When it comes to Indigenous Reconciliation, people often ask, “What can be done or what can I do?” or they are uncertain or uncomfortable about getting involved. It can feel overwhelming, and we’re here to help.
We invite you to join the Indigenous Initiatives and Partnerships team at BCIT in June 2021 to honour Indigenous stories, voices and lived experiences. Participating in National Indigenous Peoples month is the beginning of a lifelong journey all Canadians, young and old, need to take. As Murray Sinclair has succinctly noted, “Reconciliation is not an Aboriginal problem; it is a Canadian one.”
What’s happening during Indigenous Peoples Month at BCIT?
Each week we will highlight a different theme and offer opportunities for you to expand your knowledge of Indigenous worldviews, histories and people. Here is an overview of what you can expect.
Week 1: Read (June 1 – 6)
We have selected three feature reads for the month: titles written by Indigenous, Inuit and Métis authors.
Summary: Hazel Ellis, a young Indigenous women, who has the power cross between the spiritual and material realms returns to the Spirit Bear Point First Nation reservation following the death of her father. An old crow finds her in her dreams and tells her he’s there to help her. With the assistance of Nanabush, Hazel rediscovers old magic in the quarry on her father’s land that’s been left untouched for more than a century. She must find a way to save her family and her home.
Quotes from the author: “Crow Winter is set on a reservation. I wanted to show the reserve as a real place, not just some fictional scary land. It’s a real place with living and breathing people that aren’t different than any other sort of small town you could come across.” – Karen McBride (CBC Radio, 2020).
“We as Indigenous people have all kinds of stories that are not just centered around specific kind of traumas due to colonialism. It was important to me to bring people there to show them that we experience all kinds of trauma and grief, but also uplifting things as well.” – Karen McBride (CBC Radio, 2020).
Retrieved on May 28, 2021, CBC Radio. (2020, August 6). Why Karen McBride’s debut novel Crow Winter is rooted in the real and magical worlds. The Next Chapter. [Blog post].
“This is the story of Mini Aodla Freeman’s experiences growing up in the Inuit communities of James Bay and her journey in the 1950s from her home to the strange land and stranger customs of the Qallunaat, those living south of the Arctic. Her extraordinary story, sometimes humorous and sometimes heartbreaking, illustrates an Inuit woman’s movement between worlds and ways of understanding. It also provides a clear-eyed record of the changes that swept through Inuit communities in the 1940s and 1950s.” The University of Manitoba Press.
Quote from the Author:
“In our community, we just naturally lived in the community. Everything was off the ground, everything we ate was off the land, so everything I saw in the south was totally different and fascinating to me.” – Mini Aodla Freeman (CBC Radio, 2016).
Article retrieved on May 28, 2021 from CBC Radio. (2016, June 10). Culture Shock: Mini Aodla Freeman recalls moving from James Bay to Ottawa in the 1950s. Unreserved. [Blog post].
Summary: “The family at the heart of the book has suffered grievous loss… The “Break” is hydro land that cuts a swath through Winnipeg’s North End neighbourhood; in the novel it serves as both the setting for a terrible crime and a symbol of the fractured lives of the characters, four generations of a Métis family headed by Flora (the grandmother, or Kookom in Cree). Vermette, herself a Métis living in Winnipeg, brings the setting to life so effectively that the reader can see the grey streets and worn-out homes and feel the bitter cold.” – (Fertile, 2016).
Video of the Author: Katherena Vermette on her award-nominated novel “The Break” (2:19 minutes)
Fertile, C. (2016, October. Review of “The Break” by Katherena Vermette. Quill & Quire. [Blog post]. Retrieved on May 28, 2021 from
Writers Trust of Canada. (2016, November 10). Katherena Vermette on her award-nominated novel “The Break”. [Video]. Retrieved on May 28, 2021
One of the best ways to learn knowledge is to share it with others. We encourage you to find a group of friends or colleagues and create a book club. You can pick a title by an Indigenous author that you’ll read together and you’ll hold each other accountable for finishing the book. If you’re not sure where to start, here is a one-page sheet of book club discussion questions (prepared by the North Vancouver District Public Library and Kansas City Public Library) that you can use to kickstart conversation: https://tinyurl.com/ys63upd9.
