Land Acknowledgement

In 2017, the then York University Aboriginal Education Council, now called the Indigenous Council, formulated a new land acknowledgement for York University, recognizing the presence of Indigenous peoples on the campus both in the past and present. It reads as follows:

“York University acknowledges its presence on the traditional territory of many Indigenous Nations. The area known as Tkaronto has been care taken by the Anishinabek Nation, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Huron-Wendat, and the Metis. It is now home to many Indigenous Peoples. We acknowledge the current treaty holders, the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. This territory  is subject of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement to peaceably share and care for the Great Lakes region.”

The Alternative Campus Tour recognizes the importance of such land acknowledgements but in the spirit of the Tour, we would also like to recognize the difficulties, challenges, and contradictions that may go along with them. We think this is important since land acknowledgements are now often read mechanically at formal events, including theatre performances and hockey games, without deeper reflection. Such reflections may encompass questions related to who to include and exclude, whether the category of land is a colonial static and bounded concept that does not recognize the fluidity of Indigenous peoples’ movement across land both spatially, socially and ethnically, and whether First Peoples are honoured in mere words but with little restitutive action. For a good brief discussion of these questions, see Stephen Marche, “Canada’s Impossible Acknowledgement,” The New Yorker, 7 September, 2017.

At York University, the Centre for Aboriginal Student Services and Indigenous faculty members have recently produced a video entitled Understanding the Land Acknowledgement that speaks to the importance of not merely using the land acknowledgement as a “tick off” but also as a means to engage its wider and deeper meanings.