In Canada, a land or territorial acknowledgement is a necessarily political statement which recognizes the ongoing relationships between Indigenous Peoples and the land within the context of colonialism. This statement is often made by the host of a gathering as a way to acknowledge the true history of the land on which the gathering is being held.
Land acknowledgements have become more common over the last several years and have at times been criticized for being a surface-level engagement with reconciliatory processes. There has been an increased interest in how to make land acknowledgements more meaningful so that they go beyond being a checklist item.
A land acknowledgement can be a process of reflection as one considers their own relationship to the land and to the shared histories between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
Joseph Pierce, Cherokee Nation Citizen and Associate Professor of Latin American and Indigenous Studies at Stony Brook University has written an article titled "Your Land Acknowledgement Is Not Enough" (an excerpt follows):
"Land does not require that you confirm it exists, but that you reciprocate the care it has given you. Land is not asking for acknowledgment. It is asking to be returned to itself. It is asking to be heard and cared for and attended to. It is asking to be free.
Land is not an object, not a thing. Land does not require recognition. It requires care. It requires presence.
Land is a gift, a relative, a body that sustains other bodies. And if the land is our relative, then we cannot simply acknowledge it as land. We must understand what our responsibilities are to the land as our kin. We must engage in a reciprocal relationship with the land. Land is — in its animate multiplicities — an ongoing enactment of reciprocity.
A land acknowledgment is not enough.
To engage with the land on the land’s terms is an act of reciprocity. Reciprocity, rather than recognition, is what the land requires because that is what it has already given. Are you not alive, breathing, because of this land?
The land exists regardless of settler acknowledgment, which can only ever be the first step toward meaningful action. Next steps involve building relationships with that land as if it were your kin. Because it is."
"At best, land acknowledgments recognize relationships, the price that Indigenous people have paid for the existence of this place, and reflect on tangible things people can do...Land acknowledgments are a moment to pause and reflect on the relationship that exists between the current residents and those who were displaced. What does it mean to live on stolen land? You may not be guilty of the act of dispossession, but it is a relationship that you have inherited." (Krawec, 2022, p. 39)
Krawec, P. (2022). Becoming kin: An Indigenous call to unforgetting the past and reimagining our future. Broadleaf Books.
“A land acknowledgement is something that everyone should be doing, acknowledging that they are here on the unceded territory of the Syilx people. A land welcome to our traditional territory is something that is only appropriate for a Syilx person to do. Just like if we had visiting dignitaries to Canada from somewhere else, it would be appropriate for them to acknowledge their host. It would not be appropriate for them to welcome other dignitaries to Canada.” Pamela Barnes, Syilx Okanagan Knowledge Keeper
Okanagan College Campuses
The Kelowna, Vernon and Penticton campuses are located on the traditional and unceded territory of the Syilx Okanagan People. The Salmon Arm campus is located on the traditional and unceded territory of the Secwépemc People. The Revelstoke centre is located on the traditional and unceded territories of the Ktunaxa, Secwépemc, Sinixt and Syilx Okanagan Peoples.
Unsure how to pronounce the names of the different Nations? Check the "Pronunciation Guides" section at the bottom of this guide for helpful resources.
What does it mean when we say that the land is unceded?
Unceded refers to land that was never surrendered through treaty or war. In Canada, some traditional territories were ceded through the treaty process while others remain unceded.
First Nations Communities within OC's Service Area
Land acknowledgements during online gatherings are different as participants may be joining in from geographically diverse locations. If you are the host of the meeting it would be appropriate to acknowledge the land on which you are personally situated as well as recognizing that participants may be joining from other territories. If you are representing a particular institution/organization, acknowledge the land on which the institution is situated. Depending on the size or nature of the gathering, you may invite others to share their land acknowledgement, verbally or in the chat function.
As Xwi7xwa Library notes, "there are no true "best practices" for creating a land acknowledgement, as they are all unique to the place, Nations, communities and relationships being acknowledged." These resources may be helpful in creating a meaningful land acknowledgement.
Kyle Shaughnessey, Educational Consultant at UBC, suggests three considerations when creating a land acknowledgement:
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