VIU Elders

In 2011, a special project was undertaken by Dr. Melody Martin and Dr. Laurie Meijer Drees (First Nations Department) that looked at the “Elders-in-Residence” at VIU. They conducted a study interviewing and surveying students and faculty at VIU (as well as surveying 18 other institutions across Canada), reported on results and made recommendations of which many have been put in place at VIU.

From interviews conducted during the study, the following positive impacts on students were mentioned. For example, they suggested Elders at VIU:

  •  provide a particular and important kind of guidance for students,
  •  inspire students with cultural teachings and stories,
  •  bring a spiritual presence to campus,
  •  offer counsel to students experiencing life challenges,
  •  foreground a holistic approach to interacting with students,
  •  maintain an emotional balance in the classroom,
  •  pass on beneficial traditional teachings to students,
  •  promote “groundedness” for students,
  •  teach active listening through the stories,
  •  encourage students to value the wisdom that Elders can bring,
  •  model respect for culture,
  •  reassure First Nations students,
  •  play a critical role in student retention,
  •  help build a bridge between VIU and First Nations students who may have had previous bad associations with   educational institutions,
  •  bring meaningful teachings that are good for all students

Martin and Meijer Drees go on to indicate that many of the same positive impacts listed above also relate to faculty, yet the following quotes show more specific faculty impacts uncovered throughout the study. Here are some quotes from VIU teaching faculty members:

  • “has changed the way we do things overall…There are protocols that are in place and our administration continually acknowledges the territory that we are in”
  • “has changed me in all aspects of myself as a human being”
  • “adds an extra dimension of knowledge and wisdom that many of the instructors don’t have”
  • “provides local knowledge and ways of doing things”
  • “encourages everyone to pause…for a moment”
  • “defuses situations”
  • has helped our faculty take “the first tangible step in building culture”
  • helps faculty “teach with respect to the [First Nations] culture”

Contact Information

Elders are open to being contacted directly and contact information, hours and phone numbers are listed below. However, if you should have any further questions or you need further assistance please feel free to contact Aboriginal Education and Engagement.

Sylvia Scow, Aboriginal Project Coordinator & Elder Support, (250) 753-3245, local 2096


Karen Baxter, Administrative Assistant, (250) 753-3245 local 2836


Vancouver Island University Elders are located at three campuses.

Please access this site for information on how to: Extend invitations to Elders, Providing

Honoraria, How to Hose/Escort Elders and Contact information: