Written by Tasha Chamberlin, RSW, BSW, MSW candidate
(reproduced and shared with permission)
Indigenous protocol is a very important thing to consider before beginning a gathering, workshop, or meeting; one of these protocols is the acknowledgment of the traditional First Nations lands at the outset. Joseph (2012) asserts, “It can be customary between one First Nation and another to acknowledge the host First Nation Peoples and their traditional territory at the outset of any meeting. The long struggle by First Nations for respect has been tough, but through it all this basic protocol has survived and thrived”. As a visitor to First Nations lands the best way to show respect is through following this protocol, and beginning any gathering or meeting with acknowledgment of the traditional lands (please see below for examples). Joseph (2013) reinforces the importance of acknowledging the traditional lands, “because you are acknowledging that that Nation has had a relationship since time immemorial with the land you are standing on. It is a sign of respect and recognition.”
It is important to recognize that “A ‘welcome’ to the territory is only offered by the First Nations people who are traditionally from the territory. Visitors, including everyone who is not a member of the traditional First Nation, would ‘acknowledge’ the territory” (SD73, n.d.).
Antoine (2015) shares the words of the last remaining fluent Lkwungen language holder who stated, “there was no traditional word for territories, but there was one used for land” therefore with respect for the Lkwungen families, Antoine prefers to use the word land rather than territory.
If you are unaware of the traditional lands on which the gathering or meeting will be held, reach out to the venue, or if available a local Friendship Centre, or research the local Indigenous communities, and call and ask the community. Some areas have more than one First Nation in the area and some lands are shared territory. In regard to the Coast Salish peoples Antoine (2015) imparts the teachings from the Royal Roads University Elders Circle and Chief and Council members, who prefer acknowledgments are specific to the families. When Antoine acknowledges traditional lands she does not acknowledge the Coast Salish (larger nation) rather she thanks the Esquimalt and Songhees families on who’s traditional lands the university sits.
The person who will be facilitating the gathering or meeting is the person who should acknowledge the lands, and this should be done first and foremost. If you forget to acknowledge the lands immediately then do it as soon as possible. After the acknowledgement you carry on with the agenda. Joseph (2013) asserts, “For larger conferences, it is good protocol to invite an Elder to provide a prayer or blessing. Again, in order to find an Elder who provides prayers or blessings, call the Friendship Centre [or local Indigenous community] nearest to the location of your event and ask them. Be sure to ask what is the expected honorarium for the blessing”.
Stromquist (2014) reinforces, ”Observing these practices connects participants with the traditional territory, and provides a welcoming atmosphere and spiritual presence to the land upon which people are meeting. It also reinforces the place of Aboriginal perspectives within policies and procedures.”
Below are some examples of possible acknowledgments. Keep in mind that these are not the only ways to do an acknowledgment. These are only suggestions and can be used as a guide to create your own acknowledgement. It is important that whatever words you choose to acknowledge Indigenous lands, that you use language that is authentic and reflects you, so that it will feel comfortable and natural.
Suggestions for Acknowledgments
I would like to begin our day by acknowledging the ______________________ families and their traditional lands on where we begin our work today. I come from a place of respect and gratitude to know I work, live, and learn in their traditional lands.
I would like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the _______________ First Nation.
I would like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the _____________ people.
I would like to acknowledge the ______________ people, whose land we are on.
I want to thank the ________________ people for allowing us to live, learn, and play on their beautiful territory.
We would like to first acknowledge the traditional territory of the _____________ people and extend our appreciation for the opportunity to live and learn on their territory.
As a visitor, I want to acknowledge the traditional territory of the ________________ people, whose land we are meeting on today.
Before going further, I wish to acknowledge the ancestral, traditional and unceded Aboriginal territories of the _____________ (ie. Coast Salish) peoples, and in particular, the _____________________ (ie. Cowichan) on whose territory we stand.
Asma Na Hi Antoine, Indigenous Education and Student Services Manager, Royal Roads University, Personal Communications, 2015.
Stromquist, G. (2014). BC Teacher’s Federation: Aboriginal Education Program. Retrieved from https://www.bctf.ca/uploadedFiles/public/AboutUs/ServicesHandbook/1AbEdProgram.pdf
Joseph, R. (2013). First Nation Protocol Thanking the Host First Nation Why You Should. Retrieved from http://www.ictinc.ca/first-nation-protocol-thanking-host-first-nation
Joseph, R., & Joseph, C. (2012). Working Effectively with Aboriginal People. Retrieved from http://www.ictinc.ca/first-nation-protocol-on-traditional-territory
Safe Harbour – Respect for All. (2014). Acknowledgement of Traditional Aboriginal Territory in British Columbia. Retrieved from https://safeharbourblog.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/acknowledgement-of-traditional-aboriginal-territory-in-british-columbia/
School District 73 (n.d.). Acknowledging Traditional Territory. Retrieved from http://www3.sd73.bc.ca/sites/default/files/users/npankewich/SD73%20Acknowledging%20Traditional%20Territory-1_0.pdf