Heron People Circle

The Heron People Circle are Old Ones/Elders who have been recommended by Chief and Council, and community members. They are trusted members who offer guidance, support and knowledge to support students, faculty and staff at Royal Roads University.

About the name

Indigenous communities, academic institutions and other organizations often refer to a group of Elders as an Elders’ Circle.

Our members chose to call their group the Heron People Circle because not all members were comfortable with the word “Elders.” While some members have no issue with the term, others feel that “Elder” is a colonial term introduced by Christian churches. Many members of the Heron People Circle are residential school survivors and all have been affected by the residential school era and do not want to be associated with this terminology.

The Indigenous gathering space on campus is known as Sneq’wa e’lun, the Lekwungen words for Blue Heron House, and the group chose their name to reflect this connection.

Right now there are nine members of the Heron People Circle from the following Nations:

  • Xwsepsum (Esquimalt) Nation — Mary Anne Thomas
  • Lekwungen (Songhees) Nation — Elmer George, Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, and Clarence (Butch) Dick
  • Scia’new (Beecher Bay) First Nation — Burt Charles, Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, and Lavina Charles
  • T’Sou-ke (Sooke) Nation — Shirley Alphonse
  • Tsawout First Nation — Victor Underwood
  • Kwakwaka'wakw (Kwakiutl) — George and Ruth Cook
  • Métis Nation — Bill Bresser

Bringing the university community together

Throughout the year the Indigenous engagement office hosts regular meetings with members of the Heron People Circle.

Students, faculty or staff can request the presence of a member of the Heron People Circle to provide support in the following ways:

  • visit a class
  • attend an event
  • host and facilitate a workshop
  • speak about a variety of Indigenous topics, including the history of Indigenous Peoples, residential schools and racism
  • meet in person

Heron People Circle members may also be invited to provide a land acknowledgment at events and meetings.


Complete the Heron People request form to invite a member to your classroom or request another form of engagement. You can also email Asma-na-hi Antoine, associate director of Indigenous engagement, to schedule an introduction or connect with the members.