Vancouver Island University Elders protocol

At Vancouver Island University (VIU) our Elders are one of our most valuable resources. They provide counselling, support and guidance to all students at VIU. You will often hear the students referring to the Elders as "Auntie" or “Uncle”, which is a sign of both affection and respect. Vancouver Island University Elders are active in a variety of areas encompassing student support, classroom instruction, teaching traditional protocols and cross-cultural sharing.


Since the beginning of the Elders-in-Residence program within the First Nations Studies department and the Child and Youth Care First Nations Program in Cowichan in the early 1990s, the Elders have been representing their respective communities and knowledge to the wider university community. 

The purpose of this page is to provide information and protocol related to:

  • Extending invitations to Elders
  • Honouraria
  • Elder host/escort
  • Contact Information


The Elders-in-Residence program is a multifaceted initiative supporting, but not limited to, the following:

  • Support and use of Indigenous knowledge and Aboriginal languages within VIU
  • Support for all learners by offering traditional knowledge and spiritual guidance
  • Assist in the area of access and retention of Aboriginal learners in post-secondary education by having a presence within the institution
  • Assist faculty, staff and administration to build capacity in areas of cultural knowledge and understanding

Extending invitation to Elders

Please note: due to staff shortages and increased volume of inquiries, requests for Elders must be received at least a month in advance and it may take a week or two to respond to your request.

The first step in extending an invitation to the Elders is to connect with our office to discuss the process of inviting an Elder to a class or event.  The Elder support person will facilitate the discussion in terms of expectations, length of invitation, appropriate gifting and which Elder is appropriate.  The Elder support person position is not intended to be a gate keeper for the Elders but rather a resource for understanding, implementing protocol and developing relationships with Elders.

Further discussion with the Elder will be encouraged and a visit scheduled so that the Elder can be introduced to the topic, date and time of visit and who the escort will be bringing the Elder to the classroom.  It is important to know that you will be spending time with them and be prepared to have coffee, tea and snacks – this is all part of building a relationship that is based on mutual respect.  

Elders are valuable resources to VIU, not only are they accessible to students, they are an integral part of sharing and giving guidance to faculty and staff about protocols and traditional customs. Research has shown that unmediated contact with Elders has the greatest positive outcome for the building of meaningful professional and academic relationships.  

Each Elder has knowledge and teachings handed down from their family.  All of the Elders have dual roles and responsibilities in supporting their respective communities. If a death occurs, their first priority will be to support the community and they will cancel any other meetings or workshops.  VIU Elders balance their time between both home and campus communities.  They each have their own skills and expertise.  If the Elder cannot assist in one area they often refer to another who can.  It is perfectly appropriate to ask the Elder for a name of another Elder when the Elder is unable to give you what you are seeking.

Honouraria / Gifts

Elders work part-time. At times they will be called on for guidance and support outside their regular working hours.  When this occurs it is the responsibility of the one seeking the assistance of an Elder to be prepared to offer a small honourarium for the Elder’s time.  Again, pending the situation, a gift is also appropriate.

Elder Host / Escort

Always ensure there is a host/escort for the Elder if she/he has been invited to an event on campus.  The host/escort will be responsible for transportation to the event location, greeting the Elder and following the protocol outlined.  Please be considerate of the fact that many of our Elders have mobility issues and their needs are very important when hosting.

Contact Information

VIU Elders are open to being contacted directly and contact information, hours and phone numbers are listed below.  However, if you are uncertain or have further questions please feel free to contact staff in the Office of Indigenous Education and Engagement. Note that due to staff shortages, it may take a week or two to get back to you. If you have been working with a particular Elder, please contact them directly.


Elders are located on three VIU Campuses:

Nanaimo campus

C-tasi:a - Geraldine Manson, Shq'apthut and Health and Human Services, Full-time Elder in Residence

In the role as Elder-in-Residence, Manson works directly with students and Faculty/Professors in Health and Human Services programs at VIU four days a week and one day a week at Shq’apthut/Gathering Place. She shares her Traditional Knowledge to work with all programs within the Health and Human Services and within the Shq’apthut programs.

Geraldine is a member of the Snuneymuxw First Nation and is married to Earl Manson.  Geraldine has worked for her community since 1980 gives credit for her cultural wisdom and education to her Elders, present, and Elders who have passed on. As the Elders’ Coordinator for Snuneymuxw First Nations, she carries many other responsibilities that relate to culture and traditions in the community. Geraldine has served her community as elected council-member. She continues to be mentored by Dr. Ellen White (Kwulasulwut) in the traditional cultural practices of the Snuneymuxw people.

Monday to Thursday 8:30am - 3:30pm, Building 180/Room 419, Phone: 250.753.3245 Ext. 2068

Friday: 8:30am - 3pm, Shq'apthut, a Gathering Place, Building 180/Room 326, Phone: 250.753.3245 Ext. 2792

Stella Johnson, Métis Elder

Stella Johnson, nee Erasmus was born in McLennan, Alberta and raised by her grandmother from the age of 5 and was taught the Cree language.  Stella worked as a Registered Care Aide in Dawson Creek, BC before moving to Nanaimo in 1987 where she worked at Traveller’s Lodge for sixteen years. Upon retiring in 2006 Stella spent four months exploring Canada coast to coast.  In 2006 Stella was hired by the Duncan Métis Nation as a Métis support worker and worked in the Lake Cowichan District.  In August 2012, Stella began her new journey as an Elder at VIU. 