We would also like to highlight some additional books for educators and students alike. They include works by Indigenous scholars and authors: fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, poetry, children’s books and more.
- Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples by Chelsea Vowel (2017)
- The Right Relationship: Reimagining the Implementation of Historical Treaties. University of Toronto Press. Burrows, John & Coyle, Michael (Eds). (2017).
- Birdie by Tracey Lindberg (2015)
- Empire of the Wild by Cherie Dimaline (2019)
- Return of the Trickster by Eden Robinson (2021)
- All Our Relations: Indigenous Trauma in the Shadow of Colonialism by Tanya Talaga (2020)
- Distorted Descent: White Claims to Indigenous Identity by Darryl Leroux (2019).
- Inuktitut Magazine: Download the most recent, free edition of the magazine in English or Inuktitut.
- From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle (2019)
- A Two-Spirit Journey by Ma-Nee-Chacaby and Marie Louisa Plummer (2016)
- NDN Coping Mechanisms by Billy-Ray Belcourt (2019)
- Disintegrate/Dissociate by Arielle Twist (2017)
- The Pemmican Eaters by Marilyn Dumont (2015)
- Witness, I am by Gregory Scofield (2016)
- It’s a Mitig! written and illustrated by Bridget George (2021)
- Siha Tooskin Knows The Strength of His Hair by Charlene Bearhead and Wilson Bearhead, illustrated by Chloe Bluebird Mustooch (2020)
- Louis Riel Day: The Fur Trade Project by Deborha L. Delaronde illustrated by Sheldon Dawson (2020)
- Apple (Skin to the Core) by Eric Gansworth (2020)
- The Barren Grounds by David Alexander Robertson (2020)
For More Books…
This is a rich resource of information that shares the legacy and impact of the residential school system: 48 books by Indigenous writers to read to understand residential schools [CBC Books] Posted: Jun 10, 2021 9:20 AM ET | Last Updated: June 11
Curated by David A. Robertson
“Stories have been, and always will be, the best way to educate ourselves about the truth.”
Week 2: Listen (June 7 – 13)
This week we are thrilled to feature podcasts by First Nations, Métis and Inuit creators, audio clips of creation stories told by Indigenous people and online resources that will help you learn more about Indigenous Languages including how to properly pronounce the names of local First Nations.
All my Relations is hosted by Matika Wilbur (Swinomish and Tulalip) and Adrienne Keene (Cherokee Nation). In each episode, they invite listeners to examine their relationships to land, to their creatural relatives, and to one another.
Métis in Space is hosted by Métis scholars Molly Swain and Chelsea Vowel. They use a decolonial lens to review and unpack science fiction movies and television episodes that feature Indigenous Peoples, tropes and themes.
Piusivit is hosted by Louisa Yeates, an Inuk woman who explores topics that matter to her communities such as identity, health, being 2SLGBTQ+ and many more.
For more amazing podcast by Indigenous creators, please check out this list prepared by the staff at UBC’s Xwi7xwa (pronounced whei-wha) Library
Listen to six Indigenous Elders share traditional creation stories in their own languages: Traditional Stories and Creation Stories
These audio clips have been compiled by the Canadian Museum of History. English translations of these stories are available under each audio clip as pdf files.
