The Significance of Land Acknowledgments
By Avreet Jagdev
Over the years, there has been a larger focus on land acknowledgements across Canada. What are land acknowledgements, and why are they so important?
Land acknowledgements are a recognition of the land on which Canada exists. Many Indigenous communities are from Canada, and these communities were the first people to live on this land — long before others arrived. When European settlers arrived to Canada, Indigenous communities faced many injustices and were forced to assimilate into European culture. This resulted in long-term injustices that continue today.
A land acknowledgment is a way to recognize this history, and show respect and gratitude for these Indigenous communities and the land they called home before anyone else.
Land acknowledgements vary in what they look like, but usually, they are shared as a statement towards the beginning of an event or meeting. The most basic aspect of a land acknowledgement is a recognition of the land that the meeting or event is taking place on, and the traditional territories that exist on that land.
For example, the City of Toronto is traditional territory to many Indigenous communities, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat peoples. A land acknowledgment in Toronto might begin by naming these communities.
Land acknowledgements often also include gratitude and respect for the land on which they are on. Some land acknowledgements are more personal, and include personal reflections on relationships with the land, or with Indigenous communities.
Land acknowledgments are important for many reasons and are a key aspect of reconciliation, a word which means repairing Canada’s relationships with Indigenous communities. Firstly, they show respect to the Indigenous communities who have existed on this land for thousands of years, and this is a way of recognizing their history and connection to this land. This recognition is an important step towards reconciliation because Indigenous communities have faced a long history of having their relationship with the land denied or neglected. In addition, Indigenous histories have been left untold — so by recognizing Canadian land as traditional Indigenous territory, land acknowledgements are a step forward in repairing this issue.
You can contribute to this reconciliation by researching the traditional territories and Indigenous communities that are associated with the city or town that you call home. You can also reflect on your relationship with the land on which you live, and learn more about its history with Indigenous peoples.
Land acknowledgments are a lot more than just words. They are a way to connect us with Canada’s past, and learn more about the Indigenous communities which live alongside us. Overall, land acknowledgments are an important step in reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous communities, and allow us to think more critically about the land that we live on, and the history that took place here.