Land is central to the identities and ways of life of Indigenous Peoples, and relationships to the land should be at the core of Indigenous services and programs.
The phrase “We will always be here and we are not going anywhere,” demonstrates Indigenous Peoples’ resiliency and perseverance in the face of ongoing colonization and their deep connection to the physical and metaphysical worlds that are in relationship to land, sea, and sky. This relationship is commonly expressed as, “We belong to the land, the land doesn’t belong to us,” foregrounding the idea that our role is as stewards for coming generations. There are over 30 distinct First Nations of British Columbia [PDF] whose territories transcend Western geo-political borders.
It now a common practice at public and private institution events, important meetings, and in formal documentation, to acknowledge an institution’s relationship to traditional lands and territories in which the campuses were built, as appropriate to the specific location. A helpful resource is the Guide to Acknowledging First Peoples and Traditional Territory from the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT, 2017). It includes the territory acknowledgements of post-secondary institutions across Canada and states:
While acknowledging territory is very welcome, it is only a small part of cultivating strong relationships with the First Peoples of Canada. Acknowledging territory and First Peoples should take place within the larger context of genuine and ongoing work to forge real understanding, and to challenge the legacies of colonialism. Territorial acknowledgements should not simply be a pro forma statement made before getting on with the “real business” of the meeting; they must be understood as a vital part of the business.