Land Acknowledgements: What they ARE, and what they are NOT…

800px-Amerikanska_folk,_Nordisk_familjebok

By G. Mülzel – Nordisk familjebok (1904), vol.1, Amerikanska folk [1] (the colour version is available in this zip-archive).Nordisk Familjebok has credited the image to Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=846880

This week I read a very important blog post for any small business, which may be operating ANYWHERE in the world!  This post, entitled “Our Homes (and Businesses) on Native Land”, can be read in full at https://communityedition.ca/blog/2016/06/01/our-homes-and-businesses-on-native-land/.

Spatial Integrity is currently established in the city of Guelph, Ontario.  Guelph, and many of the businesses/institutions located here, has been recognizing the importance of providing a Land Acknowledgement for First Nations’ communities across Ontario.  These acknowledgements are not just being conducted in this province, however – this is a form of verbally recognizing First Nations’ rights which is occurring across Canada!

What IS a Land Acknowledgement?

According to the Laurier Public Interest Research Group (LSPIRG), the definition of a land acknowledgement is: “… a formal statement that recognizes the unique and enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories.” In more ‘basic’ language, this is simply a statement that we (as Canadians) recognize that everything we do happens on land occupied by First Nations peoples, and that everything we do impacts people who lived here long before our ancestors first moved here!

It is very easy for Canadian business owners, students, researchers, and citizens, to begin thinking we have exclusive rights to do whatever we need to in order to make our own lives better.  Sometimes, what we do can cause unintended harm to communities who have been here long before we can imagine!  This includes First Nations communities, and marginalized people who have established themselves in the places we live long before we can imagine.  A simple Land Acknowledgement can change our perceptions as ‘owners’ of the space we live, to tenants of the place we live on – much like renters of residential spaces.  It is our responsibility, therefore, for us to provide Land Acknowledgements when we conduct our business, and NOT of the First Nations communities themselves!

This is, in fact, who we are – people who ‘rent’ the spaces we live in.  The places we live, and where we conduct our businesses, have been occupied by people who resided here thousands of years before our ancestors ever arrived in Canada.  The area we now call ‘Guelph’ was occupied by the Attawandaron (Neutral) people before the year 1500.  This region was used as a gathering place for many of the Six-Nations Indigenous groups who called this land ‘home’.  Once European settlers moved in, the Attawandaron people were decimated through war, disease, and policies which included the Indian Act of 1927 and Residential Schools.  For more information on this history, check out this website — http://wampumkeeper.com/wellingtoncounty.html

Deciding to engage with a Land Acknowledgement forces us to change our perceptions from land and resource ‘owners’, to people who are ‘renting’ the spaces we conduct our business in.  We come to see ourselves – not as people with exclusive rights to land and resources – but as individuals who are committed to collaborating and consulting with the communities on whose land we currently live.  It is not the responsibility, therefore, for First Nations groups to remind us of our obligations as ‘tenants’ – but for us to consistently remind ourselves of our responsibilities to ensure that we ourselves remain accountable for our actions.  We need to remember that we are here as responsible members to a common cause which helps everyone make this a better place to live, work and thrive in!

As such, Spatial Integrity commits to its own Land Acknowledgement:

Spatial Integrity acknowledges that we currently operate on the traditional territory of the Attawandaron (Neutral) peoples.  We also offer respect to our Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe and Metis neighbours.  At one time, the Attawandaron, who lived in the region of Guelph, Waterloo and Hamilton, numbered over 30,000. Their community was ultimately wiped out through disease, war, and colonial policies. Today, we honour the ancestors of many Six Nations residing here.  At all times, Spatial Integrity is committed to honouring First Nations leadership and knowledge.  Spatial Integrity remains mindful of the harm done to First Nations communities through colonial policies; both past and present. We are committed to our duty to consult and collaborate with First Nations’ communities toward their sovereign rights to land, development and resource management.

Until next time, this is Spatial Integrity – Making the Invisible, Visible!

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