Building the relationship

Building the relationship

The success of any partnership is built on a relationship of respect, trust, and reciprocity. When working with Knowledge Keepers and Elders, do so with a genuine desire to cultivate the relationship, rather than viewing interactions as a one-time knowledge exchange or transaction.

Recognizing the distinct histories and cultural practices of Indigenous peoples and communities, there will be differences in how a Knowledge Keeper or Elder prefers to:

  • receive an invitation or request
  • be offered tobacco or other culturally appropriate item
  • be addressed

The following guidelines for engaging respectfully with Knowledge Keepers and Elders are just that – guidelines. Remember, when in doubt — ASK!


The protocols and practices of a Knowledge Keeper or Elder will vary based on their unique knowledge and spiritual practices. As you get to know the individual you are working with, you will begin to learn about their practices and preferences. When reaching out for the first time, don’t be afraid to ask what is appropriate.