Section 4: Toward an Indigenized Student Services

Promising Practices and Policies to Support Student Transformation

Many post-secondary institutions have developed policies, procedures, and practices to Indigenize their institutions. We have compiled a list of key policies and procedures developed at institutions in BC and Canada. The list is organized into physical, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional supports. These examples simply illustrate some ways we can Indigenize the institution with policies, procedures, and practice, which vary from institution to institution as they are based on the local relationships and partnerships with Indigenous communities.


The following procedures and practices reflect how physical space and access within the institution accommodates Indigenous people. This includes how to work respectfully with Indigenous knowledge authorities and provides and supports culturally safe and relevant spaces for shared learning.

Table 1: Physical Policies, Procedures, and Practices
Institution Policy/Procedure/Practice
University of Lethbridge Procedure: Sweat Lodge Ceremonial Procedures and Location Map[1]

The University of Lethbridge has developed procedures for Sweat Lodge ceremonies. They require that a staff member book the space 10 days prior to the event to allow time to obtain the required approval from the City of Lethbridge Fire Department. They also require that at least one staff member attend the ceremony. The booking form is the contract for service, liability, and safety. The website also provides clear policies and information about the lodge size and location.

University of Victoria Practice: Payments to Indigenous payees[2]

At University of Victoria, the Accounting Department has developed a process in conjunction with the Office of Indigenous Academic and Community Engagement to ensure that payments made to Indigenous payees are completed in a culturally sensitive way. There are procedures and guidelines in place and steps that staff need to take to facilitate this goal.

University of Northern British Columbia Policy: Policy on Smudging and Other Ceremonial Use of Smoke [PDF][3]

This policy provides guidelines to facilitate Aboriginal traditional, ceremonial, and pedagogical events while adhering to the British Columbia Tobacco Control Act (RSBC 1996- Chapter 451) regulating smoking in workplaces and in post-secondary educational institution. The university must comply with the law.

Vancouver Island University Procedure/Practice: Faculty Letter of Agreement for Elders-in-Residence[4]

This agreement recognizes and affirms the Vancouver Island University Elders-in-Residence as gifted faculty who provide a unique and highly regarded knowledge contribution to VIU and the VIU community. It gives specific procedures about how Elders are compensated for their knowledge.


The following policies and practices relate to the processes of student admission, transition, and completion. They also show the interconnections between departments and other institutions.

Table 2: Intellectual Policies, Procedures, and Practices
Institution Policy/Procedure/Practice
University of British Columbia Policy: Aboriginal Admission Policy[5]

UBC may consider applicants who do not meet the current competitive admission cut-off set by the individual faculties and schools, but who meet the University-wide academic minimum of 70% for first-year programs or the grade point average of 2.0 on a 4.0 scale for applicants applying from a recognized post-secondary institution. Applicants must also satisfy program pre-requisites set by the individual faculties and schools.

University of British Columbia and Langara College Practice: Aboriginal Transfer Program[6]

This practice ensures that First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students who complete the program requirements at Langara College will be guaranteed admission with certain degree programs at UBC’s Vancouver Campus.

Simon Fraser University Policy: Aboriginal Undergraduate Admission Policy[7]

Simon Fraser University’s admission policy takes into consideration an Indigenous applicant’s educational history, cultural knowledge, work experience, educational goals, and other achievements. This information is reviewed by a three-member committee composed of participants from Indigenous student services, the specific faculty applied to, and University Admissions.

College of New Caledonia Policy: Aboriginal Education and Services [PDF][8]

The College of New Caledonia has had a policy in effect since 1999 that states the college “recognizes and supports First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples in their goals of self-determination. CNC recognizes that the learning environment is enriched by diversity, and will specifically include Aboriginal cultures. CNC will actively work with Aboriginal people to identify and respond to their needs.”

