour that as their customary fee.

The Indigenous Cultural Services staff members within the Office of Indigenous Initiatives are paid by Queen’s University and therefore are unable to accept honorarium payments; however we do encourage those requesting cultural services to follow traditional protocol by offering tobacco to show your gratitude and appreciation for their time when making your request.

Departments, faculties and organizations within the university are responsible for the booking, coordinating and planning of these visits. If you are looking for a recommendation on who to invite for a specific event or engagement, please contact the Office of Indigenous Initiatives.

Learn more:

Queen's Smudging Policy

[illustration by Portia Chapman representing honour