Honouring Indigenous Peoples

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June 21 is International Indigenous Peoples Day. As stated on the Government of Canada’s website, “this is a day for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples.”

As event professionals, we believe that it is important to honour Indigenous peoples at any and all events throughout the year. Many of our team members have been able to attend presentations in the past hosted by Indigenous Tourism Alberta, providing us an opportunity to increase our knowledge of Indigenous peoples’ culture, how to be respectful, and how to practice inclusion. 

One of the best ways to demonstrate respect is to follow the protocols that have been put in place. Examples include:

Treaty Acknowledgements

  • Acknowledge the host community, its people and First Nations Treaty Lands at the beginning of the event.
  • Treaty Acknowledgements can be personalized, but a general acknowledgement of the land that you stand on and the groups that were here traditionally and still reside in the area is a good place to start.
  • You need to be aware of the differences between the Nations that reside on the treaties. There are more than 630 First Nation communities in Canada, which represent more than 50 Nations and 50 Indigenous languages. If you are visiting a Nation, be sure to acknowledge that Nation as well as the treaty acknowledgement and other residing nations on that treaty.

Elder Hosting and Protocol

There are important things to know when you are inviting and hosting elders:

  • If you are meeting with anyone Indigenous who is imparting wisdom or knowledge exchange, they should be gifted tobacco in a trade cloth tobacco tie or tobacco pouch.
  • Tobacco should always be gifted to elders when you are asking them to participate in an event or if you are asking them a cultural question.
  • Typically when you are inviting elders, you should be inviting them in person and bringing a gift of tobacco.
  • When hosting an elder you need to ensure:
    • They have transportation to and from the event,
    • They are greeted  upon their arrival and is taken care of during the event, and
    • There is food and drink available to the elder.

We found some great tips on engaging with Indigenous People via Explore Edmonton:

  • Ensure that you are making relationships with local Indigenous communities BEFORE you need something. Face-to-face interactions are ideal for creating meaningful relationships.
  • Know the local nations of the area you are visiting and ensure you properly pronounce their names.
  • Try to refer to each nation by name rather than using generic terms.
  • Ask questions when you don’t understand something.
  • Seek knowledge from elders of the local Friendship Centre near you.
  • Give yourself extra time between the end of meetings with Indigenous communities and your next appointment – always respect that things take time.
  • Provide transparent information about projects, progression and information.
  • Honour all agreements, especially oral agreements. 
  • Remember that not making direct eye contact is a sign of respect in Indigenous communities.
  • Don’t show up empty handed, always bring a meeting gift.
  • Expect to participate in cultural events and don’t be afraid to ask for protocol guidance from the host.


Indigenous Organizations

The information we have shared above was originally given to our team via Indigenous Tourism Alberta. If you have any questions about the information above, we encourage you to reach out to Mackenzie Brown at mackenzie@indigenoustourismalberta.ca.

– Your Tycoon, Lindsay XO