Have you been curious as to why many important meetings or events open with a First Nations, Métis, Inuit land acknowledgement? I have been able to make a deeper, more personal association to the land acknowledgement practice by developing my understanding of indigenous worldview, and connection to the land. Now, I appreciate the acknowledgment as a practice that grounds collective identity and sense of belonging. My understanding of the land recognition practice is based on Elders’ teachings of Iyiniw, Treaty, and my personal connection to the land.
Iyinew – Of the Earth
My consideration of connection to the land started with a teaching from Cree Elder Calvin Laliberte. When I asked him how he would like me to acknowledge which nation he is from. He answered my question with the following teaching. “I am an Iyiniw person (of the earth). My belief is that we are all of the earth and have no affiliation. Old teachings call us Iyiniwak – people of the earth”. A related teaching by Bob Randall, a Yankunytjatjara Elder, can be found here. Indigenous worldview teaches that our original mother is Mother Earth. We are all descendants of the earth. The earth sustains us, so we have responsibility of stewardship of the land. Our relationship to the land is therefore, reciprocal.
Connecting the Elder’s teaching of Iyinew to my understanding of Treaty helped me to develop a more profound understanding of the land acknowledgment practice.
Guest Blogger Zahra Kasamali presented a holistic explanation of Treaty in her post found here. Have you heard the statement we are all Treaty people? Treaty created the foundation for our nation. It is a guide, created by our indigenous and non-indigenous ancestors, about how to share the land. At its core, the intention of Treaty is to encourage us to walk in Wetaskiwin (the Cree word that means peace and harmony) together on a parallel path as Indigenous and non-indigenous people.
The understanding of Treaty and teaching of Iyiniw, helps us recognize that Treaty, much like the land acknowledgment, is for all of us.
Personal Connection to the Land
The Treaty 7: Indigenous Ally toolkit encourages people giving the land acknowledgement to “form deeper connections and grow their knowledge of the original people of the land (p.2).” The leaflet also encourages people giving the land acknowledgment to have a “solid understanding and appreciation of the land … to avoid the land acknowledgements becoming rote or repetitive and losing significance (p.2).”
Over the past decade, I have been learning more about indigenous people and historical accounts of the land (more about the original migration to the Americas can be learned here). I recognized that I needed to learn more about the original settlement of the area in which I live. I have been delving into the Thorhild History books to retrieve historical accounts of settlement. This includes origins of the town site, school and church development, and of the land that I currently live on. The land that I own, and where I currently live, has been in my family for 84 years. There are many stories about my ancestors that the land holds, and the land has provided for us for many years. It has only been recently that I realized that the freedoms that I have had and the ability to live on the land are because of Treaty agreements.
For me, the land acknowledgment is an explicit reminder to be in gratitude for all of the people who have lived on the land before me, managing it in sustainable ways. As well as a reminder of my personal responsibility as a steward of the land, in order that it may support many generations to come. Innate in this, is the personal and collective responsibility to live the rights and responsibilities of Treaty.
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Be well 🙂