There are more than 600 Indigenous languages spoken in Canada and innumerable different dialects. The Provincial Government of BC has prepared a guide on how to properly pronounce local First Nations names: https://tinyurl.com/4kkk898y
The Skwomesh Language Academy has also prepared a guide on how pronounce Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish)
The Federal Government of Canada has compiled an extensive list of teaching and educational resources on: Indigenous languages – Learning and teaching resources
FirstVoices has created a suite of online tools to help revitalize Indigenous languages and cultures. FirstVoices helps First Nations in BC record their songs, stories, words and phrases for current and future generations, and for language speakers who live outside of their communities. Please note that some of the language archives at FirstVoices are available to the general public, while others are password protected at the request of the language community. Visit their website to explore Indigenous languages and learn how to properly pronounce Indigenous words and phrases.
You can also download the FirstVoices Keyboard App which includes keyboard software for more than 100 Indigenous languages and facilitates communication in Indigenous languages. You can also download FirstVoices Language Apps which contain Indigenous language data uploaded by various First Nations communities. This information is updated on a regular basis. Both apps are available for iOS and Android smart devices: https://www.firstvoices.com/content/apps
Week 3: Watch (June 14 – 20)
This week we are proud to feature interviews with Survivors from Indian Residential Schools (e.g. Kamloops Residential School), documentaries, short and feature films by Indigenous directors, and videos of First Nation, Métis and Inuit creators sharing their Indigenous artistry (e.g. basket weaving, jig dancing, sculpting).
Phyllis (Jack) Webstad – Survivor whose story inspired Orange Shirt Day
Phyllis was born on Dog Creek Reserve is Northern Secwpemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation. She was only six when she was taken to St. Joseph Indian Residential Schools [aka “the Mission”] near Williams Lake, BC. Her grandmother had bought her a shiny, new orange shirt for her first day of school, a shirt that she Phyllis loved. When Phyllis arrived at the Mission, Mission staff stripped her of all possessions including her new orange shirt. Watch Phyllis tell her story, the story that inspired Orange Shirt Day held each year on September 30th to honor every Indigenous child (1:55 minutes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3vUqr01kAk
Survivors from Indian Residential Schools including Kamloops Residential School
Watch Survivors bravely share their experiences: Clifford Qwah from the Sts’ailes First Nation is an Elder and Survivor from the Lejac Indian Residential School in Fraser Lake, BC; Cora Voyageur, a Survivor from the Holy Angels Residential School in Fort Chipewan, AB; and Rose Grace Miller, a Survivor from the Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, BC (5:32 minutes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OuTuTG5liQ
Tens of thousands of First Nations, Métis and Inuit children also attended Indian Day Schools. On June 9, 2021, the federal government settled a class-action lawsuit filed by day school survivors who had been left out of prior residential school settlements.
CBC News. (2021, June 4). Residential School Survivors on the scars of abuse. The National.
Between 1951 and the 1980s, social workers and other government officials forcibly removed more than 20,000 Indigenous children from their families and communities, without parental consent, and arranged for them to be adopted out of their cultures and into primarily Caucasian families of European descent. Watch Sixties Scoop Survivors Duane Morrisseau-Beck, Colleen Cardinal, Leslie Noganosh, Shaun Ladue and Tealey Normandin courageously tell their stories (4:54 minutes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJHR1STq_-s
Reference: Toronto Star. (2019, October 15). Adoptees of Sixties Scoop tell their stories. Toronto Star YouTube Channel.
Additional Resources: Sinclair, E. J. & Dainard, S. (2020, November 13). Sixties Scoop. The Canadian Encyclopedia.
The National Film Board of Canada (“NFB”) has made a large collection of Indigenous-made documentaries, short films, animated films and feature-length films available for free on their Indigenous Cinema website: https://tinyurl.com/2vb7667h
Here are a few to check out:
Urban. Indigenous. Proud: Full Circle (2018) directed by Kristi Lane Sinclair (8 minutes): https://www.nfb.ca/film/urban-indigenous-proud-full-circle/ This documentary features Toronto’s Council Fire Native Cultural Centre which opened in 1976. Meet urban Indigenous youth who are learning about the importance of drumming and the central role it can play in their lives.
