Land Acknowledgements recognize the original caretakers of these lands and waterways as a verbal confirmation of an ongoing relationship with the stewards of this place, past, present and future. They are personal declarations and works in progress. There is no right or wrong way to acknowledge land.
Why acknowledge territory?
In Native-Land's page on Territory Acknowledgement, Allison Jones explains:
''Territory acknowledgement is a way that people insert an awareness of Indigenous presence and land rights in everyday life. This is often done at the beginning of ceremonies, lectures, or any public event. It can be a subtle way to recognize the history of colonialism and a need for change in settler colonial societies.
However, these acknowledgements can easily be a token gesture rather than a meaningful practice. All settlers, including recent arrivants, have a responsibility to consider what it means to acknowledge the history and legacy of colonialism. What are some of the privileges settlers enjoy today because of colonialism? How can individuals develop relationships with peoples whose territory they are living on in the contemporary Canadian geopolitical landscape? What are you, or your organization, doing beyond acknowledging the territory where you live, work, or hold your events? What might you be doing that perpetuates settler colonial futurity rather than considering alternative ways forward for Canada? Do you have an understanding of the on-going violence and the trauma that is part of the structure of colonialism?''
Places to start
Often, territory acknowledgements are concise, along the lines of: “I want to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of nation names.” Some people may also mention the name of a local treaty, and/or learn the language and speak a few words in it.
If you are not sure how to pronounce a nation’s name, there are a number of ways to learn, including:
- Respectfully asking someone from that nation or from a local organization such as a Friendship Centre or Indigenous Student Centre;
- Check the nation’s website, they may have a phonetic pronunciation on their “About” page, an audio-recording of their name, or videos that include people saying the nation’s name; or
- Call the nation after hours and listen to their answering machine recording.
While a brief acknowledgement may work for some groups, others wish to add more intention and detail to acknowledgements. To thoughtfully prepare an in-depth acknowledgement requires time and care. You may find it helpful to reflect on and research questions such as:
- Why is this acknowledgement happening?
- How does this acknowledgement relate to the event or work you are doing?
- What is the history of this territory? What are the impacts of colonialism here?
- What is your relationship to this territory? How did you come to be here?
- What intentions do you have to disrupt and dismantle colonialism beyond this territory acknowledgement?
In this way, your land acknowledgement may become a tool to advance social justice actions and movements. Remember, territory acknowledgements are one small part of disrupting and dismantling colonial structures. You may also want to get in touch with local Indigenous nations or organizations to build relationships and support their work. Explore our page on social justice solidarity for more ideas on how to activate yourself and your organization in the social justice movement.
Some resources on how to make a land acknowledgment:
- Whose Land includes interactive map and acknowledgment videos by Indigenous leaders
- Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) Territorial Acknowledgement by Province
- Indigenous Corporate Training Inc. (ICT) First Nation Protocol on Traditional Territory
- Native-Land.ca Interactive map that shows all the North American Indigenous territories, languages and treaties
- You can also subscribe to the Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance newsletter
- Updated advisory Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation name change
- Local Love An Oral History of Toronto
- Disappearing Rivers of Toronto interactive map
- Know the Land Laurier Students' Public Interest Research Group (LSPIRG)
- Toronto District School Board Indigenous Education Resources
- Map of Ontario treaties and reserves Province of Ontario
- NOW Article Unearthing the Indigenous remains within Parliament Hill
- CATR 2018 Territorial Acknowledgement
- First Peoples Language Map of British Columbia
- UBC Resource List of Aboriginal Maps and Mapping
- Unceded Territory: Meaningfully acknowledging the Coast Salish Peoples
Speak to an elder
- Guidelines for speaking to an elder CarltenU Centre For Indigenous Initiatives
- Elder invitation protocols U of T Elders Resource
Discord and Discussion
Many people have many things to say about land acknowledgements. Here are some additional readings to show the wide range of thinking:
- Beyond territorial acknowledgments by âpihtawikosisân
- 'I regret it' Hayden King on writing Ryerson University's territorial acknowledgement
- VICE article with reflections by Yolanda Bonnell, Cliff Cardinal, Syreeta Hector, Falen Johnson & Frances Koncan
We've started a Land Acknowledgement Video Series where artists and companies share their land acknowledgement and the process behind them in the hopes of generating conversation, listening and learning together.
In the video above, former Buddies in Bad Times Theatre Artistic Director Evalyn Parry shares their land acknowledgement, and the process behind it.
In the video above by Local Love, Sara Roque and Selena Mills share their reflections on the GTA, which has been home to Indigenous peoples for millennia.
We encourage you to share with us too! Send us:
1. Footage/a recording of your land acknowledgment
2. Your responses to the interview questions
to contributions @ generatorto .com to join in sharing, listening and learning from the community!
Further Reading and Training
- Treaties In Canada According to the Government of Canada
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission 94 Calls To Action
- Indigenous Corporate Training Inc. provides Indigenous relations training, resources and free eBooks
- CBC Article Calls for Justice : National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
- MMIWG Commission Final Report
- Indigenous Relationships resource page by Ontario Presents, with many helpful resources and toolkits for presenting Indigenous artists, stories and culture, building relationships with community, and an introduction to Indigenous terminology.
- Create to Learn: a free online learning resource with video tutorials on digital skills and traditional knowledge created by First Nations, Métis, and Inuit artists and media makers to share their skills.
- Ne' iikaanigaana Toolkit 'All our Relations': Guidance for Creating Safer Environments for Indigenous Peoples created by The Indigenous Primary Health Care Council (IPHCC). Preview below:
IPAA created this Smudging Document to facilitate the relationship between Indigenous performing artists and venues around the protected practice of burning traditional medicines as it relates to the performing arts. Preview below: