Protocol and Respect

We are extremely pleased to offer the opportunity to gather together with and hear from people from a variety of Nations- Indigenous and non-Indigenous. Each Nation is unique and Indigenous Peoples are diverse in language, geography and cultural customs. The following traditional protocols are offered as guidelines to support a respectful atmosphere at the Sacred Water Circle Gathering.

These Teachings are kind.  Do not despair if the protocols are not strictly adhered to.  This is a gentle guide of First Nation’s Traditional practices.


Traditional people usually wear more formal attire when attending ceremonies (this would include the Opening and Closing Ceremony, and the Sunrise Ceremony). Men usually wear long pants and women wear long skirts. Dress to honour the occasion as you would if attending an important function or celebration, but also consider the elements, comfort and flexibility. A skirt overtop of pants is one way of being prepared for ceremony at a moment’s notice.


No photographs are to be taken during ceremonies (this includes all ceremonies, in particular the Morning Ceremony at the Petroglyphs, the Opening Ceremony, the Sunrise Ceremony, and the Closing Ceremony). As well, if you wish to take a picture of a person at the conference we encourage you to first introduce yourself to the person and then ask to take their picture.


While we have set an agenda, timelines may change. Spiritual Leaders who are Elders and Traditional Teachers have thoughts which we anticipate will inform and guide the conference and we encourage them to give us their guidance accordingly. If there are changes in timelines or the agenda, please be patient and respectful. We will do our best to communicate any changes in a timely fashion.


Elders and Traditional Teachers often provide teachings in the form of stories that are ‘rich’ but lengthy and will at times pause for an extended amount of time to collect their thoughts. Please allow the Elder to finish their presentation and wait until they ask for questions. Remember that it is the Elders who are sharing their Indigenous Knowledge and it is from their Traditions. Though it may not agree with what you feel is correct, we ask that you refrain from debating with Elders. Please take what information you feel is of value and respect others views.


Elders are served food first by their assistants. Indigenous Elders who are presenting or teaching at the Gathering will have Elders helpers to serve them food. Seniors and people with mobility issues are also served before everyone else, so please wait until they have been served.


 The Sacred Water Circle Committee is respectful of all people, and we anticipate that as an attendee at this Gathering you will be as well. Often it is challenging to understand different cultures and to understand the concept of Indigenous protocols. It is important, however, that even if you do not understand something, please do your best to respect that this is how things are done.

Moontime (Women’s Teaching)

The Elders and Grandmothers remind us that a woman on her moontime (menstruation) is when a woman is most powerful.  It is believed that women sacrifice and give to the people during their moontime.  It is a time of purification.  Women on their moontime are kindly and humbly asked not to touch ceremonial items or sacred medicines, particularly among the men spiritual leaders. 


Petroglyphs is considered a sacred place of prayer, ceremony and healing.  No pictures or recordings of any kind are permitted.  Remove hats, unless they are ceremonial headwear.  Do not point at the Petrogylphs.  No running or horseplay at the site.

Pregnant women and young children under the age of 8 are asked not to join the Petroglyphs ceremony for their own protection, as children are susceptible to the spirit remaining close at heart.  Spreading ash on a child’s chest will ensure the spirit does not stay with them, but this cannot be done for baby that is still in their mother’s womb.  

Circle Meetings

  1. Only one person (the Feather Holder) speaks at a time
  2. Speak from the heart; speak as long as you need to and be respectful for the time of others
  3. Listen with respect; openly give support to the speaker, listening with the heart allows you to hear the true intent
  4. Take responsibility for yourself, your feelings and actions (use “I” statements)
  5. Exercise self-care; speak your truth.
  6. Maintain a positive focus; connect at a heart level, focus your positive energy on the person sharing
  7. Maintain focus; stick to the agenda, tabling other ideas for the next meeting
  8. Follow Circle Principals such as: Work to consensus, Each member gets equal opportunity and input, The “boss” and the meeting clerk have veto power to keep us on track and in a good way

“Nga zhidchigemin!” (I will do it for the water)

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