Indigenous Content in College Events Policy

Policy Number: SS-3400-2021
Policy Title: Indigenous Content in College Events
Policy Owner: Manager, Indigenous Student Services
Effective Date: April 21, 2021
Last Revised: September 29, 2022

On this page:

  1. Purpose
  2. Application and Scope
  3. Definitions
  4. Principles
  5. Accountability and Compliance
  6. Rules
  7. Policy Revision Date
  8. Attachments
  9. Specific Links

1. Purpose

This policy is intended to provide a framework for college departments and staff to incorporate Indigenous community members and Indigenous themes into college events in a timely, respectful, and culturally appropriate way.


2. Application and Scope

This policy applies to all college departments and employees at all Mohawk College campuses. The policy will be consistent whether an event is on-campus or off-campus.


3. Definitions

“Assistant” is a person who is designated by the Firekeeper or Indigenous Initiatives, Education & Student Services to support the Firekeeper and the Attendant. They will help with opening and closing doors and flaps as directed by the Firekeeper, assisting participants, retrieving items to support the Firekeeper and Attendant, and as an extra set of hands within the Hoop Dance.

“Attendant” is a person who is designated by their community or by the Firekeeper as a helper for the Firekeeper; they will have traditional teachings and will balance the fire.

“Combustible Materials” are any fibre, construction, dust, or liquid that in their condition and under expected circumstances will ignite or add appreciable heat to a fire; explode; or a liquid which has a flash point at or above 37.8°C and below 93.3°C.

“Firekeeper” is a person designated by their community who has been given the responsibility of starting, maintaining, and closing fires for ceremonial purposes.

“Hoop Dance” refers to the outdoor Indigenous space at Mohawk College Fennell campus, located between A Wing, H Wing, and C Wing.

“Indigenous” is a term describing a person who identifies as First Nations of the territory which comprises the Dominion of Canada or the United States of America, Inuit, or Metis; or any cultural property, knowledge, or ways which belong to those persons. For the purposes of this document, “Indigenous” refers only to the First Nations, Inuit, and Metis of Canada or the United States.

“Indigenous Content” refers to any presentation, article, or object pertaining to subjects of Indigenous knowledge or pedagogy; Indigenous presenters; Indigenous ceremony including the delivery of the Thanksgiving Address or smudging; presentations by Elders, residential school Survivors, or other Indigenous speakers; as well as Indigenous language, cultural teachings, cultural artifacts or objects, history, and/or contemporary culture. This includes the presence or integration of any Indigenous items or imagery, such as wampum beads/belts, medicine wheels, inuksuks, etc.

“Sacred Fire” means a fire created by a firekeeper for ceremonial, celebrational, or teaching purposes.

 “Skirt” will refer to the structural wrapping which may be present on the Hoop Dance structure which encloses the space. The Skirt includes a number of entrance/exit flaps which may be opened or closed, depending on how the structure is being used.


4. Principles

Mohawk College is committed to practicing reconciliation, advancing respectful relationships, and dismantling centuries old notions of assimilation to maintain a safe and welcoming environment for Indigenous students, staff, and visiting community.

Indigenous activities and events held at the College are reflective of the work of Indigenous Initiatives, Education & Student Services.


5. Accountability and Compliance

5.1 Accountability Framework

This policy has been approved by the Senior Leadership Team.

5.2 Compliance

All employees coordinating events are responsible for ensuring that their activities are compliant with this policy. Indigenous Leadership, Indigenous Student Services Team, and Indigenous Education and Student Services Representatives authorized to ensure that information within this policy is applied.