University of Lethbridge Policy: Aboriginal Education[9]

The primary objective of the University of Lethbridge’s Aboriginal Education policy is to “re-invigorate, reaffirm, and strengthen the university’s historic commitment to Aboriginal peoples, re-establishing Aboriginal education as a core priority of the University…”

Camosun College Practice: Indigenous Limited Priority Admission process[10]

At Camosun College, the BC Human Rights Tribunal process for priority admissions to select programs. “… offers priority seating for qualified Indigenous students in Nursing, Practical Nursing, and Early Learning and Care. Five per cent of the seats are set aside for Indigenous students to help meet critical health and child care needs in urban and rural Indigenous communities.”


The following policies and practices support the cultural identity of Indigenous students. This may also include how to include Indigenous community resources and look at ways for Indigenous cultures to be welcomed into the institution.

Table 3: Spiritual Policies, Procedures, and Practices
Institution Policy/Procedure/Practice
BC Institute of Technology Practice: Traditional Sweat Lodge Ceremonies[11]

BCIT holds monthly Sweat Lodge Ceremonies. Their website states, “The Indigenous Services department exclusively welcomes BCIT staff and students to join us in our sweat lodge ceremonies…NOTE: All participants are asked to refrain from drugs and alcohol four days before the ceremony. Questions? Please come in and ask at Indigenous Services.”

University of Lethbridge Practice: Blackfoot and First Nations, Métis and Inuit Protocol Handbook[12]

University of Lethbridge has created a handbook that provides guidelines for faculty, staff, students, board, and senate members when incorporating Blackfoot and other First Nations Métis and Inuit (FNMI) cultures into activities or ceremonies on campus.

Lakehead University Policy: Indigenous and Aboriginal Cultural Ceremonies Policy[13]

Lakehead University in Ontario has created a policy to show that they respect and support the Aboriginal tradition of smudging that includes the use of four sacred medicines (sage, cedar, tobacco, and sweetgrass). Lakehead University recognizes and supports Aboriginal traditions practised on campus by Aboriginal students, faculty, and staff in classrooms, student gathering places, offices, cultural events, and meetings in various locations throughout the university.

Northwest Community College Policy/Practice: First Nations Council[14]

Northwest Community College created a First Nations Council in 1996. The First Nations Council focuses on student advocacy, program promotion, curriculum design, cultural issues and content, program and education service evaluation and will assist Northwest Community College in improving its relationships with First Nations communities in the Northwest college region.

Camosun College Practice: Convocation Regalia[15]

Camosun College’s graduation policy recognizes traditional dress: “you are a member of an Indigenous nation, the military, or are from another country, you may choose to wear your regalia, uniform, or national dress in place of the traditional graduation gown.”


These policies and promising practices explore the emotional and cultural supports available to Indigenous students throughout their educational journey.

Table 4: Emotional Policies, Procedures, and Practices
Institution Policy/Procedure/Practice
Justice Institute of BC Practice: Elders-in-Residence program[16]

The Justice Institute of BC has an Elders-in-Residence program. “Elders in Residence dedicate the majority of their time supporting and encouraging Aboriginal students and providing a cultural connection to them on their journey. They are also available to students, their families, and JIBC’s faculty and staff.”

Vancouver Island University Practice: Elders Protocol[17]

VIU has an Elders-in-Residence program that recognizes the important role Elders play. “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.”

  1. Sweat Lodge Ceremonial Procedures and Location Map:
  2. Payment to Indigenous payees:
  3. Smudging and other ceremonial use of smoke:
  4. Faculty Letter of Agreement for Elders-in-Residence:
  5. Aboriginal Admission Policy:,14,0,0
  6. Aboriginal Transfer Program:
  7. Aboriginal Undergraduate Admission Policy:
  8. Aboriginal Education and Services:
  9. Aboriginal Education:
  10. Indigenous Limited Priority Admission process:
  11. Traditional Sweat Lodge Ceremonies:
  12. Blackfoot and First Nations, Métis and Inuit Protocol Handbook:
  13. Indigenous and Aboriginal Cultural Ceremonies Policy:
  14. First Nations Council:
  15. Convocation Regalia:
  16. Elders-in-Residence program:
  17. Elders Protocol:


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Pulling Together: A Guide for Front-Line Staff, Student Services, and Advisors Copyright © 2018 by Ian Cull; Robert L. A. Hancock; Stephanie McKeown; Michelle Pidgeon; and Adrienne Vedan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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