Wednesday Morning Smudge 10 am - 2:00 pm in Building 356

Tuesday and Wednesday Stella is working in Shq’apthut, a Gathering Place Building 180/Room 326

Monday and Thursday Stella is working in Building 356 

Phone: 250.753.3245 Ext. 2792

Xulsimalt – Gary Manson

Gary was born on the mouth of the Snuneymuxw River in 1948. He now lives 100 feet from where he was born.  Married to Donna Manson, they have six children and eight grandchildren.  Gary is a survivor of Residential School and deeply connected to culture and land. Gary retired from commercial fishing. He has worked as an elder for the past five years in healing circles, is a regular canoe journey participant and is glad to sit as an elder at Vancouver Island University.

Tuesday and Wednesday Gary works out of Building 356

Thursday Gary works out of Shq’apthut, a Gathering Place, Building 180/Room 326


Maxine Hayman Matilpi (Lakwa)

Maxine Hayman Matilpi, “Lakwa,” is a member of the Kwakiutl Nation (Tsakis) and also has Tlingit, Ma'amtigila, and Scottish/English roots. The eldest grandchild of Violet (nee Matilpi) and Willi Hunt, she grew up in Tseil-Waututh Territory. She is a member of “Testify: Indigenous Law and the Arts Collective” and also serves as Project Lead for RELAW (Revitalizing Indigenous Law for Land, Air and Water). She has three grandchildren and lives in K’omoks/Pentlatch/Tla’ahmin/Kwalicum Territory on Denman Island.  

Monday 10:30 am - 3 pm Maxine works in Shq’apthut, a Gathering Place Building 180/Room 326

Tuesday Maxine is in English with Dawn Thompson and then in student residence


Wickee Cussee - Randy Fred

Randy Fred is a member of the Tseshaht First Nation, Port Alberni. He has lived in Nanaimo most of his life. Before school he lived in Barclay Sound, the Deer Group and Broken Island Groups, now Pacific rim Park. He survived 9 years in the Alberni Indian Residential School.  He began his working life as an accountant but loss of eyesight led him into the multi-media field.  He founded Theytus Books, Canada’s first ab original-owned and operated commercial book publishing company. He founded One in Spirit Healing Arts Society, which is becoming more active in central Vancouver Island.

Tuesdays & Thursdays: Faculty of Management, Building 250


Cowichan Campus

To book Cowichan Elders contact Kim Lesiuk, Administrative Assistant, Building 700 Room 192, Phone: 250.746.3505

Hwiem' - Marlene Rice

Marlene was born in Chemainus BC and has two brothers. Marlene is currently fully active in cultural activities throughout the island. She was raised by her great-grandparents until she was nine years of age. Marlene's passion, goals and vision are to help all people with culture, traditional values, language and education which is all part of creating a strong foundation for successful employment and healthy living.

Monday to Friday: 7:30 am to 3:30 pm, Marlene is located in Building 700 Room 154

Phone: 250.746.3540

Harvey George (Swut̲t̲h̲tus)

Harvey’s traditional Hul’qumi’num’ name is Swut̲t̲h̲tus and is a Quw’utsun Tribal member. His father is from the village of Lumlumuluts and his mother is from Xulelth. He is recognized as an Elder within Coast Salish communities for having attained a high level of understanding of Coast Salish history, spirituality, traditional language, cultural teachings, ceremonies, and healing practices through training and lived experiences.

Harvey graduated from Malaspina University-College’s Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies program in 2006 and then went on to complete his Master of Arts in Linguistics at Simon Fraser University in 2017. Since 2009, Harvey has worked with School District 79 as a Hul’qumi’num’ Language Cultural Advisor.

Harvey will be based out of the Cowichan Campus where he will be available to support staff and students. He will also be an active contributor to VIU’s Elders Council and the work it does in guiding VIU in its efforts to support the journey towards Truth and Reconciliation.

Tuesday to Thursday: 8 am to 4 pm, Harvey is located in Building 700, Room 174

Phone: 250.746.3586


tiwšɛmawtxw Campus

To book Eugene Louie contact Liam Haggarty, Administrative Assistant to the Campus Principal. 

Location: Building 610 Room 127. 
Phone: 604.485.8028

Eugene Louie, Tla’amin

Eugene has lived in Sliammon all his life. He is currently retired from Tla’amin First Nation Band office after many years. He was most recently the Capital Manager for infrastructure and is currently on the Lands Advisory Board for all operational Nations across Canada. He is currently on the Tla’amin Band Council and was formerly the Tribal Chairperson for the Alliance Tribal Council.
Monday and Wednesday Eugene works from 10 am - 2 pm.  


“Uy’shqwaluwunts kw’us I ulup xwu’ ‘iutl’ Snuneymuxw”