ITO Land Acknowledgement Resource Guide
Welcome to ITO’s Land Acknowledgement Resource Guide. This is a resource designed to aid in the development of your Land Acknowledgements.
LAND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ARE AN ACT OF RECONCILIATION, AN ACT OF COMPASSION, AND AN ACT OF MINDFULNESS
Land Acknowledgements are an act of reconciliation, an act of compassion, and an act of mindfulness. By recognizing the traditional territories you stand on and what they mean to you, you take a small but important step towards recognizing and honouring the Indigenous Peoples who have lived on Turtle Island (aka: North America) since long before colonization.
The findings of the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission were a list of 94 calls to action which urged all levels of government — federal, provincial, territorial and aboriginal — to work together to change policies and programs in a concerted effort to repair the harm caused by residential schools and move forward with reconciliation. Since then, a growing awareness of systemic Indigenous oppression and genocide have lead 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. They have become standard practice at public and private events, and while the requirements may seem obvious to some – they will certainly be overwhelming and confusing for others. This is not a perfect resource, however we hope this guide serves to help you find the right way to express your own gratitude and appreciation. We hope too that this guide contributes to your learning and reconciliation efforts, wherever you may be on that journey.
- Indigenous Peoples are still here, they are not a historical phenomenon. Note that within Canada, the word “Indigenous” covers a very diverse population, and includes First Nations, Métis, and Inuit.
- Be mindful of your words. Here is a very helpful style-guide to reference when writing your land acknowledgement: 12 Ways to Better Choose Our Words When We Write About Indigenous Peoples.
- Don’t place the burden of learning on an Indigenous person or organization. This is key in all anti-racism actions; the responsibility is on that of the settler or non-Indigenous person to educate themselves. The internet is full of resources – use them!
- Learn how to correctly pronounce the names of the places and peoples. There are many videos and audio files out there (such as YouTube) for you to learn from and practice with.
- Reflect. The purpose is to express awareness, and sincere allyship. Hopefully this action will inspire others to stand in solidarity with Indigenous people. If you believe you are doing this out of guilt or obligation, then you will need to dig deeper and self-reflect further.
- Learn where you are. Determine whose traditional land you are on, and what treaty the land falls under (if applicable). We suggest that you utilize native-land.ca; it is an interactive global map that you can use to learn whose traditional territory the land is, and which treaty pertains to it, as well as the language spoken by the Peoples of that area.
- Personalize it. There are many ways to approach this. Some prompts to help you think about what you could include:
- What the place means to you and/or your organization.
- What you do in that place (your work, your activities).
- You could speak to the ecology, the geographic features, and to your connection to the land.
- You might also want to include a word like “hello” or “thank you” in the language of the local community (ie: “Miigwech / Miigwetch” is Anishinaabemowin for “thank you”), or even refer to where you are by its original name (ie: “Tkaronto” is a Mohawk word meaning “where there are trees standing in water”, and is considered the original name of Toronto).
- Be honest. Don’t be afraid to use language that refers to the violence and oppression that has been used in an attempt to deprive Indigenous people of their culture, language, spiritual practices, and community. Colonization is inherently violent, and in seeking reconciliation the truth cannot be ignored. That said, remember that the statement’s purpose is to honour – not be a list of atrocities. A good land acknowledgement should function as a living celebration of Indigenous communities. Ask yourself, “How am I leaving Indigenous Peoples in a stronger, more empowered place because of this land acknowledgment?” Focus on the positivity of who Indigenous Peoples are today.
- Include a call-to-action. As they say, “actions speak louder than words”, and in this case you want to name the action you will take on as an Indigenous ally. By including a simple, action-oriented activity in your acknowledgement you make a tangible impact. An example of what that could look like: “As an ally to Indigenous people and a partner of Indigenous Tourism Ontario, we will commit to improving the socio-economic conditions of Indigenous people through tourism by creating space for Indigenous people to tell their stories on their terms.”
- Connect it to Tourism. Assuming you are writing this as either an individual working in Tourism or as a Tourism owner/operator, you will want to find ways to demonstrate the direct relevance of Indigenousness to the industry. Consider these thoughts, and how to weave them into your Land Acknowledgement:
- Saying “thank you” to the Indigenous people for accommodating and hosting visitors for so long.
- Acknowledging the original tour guides and scientific community of the lands.
- Acknowledging that people work and play on the historic lands.
- Emphasizing being “good neighbours” and mutually beneficial relationships.
