ACTION: Reflecting on the places where we reside and work and respecting all peoples and their experiences, prepare and implement a land acknowledgement so that your organization recognizes Indigenous traditions and ties to the land. This will help build understanding about our relationships and responsibilities to the Indigenous people and lands where we live and work.
Download 2. Setting the Bar:Acknowledging Land and People
The origin of the land acknowledgement can be found in Nation-to-Nation tradition and protocol that has been used as a way “for guests to show their respect for and pay homage to the indigenous community with which they are visiting and engaging with.” (source: A Guide to Acknowledging Frist Peoples and Traditional Land)
Following the Truth and Reciliation Commission of Canada’s final report, offering a land acknowledgement became a more common way to show respect and to recognize “the ties the descendants of those First Peoples have to the land – its importance to their culture, ceremonies, and traditions.” (source: First Nation Protocol on Traditional Territory) Making territorial acknowledgments should be part of the ongoing process of learning the histories of the Indigenous people and lands whereyou live and work.
When offering a land acknowledgement, you recognize Indigenous peoples’ relationship with the land that spans millennia. You pay respect to their ancestors, their culture, ceremonies, traditions and their ties to the land. Land acknowledgements can faulter because the statements lack appropriate intention in their delivery. When done well and spoken from the heart with the context in mind, an acknowledgement of land and people can be a meaningful step along the path of recognition.
Following are some suggestions to help you prepare a statement. Keep in mind, there is no one way to prepare a land acknowledgement and there is no single format.
The harder work is in the self-reflection – understanding your organization’s values, recognizing the stories that stretches over millennia, acknowledging a long history of suppression and struggles, and considering the respectful relationship you wish to establish.
Before approving your statement, respectfully ask someone to review the statement before it is made public. Ideally, you have been working with Indigenous people, as part of the ongoing work of learning about the lands you are on, who are in paid positions and decision-making roles.
When your statement is finished and approved, you can use it at the beginning of in-person and online meetings, place it on your website and email signature, and add it to reports, signage and brochures. Provide instruction and direction to everyone in your organization by updating your communication policy.
Keep in mind – a single statement is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution and so it should be adapted to suit the situation and the people with whom you are interacting, and it needs to be part of ongoing reconciliation work. For larger events, it’s appropriate to contact the local First Nation(s) for a welcome. Each Nation has their own protocol process and can advise on how to have an Elder or other community member attend your event and welcome people to their lands. Don’t make a request at the last minute.
Always provide an honorarium (minimum $200 is recommended), and a gift is also fine in addition. Check with the Nation’s protocol if possible before determining an amount for honoraria and gifts. When there are community members from the local territories at your events it’s appropriate to ask them if they are comfortable providing a welcome, and it’s ideal if you can provide them a gift and honoraria as well
One final thought: reconciliation with Indigenous People is a long journey and you will learn a lot. With new knowledge and experience, review your acknowledgment statement once a year to make sure it continues to reflect the values and relationships to which you aspire.
“As we are people of oral traditions what we hear is important and never forgotten. When names are mispronounced or incorrect this is what will carry through the entire event. With a good start the rest of the standards will flow nicely.”
The lands we reside on as a country hold the stories and song of Indigenous Peoples from time immemorial.
As an organization of provincial scope, Heritage BC recognizes that its members, and the local history and heritage they seek to preserve, occupy the lands and territories of B.C.’s Indigenous peoples. Heritage BC asks its members to reflect on the places where they reside and work, and to respect the diversity of cultures and experiences that form the richness of our provincial heritage.
The Heritage Branch acknowledges it carries out its work on the traditional territories of Indigenous nations throughout British Columbia. We pay our respects to the Elders, past and present, descendants and custodians of these lands. We honour the knowledge keepers and the continuing relationships with Indigenous peoples in BC that develop through our work together. The Heritage Branch is grateful to the Lkwungen-speaking people, today known as the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations, on whose traditional territories we operate our main offices.
The BC Museums Association (BCMA) office is located on the traditional, unceded lands of the Lekwungen peoples (Songhees and Xwsepsum Nations). We respect past, present, and future Indigenous stewards and recognize that we are uninvited guests on this territory. As a reflection of the provincial scope of our membership and organization, we recognize that our affiliates occupy the ceded, unceded, and sovereign territories of Nations across what is referred to as British Columbia.
VIFF is presented on the traditional and unceded territories of the xwməθkʷəy̓ əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and sə̓lílwətaʔɬ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.
The University of Alberta is located in ᐊᒥᐢᑿᒌᐚᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᐣ (Amiskwaciiwaskahikan) on Treaty 6 territory, the territory of the Papaschase, and the homeland of the Métis Nation.
We endeavour to honour the land and its treaties by strengthening our relationship and responsibilities to them. We live and work on unceded Coast Salish Territories*, specifically of the Lekwungen (Songhees and Esquimalt Nations) and W̱ SÁNEĆ (Tsartlip/W̱ JOȽEȽP, Tseycum/WSIḴEM, Tsawout/SȾÁUTW, and Pauquachin/BOḰEĆEN Nations).
Start of Meetings
We acknowledge that we are gathered today for [event name] on the ancestral, traditional, unceded territory of the S’yilx Nation.
I acknowledge that my workplace is located within the ancestral, traditional, unceded territory of the S’yilx Nation.
Activism Skills: Land and Territory Acknowledgement
A Guide to Acknowledging Frist Peoples and Traditional Land
First Nation Protocol on Traditional Territory
A Guide to Acknowledging First Peoples & Traditional Territory
Indigenous Land Acknowledgement (Native Governance Center)
Want to learn whose Indigenous land you’re on? There’s an app for that (CBC)