Finding Your Personal Land Acknowledgement
As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued its report in 2015 and many postsecondary institutions were reacting to the Calls to Action, the University of Saskatchewan had just unanimously passed a motion to adopt and use an official Land Acknowledgement:
As we gather here today, we acknowledge we are on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis. We pay our respect to the First Nations and Métis ancestors of this place and reaffirm our relationship with one another.
The Land Acknowledgement was developed in a good way with Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Keepers, faculty and staff. Five years later, it has become a testament and symbol of our campus community’s commitment to reconciliation. This was another first for our University and likely the first amongst the many U15 universities that soon followed. For a deeper description of the Land Acknowledgement, please visit this link from the Office of the Vice-provost of Indigenous Engagement.
Today, people are interested in digging deeper into knowing how the Land Acknowledgement can be a great starting point for engaging in reconciliation. If you are a new friend or support to Indigenous Peoples, you may not know that the Land Acknowledgement is an old tradition. It has been a way for visitors to a land to demonstrate and pay homage to the First Nations people you are engaging. It recognizes the strength and wisdom of the place that has given rise to the people who are of that land and it invokes the spirit of that place to support your good intentions. By recognizing the intimate relationship between the place and people, you are demonstrating that you understand what is important and that you are trustworthy. To do this, you must use your own voice and provide the Land Acknowledgement from your heart.
Through a series of 5 video blogs, Rose and Stryker invite you to explore a few different elements that are important to understand before building your own Land Acknowledgement: worldviews, positionality, treaties and the Metis homeland. The goal is to help you to build your own awareness about the Indigenous philosophy of wahkotowin (all our relations) and how you can honour it when you engage these elements and create your own land acknowledgement.
Why Are People Using These?
As we mentioned, we recognize that there are many valid criticisms that the Land Acknowledgement has become a politically correct and empty protocol for some people. The newspapers are quick to disparage the inadequate job people have done in learning how to give a good Land Acknowledgement and sown the seeds of discontent into our public narrative:
- CBC – 'I regret it': Hayden King on writing Ryerson University's territorial acknowledgement
- The Globe and Mail - If you’re making a land acknowledgment, make sure you mean it
- National Post - Peter Shawn Taylor: Indigenous land salutes a nice idea that will backfire badly
- VICE - Indigenous Artists Tell Us What They Think About Land Acknowledgements
We, Rose and Stryker, do not believe that this is an accurate understanding of the truth. We have witnessed a steady increase in the number of people who – many for the first time – understand that this land was, is and always will be an Indigenous place, as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the water flows. This isn’t a threat to how people live here, it is just a fact for a place that has nurtured and shaped its peoples for thousands of years. Furthermore, this impressionable process is now affecting the newcomers to this land in much the same way. For us, the Land Acknowledgement is more than a political statement, it is an invitation and invocation to appreciate and respect a place that so many of us call home.
If you are someone who is looking to dig deeper into how to use the Land Acknowledgement in this way, we recommend that you start by knowing your positionality. Each one of us is born and raised within a culture that has shaped our view of the world. To truly understand this protocol and how to deliver it with integrity and conviction, one must be cognizant of how you want to approach the Land Acknowledgement in relation to how Indigenous Peoples have been using it.
Worldviews and Positionality
Now that you are on the path to reconciliation and preparing to personalize your Land Acknowledgement, we recommend everyone heed the unwritten declaration of the TRC to know the Truth before you engage in Reconciliation. So many people are excited to get involved, to take meaningful steps toward a better future for all, but especially for Indigenous people. The question we often ask our participants is how much do you know about First Nations people and the Metis? The responses often negate the meaningful steps that are intended and so we encourage people to watch the next two blogs and then go find more information.
These two video blogs are the briefest introductions you can get to better understanding the people who originated and used the Land Acknowledgement for millennia.
If at any moment you were made aware of something you didn’t know previously, then we strongly encourage you to continue learning, actively, about the Indigenous Peoples of Canada. We offer our online modules as an easy starting point:
Building Your Own
Now, our final ideas about the Land Acknowledgements are for those who are ready to build their own version. Here are our thoughts and lessons learned from the workshops we have delivered over the years.
This is not the End, but the Beginning
We mentioned several times that this series is not intended to be the All-You-Need-To-Know about land acknowledgements, but rather the beginning. Here are some good sources to further educate yourself as you broaden your understanding as to the deeper meaning behind land acknowledgements, and as you begin the process of creating your own.
Good luck and enjoy your road toward reconciliation!!
- If you work at the University of Saskatchewan and would like feedback on your land acknowledgement, let us know.
- If you are off campus, we would like to thank you for your engagement and action in developing your personal Land Acknowledgement. If you would like to share it with us, we would appreciate a chance to see your work.