Are you wondering how to acknowledge Indigenous territories at public events and meetings? Our guide will help provide a process for reflection and a meaningful land acknowledgement example.
Acknowledging the land is the process of deliberately naming that this is Indigenous land and Indigenous people have rights to this land. It provides an opportunity for us to reflect on our relationship with the land and the continuous process of colonization that deeply impacts activist work.
A small act of resistance
As Amnesty International calls upon the Canadian government to uphold its obligations under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we must recognize that those rights were stripped and denied using centuries of laws and policies based on legal doctrines such as “terra nullius”, which declared this land empty despite the presence of Indigenous peoples. Acknowledging the land becomes a small act of resistance against this continued erasure of Indigenous people and their rights.
To keep with this being a thoughtful act we have decided to not include a “script” in this guide but instead a process of reflection to support you in writing your own contextual land acknowledgements.
Writing a meaningful land acknowledgement example
Name which Indigenous territories you are currently on
For some of you, this might be an easy step so we urge you to take some time and learn more. If you do not know whose territories you are organizing on, we have included some resources below that may be helpful, and we encourage further research.
Traditional Territory, Lanugage & Treaties Map
You can view a traditional territory, language and treaties map created by Native Land Digital, a registered Canadian not-for-profit organization. You can use the map by entering your address or navigating and clicking around on the map.
You can also view the Territorial Acknowledgements by Province.
Explain why you are sharing a land acknowledgement
Take the time to reflect on why it is important for you or your group to acknowledge the land and what your relationship is with the territory you are on (are you Indigenous, are you settlers, have you come here as a refugee?). Explain why you find it important to acknowledge the land.
Address the relevance of Indigenous rights
Even if we are organizing on issues that are seemingly separate, the struggle for Indigenous rights is deeply connected to all human rights work. Take the time to reflect on these systemic connections. If you find it hard to capture the relationship between the issues you are working on in words, you can also speak to how you and your group will continue to support Indigenous rights in your ongoing activist work.
Put the answers together as a statement
Use your answers to the questions above together as a statement. It does not have to be in order if that helps the flow of your land acknowledgement.
A Meaningful Land Acknowledgement Example
“I would like to acknowledge the traditional, ancestral, unceded territory of the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish First Nations on which we are learning, working and organizing today. I think it’s important to acknowledge the land because growing up as an immigrant here, I never heard the traditional names of the territories. Indigenous people were talked about in the past tense and all the struggles they faced were in the past tense as well. It is easier to deny Indigenous people their rights if we historicize their struggles and simply pretend they don’t exist. As an activist, I would like to take this opportunity to commit myself to the struggle against the systems of oppression that have dispossessed Indigenous people of their lands and denied their rights to self-determination, work that is essential to human rights work across the world.”
Invite an elder or Indigenous person
You and your group may know an elder or Indigenous person from the territory that your event is taking place on who would be happy to be invited to your event to conduct a Territory Welcome. Unless it is explicitly said not to, it’s important to pay folks for their time and work, and the traditional protocol of that Nation might mean offering them a gift i.e. tobacco or sage.
Written by: Ayendri Ishani Perera, Regional Activism Coordinator for Western Canada and the Territories