Land Acknowledgments in Difficult Times

CBC’s Baronness Von Sketch show recently aired a comedy sketch having the ladies attending a theatre production where a land acknowledgment was happening. When the theatre staff member said, ‘we acknowledge that we meet tonight on traditional indigenous land’, one woman in the audience turned to her friend and said, “Did she say we’re on someone’s land? Should we leave?”

Comedy can often ask better and deeper questions than all our serious talking heads can manage.

Jonathan Kay, in a recent Quillette article, writes: The practice of land acknowledements is rooted in good intentions, and originally had real educational value. Indigenous lands often were seized through a mixture of brutality and theft. In many cases, the reserves on which Indigenous peoples now live don’t even correspond with traditional territories: Tribes typically were expelled from fertile lands for the benefit of white farmers, and often were left to languish in remote flood planes with little economic value. As Canada urbanized, these communities and their histories became invisible to most Canadians. Land acknowledgments were conceived, in part, as a means to remedy this ignorance.  a

So today we honour that this is traditional indigenous land of the Cree, Blackfoot, Metis, Nakota Sioux, Dene Tha, and others with whom we are in Treaty partnership.

We really are slowly learning to ask new and deeper questions, but it’s time. We’re learning the difference between inconvenience and lifetimes of neglect. We’re learning the day to day and generational impact of injustice and racism. We’re asking what reconciliation can mean when there isn’t agreement. We’re asking how to have conversations not just about history, but about our future lives together. And so we balance the reality that this land has a complicated, painful history and the need for all of us – indigenous and non-indigenous alike – to find a productive focus on common values and projects, as challenging as it always is when we don’t all speak with one voice. With gratitude, we continue the journey.


*Christopher New spoke these words as the land acknowledgment at SSUC on Sunday, February 23, 2020.