Traditional acknowledgment and introduction

  Public
By: 
Mr. Kolby Koschack
Paddlers acknowledge the land and ancestors of Esquimalt (Hereditary Chief Ed Thomas) and Songhees (Butch Dick) Nations.

Behind every principle is a promise. Acknowledging the traditional Land is an act of reconciliation that involves making a statement recognizing the traditional Land of the Indigenous people. It shows that you are taking the time to learn about Indigenous cultures and are challenging the often unconscious bias that everyone should interact in the way that mainstream settler culture dictates.

The Indigenous Education and Student Services team at Sneq'wa e'lun (Blue Heron House) is grateful for the amount of inquiries about how to give a respectful welcoming and acknowledgment. The goal of this article is to empower and provide people with all the tools necessary to give their own respectful acknowledgment of the Land.

Understanding the difference between a welcome and an acknowledgement?

It is appropriate to give a welcoming if this is your hereditary Land or you have been given permission by the local Indigenous nation. For example Asma-na-hi Antoine, Manager of the Indigenous Education & Student Services at Royal Roads University has been given permission to provide a welcome because of her relationship with local chiefs. As a guest on these Land, it is appropriate to give a Land acknowledgment.

In a Nutshell

As a visitor to the Land who is learning and understanding Indigenous protocol, there are a few simple things you can do that are generally common to Indigenous cultures. These include:

  • Acknowledge Land
  • Acknowledge ancestors
  • Introduce yourself

Place
Ancestors/family
Name Title/Position

How to give an acknowledgment to the traditional Land and ancestors

There are many examples Asma-na-hi shares when giving Land acknowledgments but you will often hear her say something along the lines of; “Royal Roads University is situated on the ancestral Land of the Lkwungen speaking families of Xwsepsum (Esquimalt) and Lkwungen (Songhees). I raise my hands in appreciation for their continued teachings and contribution of their knowledge shared with Royal Roads University community."

The document written by Tasha Chamberlin gives many different suggestions for acknowledgement.

How to introduce yourself

An introduction should include who you are and where you come from, which means your family’s cultural and geographical background prior to being a settler in North America. For example; what is your heritage, and where is your family Indigenous to? You may also include who your parents and grandparents are and where they are from.

Terminology

Asma-na-hi goes on to say "I have learned from the Heron People (Elders Circle) along with Chief and Council members, they’d prefer if acknowledgements were specific to the families, hence, why we say Esquimalt and Songhees. Both ways are correct, but respectfully, you will hear me use a similar sentence” as guided above. "I also use the word 'Land', and why I capitalized the word above, is because, the last remaining fluent Lkwungen (Songhees) language holder, stated there was no traditional word for territory, but there is a Lkwungen word for Land. Therefore, in respect to the families, I’ve been taught to practice to say Land versus territory. Again, neither is wrong, but respectfully, to the families, I do my best to remember to say, Land.”

The colonial terminology, “Coast Salish”, which is used by many, does encompass a wide Land mass that holds many families of the Coast Salish, when speaking to some, they are okay with the use of Coast Salish and others not so much.

Be Yourself

When giving your version of a Land acknowledgement the most important part is that your words and intention come from the heart and out of respect. Asma-na-hi adds that "each individual will learn their own words and stories as they practice this acknowledgement."

Attached documents:

  1. Tasha Chamberlin gives an overview acknowledging Indigenous Land.
  2. This resource is off a website, it does not have all of the nations on it, but still useful.

Vancouver Island Indigenous Nations map

Acknowledging Indigenous Land