6. Rules

  • Employees will refer to the Indigenous Protocol for College events (see Appendix A) when planning events that will contain Indigenous presence or content.
  • Employees who are interested in incorporating Indigenous presence or content will consult with and seek approval from the Manager, Indigenous Student Services at least three weeks prior to the event.
  • Employees outside of Indigenous Initiatives, Indigenous Education, and Indigenous Student Services who want to incorporate smudging into an event or meeting will send the request to iess [at] (iess[at]mohawkcollege[dot]ca), or directly to the Manager, Indigenous Student Services, no fewer than three weeks prior to the scheduled date. Planners will work together with the Manager and the Indigenous Student Services team to make the proper arrangements with the Facilities and Security teams at the corresponding event location.
  • Decisions and recommendations will be made at the discretion of the Indigenous Leadership, Indigenous Student Services team, and Indigenous Student Services Representatives. Recommendations can be made once the event or gathering requesting Indigenous content discusses the intent of the activity and agenda.


7. Policy Revision Date

7.1 Revision Date

September 2027

7.2 Responsibility

Indigenous Leadership, Indigenous Student Services team, and Indigenous Student Services Representatives will review this policy every 5 years or earlier where required.


8. Attachments

Appendix A - Indigenous Protocol for College Events

Appendix B - Hoop Dance Sacred Fire Guidelines


9. Specific Links

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Appendix A - Indigenous Protocol for College Events

1. Land Acknowledgements

Prior to the Event, there can be words offered in recognition of the original Peoples that are from the land your Event is held. A land acknowledgement can be provided by anyone to open up an activity or event. In the case that you would like to include a land acknowledgement at your event, a general acknowledgement used by Indigenous Student Services is included below – more details can be added depending on the event, activity or speaker. Timing for this can range from one minute, or longer.

We acknowledge that Mohawk College is situated on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee and Anishnaabeg nations, within the lands protected by the Dish with One Spoon wampum agreement, and is currently home to many Indigenous peoples from across Turtle Island.

Indigenous Student Services Land Acknowledgement

This acknowledgement would be reflective of Mohawk College and Hamilton area. Anyone can deliver a land acknowledgement at any meeting or event using the one provided, or can connect with Indigenous Student Services for support in creating a one with intent from the speaker.


2. Traditional Opening/Closing

This greeting is when an Elder, or other traditional representative, officially “opens” the Event with words of acknowledgement and thanks for the day, the people, and the Event. At the events conclusion, words and wishes of good travels to the participants are offered in closing. Examples of this can include a conference, opening of a new building, or special announcement.


3. Thanksgiving Address

Much like a prayer, the Thanksgiving Address acknowledges and gives thanks for everything from the earth to the waters to the land creatures to the sky beings. Most often, there is a long version and a short version. Often the short version can be utilized at public events whereas the long version is more commonly heard at traditional ceremonies; however, the individual responsible for delivering this takes the time they need.

This can be delivered by an Elder or other representative who is knowledgeable with the Thanksgiving Address to provide it in the language. The Thanksgiving Address could be held at the opening of conferences and gatherings.


4. Elders

Elders are those recognized and respected in our communities for their knowledge and experience. We look to Elders for guidance and to help lead openings, or other activities like ceremony.

If you choose to include an Elder during your event, it needs to be clarified what their role is and there should be compensation for their time and knowledge. Some Elders may refuse, however it is best practice to inquire and offer. You should be prepared to take care of travel or parking, and have a designated “helper” who’s role is primarily to assist the Elder with entering your building, obtaining their meal and exiting the building. It is Protocol for the Elder to receive their meal first, followed by any expectant women, followed by any children.

Time and space should be given if asking an Elder to participate in your event. Indigenous Student Services can provide referrals based on need and what is appropriate. Indigenous Student Services should be consulted prior to an Elder being invited to an event or activity to review any accommodations that may be required.


5. Survivors of Residential School

Survivors of Residential School are expected to be treated with the same respect and kindness as what would be given Elders. There should be compensation for their time and coverage of travel and/or parking, meals, and someone to assist them during their time at the event. There is a level of sensitivity when asking a survivor to participate as a speaker or guest and the individual(s) should be allowed the time and space to share what is needed. Indigenous Student Services should be consulted prior to a Survivor of Residential School being invited to an event to review any accommodations that may be required. Typical events where a Survivor may be invited is for a guest speaking engagement.


