In Aboriginal societies, one is designated an Elder after acquiring significant wisdom and understanding of native history, traditional teachings, ceremonies, healing practices and experience. It is not based on age. Elders have earned the respect from their community to pass on this knowledge to others.
Traditions vary according to various First Nations communities. Prior to an Elder sharing knowledge, it is essential that you ask for permission and seek clarification as to the protocol they prefer to use. This should be done before the arrival of the Elder to your school or function. It is best to ask if an offering of tobacco is part of the tradition of the Elder.
Tobacco is the first of the four sacred medicines. It is used in First Nations ceremonies and traditional practices. The tobacco offering is always made with the left hand at the very beginning of the meeting/presentation. The left hand is used (by most nations) because it is a sign that the request comes from the heart. The giving of tobacco is a sign of respect and it shows appreciation for the knowledge being shared by the Elder. If the tobacco is accepted by the Elder, it forms a bond between the parties.
It is important to note that tobacco offerings are often not part of the tradition for Métis Senators but it is best to clarify this beforehand as well. Inuit people do not usually share the tobacco tradition.