Seeking Knowledge from an Elder or Cultural Leader

There are certain protocols that need to be followed when you would like to gain knowledge or seek advice from an elder or cultural leader. These protocols are significant to follow and have been passed down for thousands of years and generations. It is important to know when seeking proper protocol advice, it is very important to remember that each Community’s belief system within the First Nations is different. Generally speaking when you would like to approach an elder or cultural leader, the direction to ensue is:

  1. When you meet and elder/cultural Leader shake their hand and introduce yourself.
  2. If you are seeking advice or want them to perform a task for you, then you offer them tobacco. Usually a pouch of tobacco or a pack of cigarettes. Tobacco is a sacred plant to the First Nations as it was given by the Creator for prayers and showing gratitude. When they are offered tobacco, they are in a solemn agreement with you to perform the task. If they cannot for some reason, they will let you know why, and advise you to another Elder who has expertise in the area you are asking of.
  3. Ask the elder or cultural leader what knowledge you seek from them. They will tell you any special instructions to be followed, as elders depending on their practices, have different ways of carrying out tasks.
  4. Generally you give them a gift like a blanket, an honorarium, or something that is valuable to you because they are sharing their knowledge with you.
  5. When they have accomplished what you asked them to do, you shake their hand again and thank them for their assistance.

Resource guide - Aboriginal Elders and Workers in Schools, published by Sask Learning is a guide for schools and school divisions.