6. Smudging

Smudging is performed to cleanse an individual with medicines. Typically, sweet grass, sage, and cedar are used. There are various ways individuals choose to smudge, or may choose not to at all and will offer prayers in another way.

If you would like more information on smudging or if you would like to include smudging as part of an activity or event, contact the Indigenous Student Services team: iess [at] (iess[at]mohawkcollege[dot]ca)

As there should be an Indigenous representative to lead a group through this, 3 weeks notice is required for an event with smudging. If smudging is to take place outside of A114, facilities must be contacted to support with the ventilation process.

Not everyone who participates in an event is required to smudge. Although smudging is a personal choice and not a requirement all attendees are to be respectful during the process and towards the medicines (for example, do not waft the smoke away or make disrespectful comments). The Indigenous Student Services team is able to provide support on managing this aspect of an event. Examples of where smudging could be included are event openings, meetings where appropriate, or socials.

Appendix B - Hoop Dance Sacred Fire Guidelines

These guidelines prescribe the time during which fires may be set and kept within the Hoop Dance structure, whether open or enclosed by the exterior wrapping (known as the “Skirt”) and the precautions to be observed by the persons creating and maintaining fires.

  1. A sacred fire or teaching fire within the Hoop Dance will be organized through Indigenous Initiatives, Education and Student Services (IIESS), with final approval going through the Manager, Indigenous Student Services. Internal requests will be routed through IIESS staff; external requests will be referred to IIESS from Mohawk College Events. Requests will be accompanied by the Event Request Form. Once the event is approved by the Manager, Indigenous Student Services, IIESS or the event organizer will liaise with College Security to notify and make any necessary arrangements.
  2. Fire is to be ignited, attended, and supervised at all times by the firekeeper, attendant, or IIESS staff or College security staff. The fire will be completely extinguished at the end of the burning day. The fire will be attended by the firekeeper or attendant until it is completely extinguished. Fires must be kept to the maximum capacity of the fireplace and must be kept under a height of 0.6m. The size of the vessel will remain consistent at 0.8m or 32 inches in diameter.
  3. The fire will be extinguished if winds or other conditions cause smoke to be a danger or disturbance to occupants or others in the outdoor spaces or on adjacent properties.
  4. Fires will be contained within the provided fireplace located within the Hoop Dance structure. Fires will be ignited and allowed to burn for 90-120 minutes before visitors or guests are permitted within the structure.
  5. Permitted burning materials include clean wood and brush, traditional medicines, and any materials approved by the firekeeper. Garbage and other refuse is not to be placed in the fireplace and is not to be burned.
  6. Equipment capable of extinguishing the fire is to be on-site while burning is taking place. This will include a water extinguisher and may also include a chemical fire extinguisher, a hose, or a vessel of water in sufficient quantity to quench the fire.
  7. Firekeepers and attendants will be careful to remove any loose vegetation or combustible materials for 1m around the burn area. Participants and visitors will keep 1m away from the fire at all times, unless approved by the firekeeper to approach the fire for ceremonial or teaching purposes.
  8. When the Hoop Dance Skirt is covering the structure, close attention will be paid to smoke within the structure. If smoke becomes overwhelming, the firekeeper will direct people to exit the Hoop Dance and will attempt to disperse the smoke. The Firekeepers will use traditional knowledge and the resource guide including smoke test results to determine which doors and flaps should be open depending on wind speed and direction. (see: HFD Report)
  9. In the event of an emergency, the firekeeper and attendants will direct anyone within the structure to exit in an orderly fashion and will quench the fire. The attendant will be responsible for opening the flaps if they are closed.
  10. The skirt will have one door open for safety purposes while the fire is burning.
  11. Firekeepers and attendants will properly close and secure the fireplace and surrounding area at the closure of a fire. IIESS staff will ensure that the fireplace is secured following a fire.
  12. In the interest of public safety, IIESS and the Hamilton Fire Department reserve the right to temporarily suspend approval for burnings, should conditions determined by IIESS or the Chief Fire Official warrant such action.
  13. Capacity within the structure will not exceed 25 persons.