Two Spirited (2007) directed by Sharon A. Desjarlais (6 minutes): https://www.nfb.ca/film/first_stories_two_spirited/ This documentary highlights the empowering story of Rodney “Geeyo” Poucette’s, a jingle-dress dancer who fought against prejudice to find a home as a Two-Spirited person.
Foster Child (1987) directed by Gil Cardinal (43 minutes): https://www.nfb.ca/film/foster_child/ This film follows the director’s personal search for his biological family and realization of his Métis heritage.
Lake (2019) directed by Alexandar Lazarowich and filmed with an all-woman, all-Indigenous crew (5 minutes): https://www.nfb.ca/film/lake/ This story offers viewers a contemporary glimpse of Métis women net fishing in Northern Alberta.
Natsik Hunting (1975) is thought to be the first film in Canada that was directed by an Inuk director, Mosha Michael (7 minutes): https://www.nfb.ca/film/natsik_hunting/ The film is centered around inmates from the Ikajurtauvik correctional facility who are seal hunting and it includes songs sung by Etulu Etidloie, a legendary Inuk singer-songwriter.
The Mountain of SGaana (2018) by Haida filmmaker Christopher Auchter (10 minutes): https://www.nfb.ca/film/mountain_of_sgaana/ This is a captivating story, inspired by a Haida tale, about a young man who is stolen away to the spirit world and the young woman who saves him.
Lumaajuuq (2010) directed by Aletha Arnaquq Baril (7 minutes): https://www.nfb.ca/film/nunavut_animation_lab_lumaajuuq/ This is an animated tale about the dangers of revenge and it is based in part on an Inuit legend “The Blind Boy and the Loon”.
Feature Length Films
nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up (2019) by Tasha Hubbard (98 minutes): https://www.nfb.ca/film/nipawistamasowin-we-will-stand-up/ This film takes an unflinching look at the history and contemporary reality of colonialism and Indigenous resistance through the lens of the trial and subsequent acquittal of Gerald Stanley for the murder of Colten Boushie, a young Cree Man.
Blood Quantum (2019) directed by Jeff Barnaby, a Mi’kmaq filmmaker who grew up on the Listuguj Reserve in Quebec (108 minutes). In this social justice thriller, zombies are real. The only people immune to the zombie virus are Indigenous people and the only safe place is a First Nations Reserve. Residents of the fictitious Red Crow Reserve must grapple with a difficult choice: should they provide safe harbour for white people trying to escape from the plague or does centuries of oppression and violence give them license to let white people fend for themselves? Here is the trailer (1:40 minutes): https://tinyurl.com/4vdmk4s9 This film is available on the Amazon Prime streaming platform and on the iTunes platform (to rent or buy).
SG̲aawaay Ḵ’uuna (Edge of the Knife) (2018) co-directed by Gwaai Edenshaw and Helen Haig-Brown (100 minutes). This is the first and only feature length film spoken in the critically endangered Haida language (English subtitles are available). This movie adapts a Haida tale about a stranded man who becomes the Gaagiid/Gaagiixiid, or “the Wildman”. Here is a trailer (2:32 minutes): https://tinyurl.com/4h54hyhz You can rent or buy this movie on iTunes. Contact the film’s creators to arrange a screening.
Basket Weaving among First Nations
Basket weaving has been practiced by many Indigenous cultures since time immemorial. Baskets are woven from different types of materials (e.g. elm bark, spruce root, cedar, etc.) that have been carefully and respectfully harvested from the land. In this short video prepared by the Canadian Museum of History, Ariane Xay Kuyaas (Yaghujaanaas clan, Haida) displays weaving techniques that were passed down to her from her ancestors (3:04 minutes): https://www.historymuseum.ca/learn/activities/explore-the-importance-of-tradition/
Métis Red River Jig Dance
The Red River Jig was developed by Métis people in the early 1800s to attract fur traders to the Red River Settlement. Learn how to dance the Red River Jig with Rowan and Quinn Pickering (4:52 minutes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=894xfQ7mvUc This video was produced by the City of Surrey for the 2020 Virtual Surrey Fusion Festival.
