On April 14 we added a land acknowledgment to our Clarity Web Design Studio website. This has been on our minds for several reasons, and after we’d written our own we wanted to share it publicly. We also want to share with you a bit of our own journey in learning about Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples. We hope this will encourage you to consider including a land acknowledgment on your own website as well.
In May 2021 the world was rocked by Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation’s announcement of 215 unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Residential School. This discovery was the first of many that verifies a knowing that First Nations communities already had about missing children and undocumented deaths over multiple generations.
Since that date, the Canadian government has finally allocated funds to help Indigenous communities pursue ground penetrating radar searches at former residential schools, and help provide community emotional support. This is just a first step in what will likely be a decades-long plan that will require a great deal of painful work for each community. As of this article, evidence of more than 1,100 graves has been found across Canada since last spring.
This recent media spotlight barely touches the tip of the iceberg of injustice, mistreatment and worse toward Indigenous people in our country. As settler descendents, it is OUR responsibility to learn about the First Peoples in our areas, and it is OUR responsibility – not the responsibility of First Nations people – to take steps towards reconciliation.
My Personal Learning Journey
I (Steph) grew up in southern Alberta in Treaty 7 territory. My hometown is practically next door to Blood No. 148, the largest reserve in Canada and the third most populous, inhabited by the Káínawa (Kainai) Nation (part of the Blackfoot Confederacy). Yet even with that close geographic proximity, the public school system of the 1980s and 1990s offered very little for real education, awareness or understanding of First Peoples. In my university years I attended several pow-wows throughout southern Alberta, which helped me begin to broaden my own settler perspective.
But in truth, my own journey of learning about our Indigenous perspectives became intentional only a few years ago, when I participated in a Kairos Blanket Exercise in January 2020 hosted by a local organization and facilitated by two Mi’kmaq elders. KAIROS is a movement of Indigenous, settler and newcomer peoples committed to ecological justice and human rights. This was singularly the most impactful experience I have had in my entire life.
Following that experience, I began to broaden my reading horizons and started actively looking for Indigenous authors and poets. In 2021, I completed the University of Alberta’s Indigenous Canada MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) which gave me a glimpse into both the histories and contemporary perspectives of today’s Indigenous people.
What is a Land Acknowledgment?
The land acknowledgment is a statement recognizing by name the Indigenous peoples whose lands we live and work on, and thanking them for taking care of these lands which they have had a relationship with since long before Canada was established. They are often offered at the beginning of ceremonies, lectures or any public event, and it can be a subtle way to recognize the history of colonialism and a need for change in settler colonial societies.
Land acknowledgments vary across Canada, because the communities and identities of First Nations groups are so incredibly diverse and because the treaties affecting each territory were different.
I now live in Mi’kmaq territory on the Atlantic coast. I have lived in Windsor for well over a decade, and it is my responsibility as a settler descendent to consider what it means to acknowledge the history and legacy of colonialism and its effects on our local First Peoples.
Nova Scotia consists only of lands that are traditional, ancestral and unceded First Nations territory. Unceded means that the Mi’kmaq never legally signed away their lands to the Crown or to Canada – and yet almost 300 years after signing the Peace & Friendship Treaty, First Nations rights to hunting, fishing, moderate livelihoods and more are constantly being debated or denied.
Clarity Web Design Studio – Land Acknowledgment
On April 12, 2022 I had the honour of being a guest host on a weekly Calls to Action series hosted by my friend Angela Johnston of Priority Kids. As part of my reflection on this participation, I realized I wanted to write my own land acknowledgment statement that specifically mentions the treaties and First Peoples in my own geographic area:
“Clarity Web Design Studio operates in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People who have lived in this region for many thousands of years. Windsor Nova Scotia is within an area that includes Pisiquid, meaning “Junction of the Waters”, that has been taken care of by the Sipekne’katik First Nation and Glooscap First Nation. The Treaties of Peace & Friendship that cover this territory were first signed in 1725 between the Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) People and the British Crown and did not include giving up land title or other rights, including the right to hunt and fish their lands and establish trade. We thank these First Peoples who continue to live on these lands and care for them, and whose relationship to these lands existed long before the founding of Canada or Nova Scotia. We are all treaty people.”
Why Land Acknowledgments are Important for Businesses
For businesses today, doing the research to find out whose land you’re operating on and including a land acknowledgment on your website is a small and tangible way to move toward reconciliation with the Indigenous community. It demonstrates a posture of learning, honouring, and respect that is opposite to our history of dominating and destroying. To demonstrate that learning, please take the time to research before you sit down to write your statement.
At Clarity Web Design Studio, we believe that good design is good for everyone. This principle extends to every intentional relationship, and particularly in how businesses exist to serve our communities. This includes participating in the reconciliation between Indigenous people and settlers or settler descendents who have the privilege of benefitting from this land.
A land acknowledgment is only a first small step in the work of reconciliation. This topic may be new to you but I encourage you to learn and keep seeking out opportunities to engage in reconciliation work. I still have a lot to learn, but here is a short list of resources that I personally have found helpful:
- Native-Land.ca – Find out whose land you are on.
- Territory acknowledgment – A good resource for starting to consider your own land acknowledgment statement.
- Kairos Blanket Exercise – Everyone in Canada should experience a KBE at least once.
- Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) Calls to Action – 94 calls to action that resulted from the TRC’s report.
- National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation – Teaching resources, exhibits, and more.
- U of A Indigenous Canada Course – a free, online and open course that I highly recommend.
- Priority Kids Calls to Action Series – a weekly virtual series dedicated to reading one of the TRC’s Calls to Action.
If you’re not sure how to go about adding a Land Acknowledgment to your own website, feel free to reach out.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. We are all treaty people.