Extending an invitation / Making a request

Extending an invitation / Making a request

When extending an invitation or making a request of a Knowledge Keeper or Elder to share their knowledge, offer ceremony, or engage in consultation, it is customary to offer tobacco – a sacred medicine for Indigenous peoples on the prairies.

Traditionally, tobacco is offered to the Knowledge Keeper or Elder in-person at the time of the request. When approaching the Knowledge Keeper or Elder, you would offer the tobacco and proceed with sharing the specifics of what you are asking of them. They may or may not accept the request for a variety of reasons, however, acceptance of the tobacco signals acceptance of the request.

If you are not able to reach out to a Knowledge Keeper or Elder in person, many will accept requests by phone or email. It is appropriate to begin by letting them know that you will have tobacco or other appropriate item to offer when you see them, then make your request. If this isn’t until the time of the engagement, then be sure to offer the item before the event gets underway. Some Knowledge Keepers or Elders may prefer that the tobacco is offered privately or publicly. When it is offered and accepted publicly, it presents an opportunity for teaching and learning about this cultural practice.


While tobacco is a customary offering across the prairies, it isn’t necessarily an expected offering for Knowledge Keepers or Elders who come from other areas. For example, tobacco is not a part of Inuit tradition. Once again, it is alright to ask if tobacco is an appropriate offering or if there is a more culturally appropriate gift to offer.

To learn more about making the offer of tobacco or getting in touch with a Knowledge Keeper or Elder who has knowledge or experience related to your need, the Indigenous Peoples’ Centre is a great resource on campus.