- Check your work. So you’ve completed your assignment, but now you need to verify that the information you have included is accurate and the rest of your wording is authentic. Beyond Google, there may be local cultural centres or community groups who you could (respectfully) reach out to for their review – but be prepared to accept that they may not want to assist you. If you’ve never been in contact with your local Indigenous community before now, imagine this as the potential beginning of an ongoing relationship, a first step towards cultivating an open line of communication; try to think of what you could offer them in return. Many Indigenous Nations have their own websites; it may indicate how they want to be acknowledged, and possibly include information about neighbouring Nations as well.
- Be flexible. Your Land Acknowledgement may need to change over time, or even be adjusted depending on the event or audience.
- Use it. Your Land Acknowledgement is for use at the start of a meeting, event opening ceremonies, on your website, on signage, and even in your email signature.
- Beyond the acknowledgement. Now what? There are 94 calls-to-action that still need to be addressed. Most of them are matters that need to be handled by our governments. Read the list of recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to better understand what is required. Petitioning our government at the provincial and federal levels is necessary to hold them accountable. Consider how you can contribute to the disruption and dismantling of colonialism. And learn, not just about history but about the present – preferably from Indigenous writers and academics, since the colonial view of history is the only one that’s been taught in classrooms up until very recently.
HERE IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF A LAND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT THAT WAS TAILORED TO SPEAK TO THE SPECIFICS OF THE EVENT, NOTE HOWEVER, THAT IT COULD BE IMPROVED-UPON BY INCLUDING A CALL-TO-ACTION:
“Welcome Everyone. Today we begin our coming together with a statement for you to reflect on the unique connections and relationships Indigenous persons and their ancestors have had with this place for thousands of years. This comes from the important understanding that we are all related and connected, including our connections to animate and inanimate beings, who sustain us through providing all that we need for life. Food Systems include all of the land, air, water, soil and culturally important plant, animal and fungi species that have sustained Indigenous peoples over thousands of years. In contrast to the industrial, linear food systems we have today, traditional Indigenous food systems cultivated, harvested, prepared and preserved foods within boundaries that respect the planet. Today, we honour the Indigenous community and the work they have done and continue doing for food, planet and health. We acknowledge the Seed Keepers in the Six Nations and Tyendinaga who have started to cultivate strains of corn, not seen in a hundred years. James Whetung from Curve Lake First Nation, who despite significant opposition from cottagers, has continued to seed and harvest wild rice in the Tri-Lake area and our friends at Nish Dish who were instrumental in creating Ojibikaan, an Indigenous Cultural Network that offers land, food and culture based programming in Toronto. The land I am standing on today is the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. I also acknowledge that Toronto is covered by Treaty 13 signed with the Mississaugas of the Credit, and the Williams Treaties signed with multiple Mississaugas and Chippewa bands.”
Land Acknowledgement Given at a City of Toronto Food Policy Event
WITH SUPPORT FROM ITO, OUR VALUED PARTNER TIAO USED THIS LAND ACKNOWLEDGMENT AT THE VIRTUAL QUEEN’S PARK DAY IN 2020:
“Ahnii (Anishnabek – pronounced Ah-KNEE), Boozhoo (Anishnabek – pronounced Bo-SHO), She-kon (Haudenosaunee – pronounced SAY-go), Kwe (Huron-Wendat – pronounced kway)
We would like to acknowledge we are on the traditional territory of the Mississauga’s of New Credit and the Traditional territories of the Anishinaabek (pronounced A-nish-KNOB-beck), Mississaugas, Huron-Wendat, and Haudenosaunee (pronounced Ho-de-no-SHOW-knee).
We also fully embrace and respect that Toronto is governed by the ‘Dish With One Spoon’ Treaty between the Anishinaabek, Mississaugas and Haudenosaunee. This Treaty requires them and invites any subsequent newcomers to share the territory and protect the land in the spirit of peace, friendship and respect.
TIAO and the Indigenous tourism industry honour and respect this Treaty are thankful that the original tour guides of these lands welcomed and continue to welcome us all to their territory.
We believe working together in a mutually beneficial manner will help all Ontarians prosper through development of the tourism industry. 1 in 5 Indigenous people in Canada live in Ontario. With over 500 Indigenous tourism businesses in Ontario, TIAO and ITO are pleased to be working side by side, together under an MOU, to help advance the Indigenous tourism industry in Ontario.”
Find out where you are
This is a resource created by Native Land Digital to help map Indigenous lands.
Literature on Land Acknowledgements
This is a land acknowledgement resource created by Lakehead University.
Land Acknowledgement Guidance
This is a land acknowledgement resource created by the City of Toronto.
Know The Land Territories Campaign
This is a resource created by the Laurier Students’ Public Interests Research Group.