Watch Inuit sculptors – Leo Napoyok, Yvo Samgushak, Roger Aksadjuak and Pierre Aupilardj – create works of art and discuss the lessons they learned from their Elders and ancestors (9:00 minutes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLQJ9RfamAg This video was filmed by Michael Nelson at the Matchbox Gallery in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, Canada in October 2020.
Week 4: Do (June 21 – 27)
This week we are excited to feature things that you can do to start your journey of reconciliation and celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day and Month in 2021. We have guidelines on how to properly invite an Indigenous Elder to an upcoming class, meeting or event at BCIT. We have also selected some museums that you can visit to learn more about Residential Schools and contemporary Indigenous artists, some Indigenous awareness courses you can take, and Indigenous festivals you can attend. Get in touch with us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to invite an Indigenous Elder or Knowledge Keeper to attend an upcoming class, meeting or event, please email BCIT’s Indigenous Initiatives and Partnerships team email@example.com. Let us know why and when: why you would like an Indigenous member of the community to attend – whether it is to provide a territorial welcome or perform a smudging ceremony – and the date of the event. Be mindful that sometimes we seek Elder support from the community and it takes time to approach Elders in a good way and they are often very busy. Please email your request to the Indigenous Initiatives team in advance of your upcoming event (preferably weeks in advance).
Each Indigenous Nation has its own cultural practices and proper protocols for asking Elders or Knowledge Keepers to share their time and knowledge. The Indigenous Initiatives team knows all of the proper protocols and has worked hard to establish positive, respectful relationships with Elders from local First Nations: the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, and from many urban and rural centres throughout the province.
Before welcoming an Indigenous speaker to your class, meeting or event, please take some time to learn how to properly address Indigenous people and issues. There are many great resources available for free online including the Indigenous Peoples: A Guide to Terminology, Usage Tips & Definitions (2019) prepared by Chief Bob Joseph and Indigenous Corporate Training Inc: https://tinyurl.com/y7h3e68u
It is vital that Elders are treated respectfully and are generously paid for their time and knowledge. Indigenous stories, skills and scientific knowledge have been passed down from generation to generation over several Millenia. “Elders have PhD-level knowledge” of Indigenous cultural practices, traditions, and beliefs, and they should be compensated accordingly (quote from Anne Prince, an Indigenous Elder who lives in Greater Vancouver). The Indigenous Initiatives team is happy to work with students, faculty and staff to determine the appropriate sum or gift to offer each Elder.
Learn more about the local First Nations
Visit the websites of the three local First Nations to learn more about their distinct cultures, languages, values and visions for the future. Follow Indigenous Nations and organizations on social media to hear about upcoming programs and events including e.g. virtual events planned for National Indigenous Peoples Day on Monday, June 21, 2021.
Learn more about Métis people and chartered Métis communities in BC by visiting Métis Nation British Columbia: https://www.mnbc.ca/
Follow them on social media:
Twitter: @MetisNationBC Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/metisnationbritishcolumbia
Take a virtual Tour
To learn more about residential schools, visit the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at UBC. Due to COVID-19, this centre is currently closed to the public but you can browse their collections and records on their website: https://collections.irshdc.ubc.ca/ Follow them on Twitter (@irshdc) to find out about upcoming events and exhibitions. Explore the Royal Museum of British Columbia’s online Learning Portal about Residential Schools and Reconciliation: https://tinyurl.com/ckdz8xsn
See Indigenous Art
The Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art is open to the public Wednesday through Sundays, 11am-5pm: https://www.billreidgallery.ca/ Be inspired by traditional and contemporary Indigenous art in person and online. Admission is free for Indigenous people. You can also sign up for virtual gallery tours: https://www.billreidgallery.ca/blogs/public-programs/online-gallery-tours. The next virtual tour is scheduled for June 26, 2021 at 11am and pre-registration is required.
