Elders at VIU

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

The first step in extending an invitation to the Elders is to connect with Sylvia Scow, Manager of Indigenous Protocol, at (250) 740-6305 to discuss the process of inviting an Elder to a class or event.  The Manager will facilitate the discussion in terms of expectations, length of invitation, appropriate gifting and which Elder is appropriate.  The Manager of Indigenous Protocol 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.


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 Aboriginal Education and Engagement.

Sylvia Scow, Manager of Indigenous Protocol

Kim Warkentine, Administrative Assistant
250-753-3245 Ext. 2229

Elders are located on three VIU Campuses:

Nanaimo Campus

C-tasi:a - Geraldine Manson, Shq'apthut & Health & 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 & 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 170, Phone: 250-753-3245 Ext. 2792
Email: geraldine.manson@viu.ca

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. 

Monday & Tuesday Stella is working in Shq’apthut, a Gathering PlaceBuilding 170.
Phone: 250-753-3245 Ext. 2792
Email: Stella.Johnson@viu.ca

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.

Thursday and Friday Gary works out of Shq’apthut, a Gathering Place, Building 170
Email: Gary.Manson@viu.ca

Klith-wii-taa - Barney Williams Jr.

Barney is Nuu-chah-nulth and a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations situated in the Tofino area of Meares Island.  He is a husband to Trina Williams and a father to six children and grandfather to nine grandchildren and one great-grandson.  Barney served as Traditional Keeper of the Beach for his nation for over 60 years.  In April 2015 this position was passed down to his son Vincent Williams.

Fluent in the Nuu-chah-nulth language, Barney continues to live a traditional and cultural lifestyle, incorporating traditional teaching in the healing of First Nations people, and lecturing on mental health from a traditional perspective.

Barney's counselling work has focused on areas such as youth, mental health, specialized community prevention, crisis intervention and addictions.  He has extensive experience with pre- and post- trauma issues related to the Residential School experience.  Barney has often acted as a bridge between two cultures to ensure that mutual understanding is achieved for First Nations and European people.

Thursday and Friday Barney works out of Shq’apthut, a Gathering Place, Building 170
Email: Barney.Williams@viu.ca

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.  

Email: Maxine.Matilpi@viu.ca

Cowichan Campus

To book Cowichan Elders contact Nancy Hamilton, Administrative Coordinator, Building 700 Room 186, Phone: 250-746-3573 Email: Nancy.Hamilton@viu.ca

Florence James

Florence is located in Building 700, Room 154. Phone: 250-746-3540
Email: Florence.James@viu.ca  

Yut’xwam - Harold Joe

Harold, Cowichan born, raised by maternal Musqueam grandparents, VIU Elder-in-Residence, has worked in many roles including student support worker for School District 79 and a homeless support worker at the Breakfast Club at Hiiy’yu Lelum.  At VIU, Harold instructs Life Skills, Medicine Wheel and 12 Steps for Youth, carving, drum making and Hul’q’umi’num’ language.  Harold is also a commercial carver of totems and a canoe builder.  He understands Musqueam, Cowichan and Saanich Languages and when spoken to by Shun'chat'thun (Saanich) responds using Cowichan language.
Harold is located in Building 700, Room 154.
Phone: 250-746-3540
Email:  Harold.Joe@viu.ca

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 is 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.

Marlene is located in Building 700 Room 154.

Phone: 250-746-3540, Email: Marlene.Rice@viu.ca

Powell River Campus

To book Eugene Louie contact Lynda Albury, Admistrative Assistant to the Campus Principal. Building 610 Room 127. Phone: 604-485-8028, Email: Lynda.Albury@viu.ca

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 Tl’Amin Band Council and was formerly the Tribal Chairperson for the Alliance Tribal Council.
Monday & Wednesday Eugene works from 10am - 2pm. 
Email:  Eugene.Louie@outlook.com


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