A group of women gathered in a circle beating a PowWow drum.
  • A sweat lodge tied with red ribbons on a grassy area with a tree in the foreground
  • Sweat Lodge Ceremony

    The Sweat Lodge at the Fort Garry campus was built to support UM Indigenous students, staff and the greater UM community through traditional, culturally grounded and holistic ways that promote healing and balance. Come for any or all parts of the ceremony, which includes preparing the grounds and lodge, tending the fire and going into the lodge.

    Dates for ceremonies and preparation sessions can be found in the Indigenous Events Calendar along with other upcoming cultural events and learning opportunities.

Cultural protocols

The following information will help you involve Elders and Knowledge Keepers in planning events and ceremonies. If you are engaging with an Elder and offering an honorarium, please ensure you have read and followed the cultural protocols for working with Elders prior to filling out the appropriate forms.

If you have any questions regarding the protocols and policies, please contact Vanessa Lillie, director of cultural integration, Office of the Vice-President (Indigenous) at Indigenous.Culture@umanitoba.ca.

Protocols for working with Elders

1. Extending invitations to Elders - tobacco

Tobacco is extremely important in the Indigenous cultures of the prairies – it is one of our sacred medicines. Tobacco is used to open communication, whether to talk with an Elder to ask questions or when requesting ceremony, or when praying to Creator. When we pass tobacco, we are honouring a tradition that is very old. It is said that it is the leader of our medicines because it comes first. Whatever your views are on tobacco, it is still a sacred medicine to Traditional people.

Elders must be offered tobacco when you ask them to share their knowledge and/or attend an event. The exchange of tobacco is similar to a contract between two parties: the Elder is agreeing to do what is asked; the one offering the tobacco has obligations to respect the Teachings and the Teacher. The tobacco must be passed prior to the activity/event (as far in advance as possible).

When giving tobacco, place it in front of the Elder and state your request. If you hand it directly to the Elder you do not give him/her the opportunity to accept or pass on your request – it takes away their choice.

It is very important to be specific about your request so that the Elder knows exactly what you are asking.

If the Elder accepts your request, s/he will pick up the tobacco and will then do her/his best to help you. If they cannot fulfill your ask, they will say so and not accept the tobacco. (It is perfectly appropriate to ask for a referral if the Elder is unable to comply with your request).

Tobacco can be given in a pouch, wrapped in a piece of cloth and can sometimes be given in the form of a cigarette. The minimum amount of tobacco is the amount needed to use in a Ceremonial Pipe, but a pouch of tobacco is the most common form. Tobacco is a sacred medicine and only commercial tobacco or tobacco in its natural form (kinikinik) is acceptable. Some people have asked if a mixture of 'healthy' herbs or other medicines can be used instead of tobacco – the answer is NO.

Note: Traditional Teachers/Elders/Medicines/Ceremonies should not be requested if alcohol is present.

2. Gifts

Before the modern era, Elders were given food, clothing and other necessities in exchange for their help. It is still acceptable/appropriate to provide the Elder with a gift for sharing their time, knowledge and wisdom. This gift would be given in addition to an honorarium that would remunerate them for their time, travel and efforts.

3. Elder

Always ensure there is a host/escort for the Elder if s/he has been invited on campus. The host/escort is responsible for transportation, parking passes, greeting the Elder, traveling with them to various locations on campus, providing water, coffee, etc. and ensuring that all other protocols are met. Some Elders have a friend or family member who act as a helper, while others may be open to the organizer assigning a helper. You may also need to cover per diems for the Elder helper.

Honorariums and travel costs for Elders

This section is under construction - check back soon!

Before exploring the appropriate honorarium for the Elder you would like to engage, you must ensure that all cultural protocols have been followed.

Guidelines for honorarium amounts
These guidelines deal with the financial compensation for Elders. Please note that anyone seeking to engage an Elder must also follow cultural protocols that include approaching the Elder in the appropriate manner, being clear and specific in the request and presenting tobacco appropriately.

These amounts are guidelines. There may be flexibility in these amounts if the nature of the work differs from regular events/ceremonies.

  • Half day (up to 3 hours): $200
  • Full day (up to 7 hours): $400
  • Special event/ceremony (that might not be longer than 3 hours of their time at the event, but would require them to do pre-event preparation or post-event debrief): $400

Travel costs
All travel and per diem costs for an Elder's visit should be provided in addition to the honorarium.

Smudging and pipe ceremonies

Smudging is an Indigenous tradition that involves the use of sacred plant medicines such as sweetgrass, sage and/or cedar. Sage and cedar smudges produce a distinct aroma, but the smoke associated with them is minimal and lasts only a brief time. Sweetgrass has a very mild aroma and produces less smoke. A smudge is a cleansing ceremony, promoting holistic wellness.

Tobacco is used in pipe ceremonies by a pipe carrier.

There are a number of locations across our campuses that are smudge-friendly and smudging may take place at any time in these locations. Migizii Agamik is a smudge-friendly building.

Those hosting the ceremony are responsible for following cultural protocols, providing everything needed for the ceremony and ensuring technical details have been arranged.

For technical details on the process for organizing a smudge at any UM campus location, visit the Environmental Health and Safety Office (EHSO) webpage below.

Environmental Health and Safety Office

In honoring the original peoples of this land and in the spirit of reconciliation, the University of Manitoba recognizes that smudging and pipe ceremonies are a part of the practices of many Indigenous peoples, are permitted in buildings across our campuses and that the UM community will ensure spaces are created to accommodate smudging and pipe ceremonies.

See the University's procedure on clean air for more information below.

UM Procedure: Clean Air

If you have any questions regarding cultural protocols, please contact:

Vanessa Lillie, director of cultural integration at Indigenous.Culture@umanitoba.ca

Traditional Territories Acknowledgement

  • A Traditional Territory Acknowledgement is a reflection and expression of gratitude that recognizes the Indigenous land we occupy as a community, while promoting a shared commitment to understanding historical events that have led us to the present day.

    All major events at UM include an acknowledgement of the traditional territories on which our campuses are located: the original lands of the Anishinaabeg, Ininiwak, Anisininewuk, Dakota Oyate and Dene, and the National Homeland of the Red River Métis. Sharing this acknowledgement publicly is also an opportunity for the UM community to increase their awareness of Indigenous history and perspectives.

    While a general acknowledgement has been written and is available below, members of the UM community are encouraged to personalize their acknowledgement and share their gratitude in a manner that honours their own reflections.

Contact us

Director of Cultural Integration (Indigenous)
Room 107 Administration Building
66 Chancellor's Circle
University of Manitoba
Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2 Canada