BBA students practice canoe ceremony


On Day One of the Bachelor of Business Administration, third-year students paddled in two “canoe families” to the shoreline of Esquimalt Lagoon aboard Ocean Spirit (skipped by Max Henry Jr.) and Sacred Wolf (skipped by Roger Henry). Awaiting their arrival on shore, respected Heron People Elmer George (Lkwungen), Shirley Alphonse (Cowichan) and Nadine Charles (Sc’ianew).

On behalf of the canoe families, Valeska Faundez-Reimberg and Negar Abedi expressed their gratitude and asked permission to come ashore: “We are extremely honoured to visit, live, learn, and work here on your traditional lands. We are grateful to our hosts and recognize this as an opportunity to practice cultural protocols as a sign of respect of reconciliation and cultural revitalization. Today, my family and I ask your permission to come ashore to join you, as we continue completing our degree’s Royal Roads University.”

The BBA canoe families received a teaching from Elmer, and a prayer from Shirley before being welcomed ashore. Once on land, the students joined the three Heron People in Sneq’wa e’lun to receive more teaching, and to introduce themselves, their families and their home lands. The ceremony followed in the tradition of the Coast Salish canoe landing protocol that has been practiced on these lands from time immemorial. 

“For me,” BBA Program Head Todd Thexton said, “This is an important gesture of recognition of the history and traditions of this land and of the Xwsepsum and Lkwungen people’s relationship with it. Practicing the traditional protocol is our sign of respect for the people of this land and for their traditions and protocols.” 

Though all Royal Roads programs start the year with an acknowledgment of the traditional lands, Thexton said he hoped for a more experiential and holistic acknowledgement for the BBA students this year. “I wanted the BBA students to not only think about this land, its people and protocols, but to experience those protocols first hand.”

The protocol and ceremony was organized by RRU’s Indigenous Education and Student Services (IESS), with support from the Heron People (RRU’s Elders Circle) and from Marcel Aubin, Max Henry Jr. and Roger Henry. 

According to IESS’s Keil Kodama, “Incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing and being into our work, life, and learning remains a key principle of IESS. The inclusion of the canoe landing teaching into the BBA program fits within our vision to become great hosts that follow Xwsepsum and Lkwungen protocol. The added significance that students have come from 15 different countries and two First nations, and that for many this is one of their first experiences in Canada, made this event extremely special.”

As part of its focus on Business and Sustainability, Royal Roads University’s BBA has a deep obligation to promote reconciliation. Since social justice is a cornerstone of sustainability, recognizing Indigenous rights, acknowledging how—in the history of Canada—those rights have been systematically suppressed, and accepting responsibility for taking concrete action toward reconciliation is a crucial part of the program.