Thompson Rivers University

Understanding land acknowledgements

March 3, 2021

As part of Indigenous Awareness Week, Theresa John, a Dakelh (Carrier) and member of the Lusilyoo (frog) Clan from the Northern Interior of BC, facilitated discussions and wrote this piece about the importance of land acknowledgements.

Theresa John identifies as Dakelh (Carrier) and is a member of the Lusilyoo (frog) Clan from the Northern Interior of BC – she is a juris doctorate candidate for 2020, was a student storyteller and recently completed law school at TRU.

Why do we do land acknowledgments? As I have been spending time in my home territories, I pondered this question to further understand the significance of acknowledging the land. I posed this question to family members, friends and colleagues to understand different perspectives. A common value among all responses was respect and protection of land. 

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recognizes the significant connection between the land and Indigenous peoples. This contributes to protecting all living beings’ health within the environment, including the water, animals, trees and fish. Understanding and recognizing the importance of the land reveals that it protects not only the animals, but also us as human beings. 

The land is the very fabric of Indigenous identity. It holds histories, stories, songs, ceremonies, food and medicine. Acknowledging the traditional unceded or unconquered land further demonstrates the genocidal history and broken relationships between Indigenous peoples and Canada. It shows there was once a time before European contact when the waterways were pristine and full of abundance for thousands of years compared with the current salmon and environmental crisis we are in today. As a First Nations person, I was taught that the land could not speak for itself. Therefore, we must speak for the land. 

How can we, as a society, continue learning about Indigenous people to repair the relationship? Cplul’kw’ten hosts a virtual soup circle every Wednesday for all currently enrolled TRU students. This is where you can build and strengthen connections with Indigenous students and learn about current events or volunteer opportunities on campus or in the community.

Important protocols to follow while participating in the soup circle is: 

  • be respectful of the space as a visitor
  • actively listen to other participants
  • put away any distractions (i.e. phones, tablets, etc.) 
  • if you are shy or anxious to participate you can simply say you are there to listen and say “pass” 
  • always prioritize asking an Elder if they want their food served and ensure they get to eat first

Acknowledging the land and protecting its health is important in concrete and institutional spaces because it contextualizes the vibrance and complexities of the environment. It shows we are interconnected and interdependent on the health of the land. Respecting Indigenous traditions is important not only for the well-being of Indigenous people, but for everyone. 

Recommended reads relating to reconciliation:

Refer to the website for more information about Indigenization at TRU. Watch the two-part panel discussion facilitated by Theresa John.

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