TPPG Event Notes: Everything You Need to Know About Territory Acknowledgments

These notes are a combination of notes from myself and Martin Hauck, one of the founders of The People People Group.

Photo from this CBC video: http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/885745731752

The People People Group hosted this event to help us understand the purpose and importance of territory acknowledgments. Rebecca Benson led us all through an interactive workshop that equipped us to appreciate the history of the land, why acknowledgments are important, who should perform them, and how to do one when needed.

Rebecca Benson (she/her, they/their) is a Two-Spirit activist, writer, facilitator and equity consultant of Tuscarora and Gaelic roots; they have lived in Dish With One Spoon territory for much of her life.

In this event, they covered:

  1. A brief history of colonization
  2. History of territory acknowledgments & Indigenous treaties
  3. Understanding your personal responsibility to indigenous people

Colonization

Colonialism came about because of Europe’s desire to extract resources and own more land.

Originally, Indigenous people’s understanding of land was as a relationship, and you had to treat it with that kind of respect. Whereas the belief in Europe was focused on someone having ownership of the land and being able to do whatever they wanted with it.

Indigenous people went about their lives with an understanding that there was interdependence between the land and the people on that land.

For example, Indigenous people would do controlled burning to ensure that wildfires didn’t spread too far and become uncontrollable. Also, this controlled burning helped regenerate the land and give back to animals

In the presentation, Rebecca mentioned Cutcha Risling Baldy and how they came up with an excellent metaphor for what colonization did to indigenous people; it was like the TV show Walking Dead. Settler contact was an apocalypse for the indigenous community. It was a huge amount of people invading their community and destroying life as they knew it.

Rebecca’s ancestors had a way of doing everything. They had their own form of government, land management and agriculture, a very advanced language, healthcare, and lots of time to enjoy life outside of productive labour

Think about this before you ask indigenous people “Why can’t they get over it?” Their entire way of life had been destroyed and their community was taken over by foreigners.

To wrap up this section we did an exercise called the Umbrella of indigenous resiliency from the book ‘Speaking Our Truth’. We looked at the various topics on the umbrella and committed to doing research on three parts of this indigenous history. I chose:

Here are a few other places to learn about these parts of history:

“Be careful how you use the word ‘resiliency’ in context with indigenous people. Yes they were resilient, but they shouldn’t have had to be resilient to these things in first place.”

Territory Acknowledgements

Territory acknowledgments are simply treaties between different indigenous communities that involved the exchange of resources, ensuring that everyone was dependent on each other to thrive. This led to everyone being more respectful of each other and the land they were on in order to ensure long-term health and sustainability.

Here’s a story about how they worked: People would light large fires at the border to signal that someone was waiting at the border and needed to be attended to. These neighboring nations would come and talk to you, and then you’d discuss exchanges of resources or other topics.

When saying a territory acknowledgment in Toronto, here are some important things to know:

The Dish With One Spoon treaty was made between the Anishinaabe and the Haudenosaunee communities; read this to understand why. The populations and resources of both communities were decimated, so they put an end to it with this treaty.

These communities should also be mentioned as part of territory acknowledgments:

Here are a few other treaties:

  • The Toronto Purchase treaty
  • The Robinson Treaties
  • Williams Treaties

A good resource for finding the correct territory acknowledgment can be found here.

How to Support Indigenous Peoples

In general, there are things you can do to support indigenous people:

  • Educate people around us about indigenous history and issues
  • Support indigenous businesses, here is a list
  • Focus on learning more about it by yourself.

Here are things you can do in your workplace:

  • Understand what your territory acknowledgment is and say it before meetings and events.
  • Ensure that you are promoting jobs within the indigenous communities and removing biases from the hiring process
  • If you see an Indigenous colleague being mistreated, you are responsible to help them and figure out how to support them.
  • Support Indigenous people with inclusive policies and processes
  • Indigenous people take relationships more seriously and trust is extremely important — keep this in mind when working with them.
  • Invest in organizations that do early stage development to help them get access to your industry

Here are a few good organizations you can support:

  • Moontime sisters
  • Shelter movers (ask to have your funds given directly to indigenous women)