Beyond the Land Acknowledgement
The findings of the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission include a list of 94 calls to action urging all levels of government to work together to change policies and programs to repair the harm caused by residential schools. These actions signal the need to move forward towards reconciliation and outline the opportunity for reflection and a path to build new relationships that contribute to our collective well-being. Since then, a growing awareness of systemic Indigenous oppression has led to an increased use of land acknowledgements as a means to demonstrate a person or organization’s intention to support, or stand with, Indigenous Peoples and causes.
The information found here is intended to help you find the right way to begin your work reflecting on how you can meaningfully express your own personal relationship to Indigenous communities and the land. The conversation around Truth and Reconciliation is part of the evolution, as are the resources and recommendations shared. It's important to remember that ongoing research, outreach and engagement beyond what is found here is necessary to deepen the impact.
Things to Consider When Writing a Land Acknowledgement
Self Assessment & Awareness:
Before creating an action plan to support Indigenous Peoples and Nations, it’s important to analyze what you’re already doing. Reflect and evaluate the purpose of your land acknowledgement. How do you want to express awareness and allyship? Will your actions inspire others to stand in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples? If you believe you are doing this out of guilt or obligation, perhaps there is still a need to dig deeper and self-reflect further.
Who are the traditional caretakers of the land you are on? Understand the history first and then go further. Consider you or your organization's relationship to the land and with the traditional territories of the Indigenous Peoples who were there for thousands of years before colonization.
To determine the history of the traditional land and what treaty the land falls under (if applicable) as well as the language spoken by the Peoples of that area, visit these helpful sites: whose.land/en/ or native-land.ca.
Find out if there was a residential school in your area or where the closest one is located by using the Canadian Encyclopedia Residential School Map. For more resources about residential schools visit the Legacy Schools Resources page.
Research the local First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities and the contributions they are making to your community/surrounding communities today. Read writings by Indigenous authors, listen to Indigenous speakers and artists, watch videos featuring Indigenous people sharing their knowledge and findings.
“Not about us without us.” Recognize the value in working with Indigenous leaders and organizations as you support reconciliation. Indigenous communities encompass various Nations, each with unique cultures and perspectives. As you engage with your local communities with intent to build your relationships, think about your intentions and ensure your ideas for collaboration include meaningful engagement. Do your interests genuinely support reconciliation and prioritize Indigenous Peoples? Is what you have in mind mutually beneficial? Relationship building that provides value to local Indiginous communities can help ensure your actions are not performative.
Be mindful that Indigenous leaders and organizations are increasingly approached, and may not be able to support your request for collaboration at that time.
Focus on Past, Present, and Future:
In the path towards reconciliation, the truth cannot be ignored. References to the oppression of Indigenous peoples and the violence imposed on them should not be avoided. However the purpose of a land acknowledgement is an act of honour, and a living celebration of Indigenous communities. Focus on the positivity of who Indigenous peoples are today. And always ask yourself, “How am I leaving Indigenous peoples in a stronger, more empowered place?”
Be Honest and Personal when Writing your Land Acknowledgement:
Anchor your thoughts with honesty, positivity, and respect. Review some of the land acknowledgments in your region and then personalize your own, preferably in consultation with local Indigenous communities.
Do consider the following:
- What the land and place means to you and/or your organization
- What you/your organization do in that place (your work, your activities)
What is the direct relevance of Indigenousness to that work
Reflect on the ecology and your connection to the land
What are the ways you can celebrate the contributions of Indigenous people to your community/surrounding communities
What actions will you take to demonstrate your commitment to empower Indigenous Peoples
As this work towards reconciliation continues, you may need to change your acknowledgement and adjust it for various audiences.
Avoid the following:
Try not to cut and paste a land acknowledgement
Avoid asking an Indigenous person to write or deliver your land acknowledgement
Do not reflect only on the past.
Check your Work:
Ensure your actions and words empower Indigenous and non-indigenous people to create positive social change, encourage an equitable society, and further reconciliation.
More information on how to personalize a land acknowledgement can be found in the Indigenous Tourism Ontario Land Acknowledgement Resource Guide.
Go Further in your Actions
Land acknowledgements are one step, but not the only step on the road of Reconciliation. They are one part of a much greater journey. Here are a few actions and resources that may contribute to your learning and reconciliation efforts, wherever you may be on that journey.
Start with reading through Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission 94 Calls to Action. Find ones that resonate and help to drive them forward in your workplace. Whether that’s through recruitment practices, procurement policies, or equity diversity and inclusion strategies.
Be sensitive and respectful in your writing. Indigneous Tourism Ontario offers many resources including a helpful Style Guide when writing about Indigenous cultures and experiences.
Share your knowledge and spread the word to engage others in the conversation about Indigenous Peoples’ contributions to Canada and the world.
Engage artists/leaders/speakers as ambassadors to promote reconciliation through your work.
Invite Indigenous representatives into your workplace to share their experiences and areas of expertise with staff
Share and promote Indigneous knowledge, experiences, music and art made by Indigenous individuals
Support Indigenous causes
Deepen your education and awareness. Here are a few links to free education tools to help you increase your knowledge on Indigenous perspectives and history