Why and When to Offer Tobacco

Offering tobacco in the form of a tobacco tie is a custom that is shared by many Indigenous peoples. Tobacco is offered for many reasons and in many different contexts.

It is appropriate when asking for assistance from an Indigenous elder, knowledge keeper or person to offer tobacco. When the person accepts the tobacco, they are agreeing to help in some way. Offering tobacco is a respectful way of asking for assistance and not as symbol of gratitude after help is provided.

When someone accepts tobacco they are agreeing to listen openly and without judgement and to support you as best they can.

It is appropriate to offer tobacco when asking for a song, an opening prayer, a teaching, Indigenous knowledge, or for advice. This should not replace remuneration or honoraria.

How to Make a Tobacco Tie

  1. Acquire Tobacco: Finding traditional ceremonial tobacco is the best option, however it is okay to offer no additive loose tobacco. You can purchase traditional ceremonial tobacco online or loose tobacco from a tobacco store.
  2. Obtain Cloth: Buy fabric to make your tobacco tie, preferably in colours such as red, yellow, white, green, purple or blue. You can purchase cotton cloth from a fabric store.
  3. Preparing the Tobacco Offering: The person making the request should prepare the tobacco tie or pouch. As you prepare the offering, it is important to think about what you are requesting, and to have good thoughts while you prepare the tobacco tie.
    • Preparing the tobacco tie:
      • Cut your fabric in a square (4 inches by 4 inches)
      • Put a small amount of tobacco in the centre of the cloth
      • Fold all the ends of the cloth together
      • Tie the tobacco with a piece of yarn or twine; you can also cut a strip of the fabric to make a tie

        Centre for Indigenous Initiatives - Tobacco Offering Protocol

  4. Making a Request: Offer the tobacco tie or pouch when you make your initial request. To make a request, offer the tobacco tie or pouch by holding it in your left hand in front of you, state your request (be specific), and if the person accepts your request, place the tobacco in their hand.
  5. An example of what to say when making your request and offering tobacco:
    • I am offering you this tobacco for…
      • …the opening and closing remarks at [name of event].
      • …the smudging ceremony.
      • …your guidance with __________.