Elder in Residence

In acidemia, Elders are gaining recognition as a voice of the Indigenous community, one that can teach important history, speak to the current realities of today and guide future efforts to live and work together in harmony. They are a source of spiritual, cultural, and personal support to Indigenous students, staff, and faculty. With this in mind, UPEI created an Elder in-residence program and will have Elder Judy Clark at the Mawi’omi  Centre every Tuesday during the fall and winter semesters.

Judy Clark is a Mi’kmaq woman from Epekwitk and a member of Abegweit Mi’kmaw Nation. As a respected Mi’kmaq Elder, she is often called upon for her spiritual support and to share her teachings with her community members.

A long-time supporter of UPEI, Judy has served as Knowledge Keeper for the Faculty of Education since 2001 and is a frequent guest lecturer in many classes; providing insights and context on a range of Indigenous issues. Judy is a member of the UPEI President’s Indigenous Advisory Circle and the Indigenous Education Advisory Circle. Judy now joins UPEI as Elder in Residence, working out of the Mawi’omi Centre in Student Affairs.

If you would like to invite our Elder in Residence to a campus event, class discussion, or other function, please complete the Elder in Residence Booking Form.

Who Is an Elder?

Elders play a pivotal role in Indigenous culture. They are ones who carry, encourage, and promote knowledge of Indigenous perspectives, culture, and values. As such, they are an essential link to the past and the future. The title “Elder” is given by the community, it is a sacred recognition of someone who carries knowledge, wisdom, and lives in accordance with their deeply ingrained knowledge of their culture. This learning takes a lifetime of experiences, formal and informal, with their own history and ceremonial life.

Approach

The initial point of contact will be this Mawi’omi Centre webpage, which features an ‘Elder In-Residence Booking Form.’ When filling out this form please be clear about the purpose of asking for the Elder’s presence, including such details as date, length of time, location, topic/theme of class/event etc. We request the form be submitted at least two weeks prior to the event to ensure availability and to allow time for proper protocol to be followed. 

Please Note: NEVER request to have a traditional teaching and/or ceremony at an event where alcohol is present.

Once your request has been received, the Mawi’omi coordinator will reach out and offer support in creating your tobacco tie which will be offered upon meeting the Elder to share your request. Mawi’omi staff know the protocol when requesting the assistance of an Elder so it is encouraged you take this time to ask questions as there may be additional resources available. 

In Mi’kmaki, Elders are offered tobacco when asked to share their knowledge. Tobacco is a sacred medicine, by accepting tobacco, the Elder has agreed to do the thing which you have asked them to do. By offering tobacco, you are showing that you recognize and respect the Elder’s role and teachings. The Mawi’omi Centre can support you through preparing your tie and sharing conversation that will help you reflect more on your request. 

Remuneration 

Traditionally, Elders were ‘paid’ through gifts for their knowledge and time. For example, Elders would be gifts clothing, food, and a wide range of other gifts. Given our current time and place, is it acceptable to offer a monetary gift to Elders to compensate for their time, travel and honor the time and knowledge they have shared. A monetary gift can be given discreetly upon greeting and normally is within the range of $200. Please Note: and Elder is not to be asked to sign a receipt. Should you need a signature ask for a witness to sign on their behalf. 

At the Time of Your Event

Always ensure that there is a person who can act as host/escort for the Elder at the event. This person should meet the Elder upon arrival and conduct proper introductions including name, where they are from, and what the purpose of their visit is. It is also suggested they be offered water/tea/coffee upon arrival. If they will be attending an event for more than an hour there should be a light snack available. 

Additional Notes

Given the role of an Elder, and the possible outcomes of speaking with Mawi’omi staff, there may be a suggestion to request an alternative Elder for your event. We are currently in the process of creating an Elder network to make this process less taxing on Elders and to support those requesting Elder presence.