Protocol and Guidelines

In keeping with Okanagan College's commitment to Indigenization and supporting good intention, the information below is provided as a resource to staff and students to guide activities such as land acknowledgements, welcome ceremonies and Elder visits. If you have questions or require clarity on the information below, please contact Anthony Isaac, Indigenization Coordinator, at


Territorial welcome

A territorial welcome is usually conducted at the beginning of a function by someone from this territory who is a recognized and respected Elder, knowledge keeper or leader in the community.

Territory acknowledgement

A territorial acknowledgement is provided by someone who is not from the territory and is something that is done at the beginning of a meeting.

Not sure what to say?

There are numerous variations to how you might phrase the acknowledgement, but here are a couple of examples:

  • For the Penticton, Kelowna and Vernon campuses: “I would like to begin this meeting by respectfully recognizing we are gathered today on the traditional and unceded territory of the Syilx Okanagan people.”
  • For the Salmon Arm campus: “In keeping with protocol, I would like to respectfully acknowledge that we have the honour to live, work and play on the traditional and unceded territory of the Secwepemc people.”

Inviting Elders and Knowledge Keepers

Elders and Knowledge Keepers help support students and the College community in a variety of ways and it is important that we care for and respectfully welcome them. Some ways in which they provide support include but are not limited to;

  • providing an array of support, teachings and guidance to students
  • facilitating ceremonial and cultural activities on campus
  • territorial welcome
  • hosting workshops
  • guest lecture

Elders and Knowledge Keepers play a vital role in the Indigenous and College community, keeping teachings, stories, laws and customs alive. We are honoured to support this important work and provide opportunities for campus visits where Elders and Knowledge Keepers can share their knowledge and experiences with students and the broader College community.

Visiting Elders on campus provide numerous opportunities to support students and staff and foster culturally affirming learning environments. Students are welcome to receive support and guidance from visiting Elders during regularly scheduled visits to the campus. Check out the Aboriginal Services calendar for upcoming dates.

If you are interested in bringing an Elder, Knowledge Keeper, Singer or guest speaker, please review the protocol and submit a request at least three weeks in advance.


This section intends to provide you with some direction on protocol to observe when working with Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers within the context of the College community, and your personal lives. These recommendations are meant to guide our interactions but are fundamentally based on respect and reciprocity. Please observe protocol in requesting an Elder or cultural resource persons visit. Please note that these guidelines by no means are intended to homogenize the diversity of beliefs, values, cultural practices and protocols among Indigenous groups.

Each Indigenous community will have designated Elders who are highly respected and valued for their specialized knowledge and traditions within their respective community. Elders and Knowledge Keepers hold unique gifts, cultural knowledge and practices. There are important considerations to take into account when extending invitations, including being respectful and welcoming during the visit and providing adequate remuneration.

Growing and maintaining positive working relationships with Indigenous community partners is an important part of our work at the College. Establishing relationships built on safety, trust and openness is key to our growth, development and the support that we are able to provide to the College community. Understanding that this process of relationship building and trust takes time, we encourage staff and students to seek out community and College events where you can learn from and engage with Indigenous community members.

Collaboration among various departments and the intersectionality of learning among the broader College environment bodes well with understandings of interconnectedness from an Indigenous perspective and helps to build broader capacity within the College community. Consider attending or partnering with Aboriginal Services activities or community events that can help foster stronger understandings and opportunities to build lasting relationships.


Important considerations

Be as clear and specific as you can be on the nature of your request. This clarity will help the Elder or Knowledge Keeper feel more comfortable and prepared in making their decision of whether to accept the invitation or not. Consider class or event topics, size of the audience, and type of service requested.

A few key considerations to take into account when bringing in Elders and Knowledge Keepers include making space for an Indigenous lens and worldview. In other words, Indigenous ways of knowing doing and being may differ from the approach you are used to. Being flexible and open to various formats and delivery of teachings is important to establish safe spaces for knowledge exchange to occur. It is important to encourage students and staff to consider alternative ways of knowing and doing.

Other planning items you should take into account:

  • Inquire to ensure that guests have everything that they need.
  • Ensure they have a parking pass.
  • Designate a person to greet the Elder or Knowledge Keeper, and help carry things if needed.
  • Provide class/venue location and map if necessary.
  • Set up your classroom to accommodate their needs.
  • Do not touch any sacred items unless otherwise advised that it is okay to do so.
  • Do not take photos during certain ceremonial functions. If you are not sure, ask.

Be aware of competing priorities and understand that Elders and Knowledge Keepers hold multiple roles in their families and communities. These responsibilities may impede their ability to attend a College function, and we ask that you are respectful of the importance their roles play in the community, and nation. It is also important for us as an institution to be aware of not overextending our community partners.

The value of reciprocity ensures that we are considerate of both giving and receiving with Elders and Knowledge Keepers.  We respectfully ask that every effort be made by departments to offer a sufficient amount when making cultural requests. There is a standard amount of remuneration that is provided, taking into account preparation time, travel, meals and length of stay. Please connect with Anthony Isaac if you are unsure.

In addition to payment, or when and where terms are agreed, it is culturally acceptable to offer gifts of appreciation for cultural visits.

Tobacco is traditional medicine and is often used as an offering to an Elder or Knowledge Keeper when asking a question or making a request. The offering of tobacco, along with a question or request, to Elders and Knowledge Keepers is a cultural practice that carries honour and responsibility. If the Elder or Knowledge Keeper is comfortable with this practice, and they accept the tobacco, that means they accept the responsibility to your request. The Elder or Knowledge Keeper can choose not to accept the tobacco and may choose to explain why.