The Museum of Anthropology at UBC is also open to the public Tuesdays through Sundays, 10am-5pm: https://moa.ubc.ca/ One of its current exhibitions is called In a Different Light: Reflecting on Northwest Coast Art.
The Inuit Gallery of Vancouver is in the process of moving but will be reopening later in Summer 2021 at their new location: 120 Carrie Cates Court, North Vancouver, BC. Check out their website: https://www.instagram.com/inuit_gallery/ and Instagram: @inuit_gallery for the latest information about exhibitions.
BCIT’s Indigenous 101 Modules
June is an excellent month to set aside some time to complete BCIT’s free Indigenous 101 modules. All three modules are available online. You can go through each module at your own pace. Find a friend or colleague and take the course together. This a great way to keep yourself accountable and help you process and reflect on the new things that you learn.
All BCIT students, faculty and employees have access to the Indigenous Awareness course through https://www.bcit.ca/free-online-learning/mooc-0200-indigenous-awareness/ Everyone outside of the BCIT community can get access to the Indigenous Awareness course for free by registering at https://www.bcit.ca/free-online-learning/mooc-0200-indigenous-awareness/
We are also happy to come to your classroom or workspace and facilitate Indigenous 101 to your entire team. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Indigenous Canada is a twelve lesson Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) prepared by Faculty in the Native Studies Department at the University of Alberta. The course explores Indigenous worldviews, legal systems and rights, art, resistance and resilience. You will also learn about the history of Indigenous-settler relations and contemporary issues facing Indigenous people. The instructors recommend that you set aside around twenty-three hours to complete this course.
You can take the course for free or pay a small fee to get a course completion certificate. Visit their website: https://www.ualberta.ca/admissions-programs/online-courses/indigenous-canada/index.html
Indigenous Hip Hop Festival
This 7th annual festival, co-presented by the Museum of Anthropology, starts on Monday, June 21, 2021 at 6pm. Watch the event for free online: https://moa.ubc.ca/event/native-hip-hop-festival/ Artists include Mattmac, Drezus, MZShellz, Christie Lee Charles and DJ Kookum. Enjoy a powerful evening of politics, activism, and storytelling set in the Museum’s Haida House.
Talking Stick Festival: Summer Sojourn
This year is the 20th Anniversary of the Talking Stick Festival, a festival organized by Full Circle Performance. Full Circle, founded in 1992, is a non-profit society that creates opportunities for Indigenous artists.
The Festival’s Summer Sojourn events run from June 1st through July 1, 2021. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, all performances and gatherings will be held online. Follow the Festival on Twitter: https://twitter.com/talkingstickfst
Find a full event schedule here: https://fullcircle.ca/festival/season-3-summer-sojourn-events/ If you need any assistance, please reach email the Full Circle team: email@example.com
Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival
This multidisciplinary arts festival, established in Ottawa in 1996, brings together Indigenous artists, musicians, educators and more. This virtual festival hosted by the National Association of Friendship Centres runs for the entire month of June 2021. While some of the events such as the Indigenous food-tasting events are only available to Ottawa residents, several of the workshops and events including live music events are free and available to everyone across the country. Please note that all times are listed in Eastern Standard Time. Check out the full event calendar here: https://summersolsticefestivals.ca/events/
Week: 5 Reflect (June 28 – July 4)
We hope that you have enjoyed getting to know more about Indigenous cultures, people and perspectives. This week, we invite you to reflect on what you’ve learnt over the past month: write a blog post, tell a friend or colleague about your favourite resource, and test your knowledge by completing BCIT’s Indigenous Awareness Course: https://www.bcit.ca/indigenous-initiatives/resources/indigenous-101/
It’s important that you continue learning after June 30th: the work of a true ally is never over. We encourage you to take the next step: find out whose land you live, work and play on; create and share your own land acknowledgement; and develop your skills as an ally by learning more about such topics as micro-aggressions. We have prepared the following resources to support you along the way.
You can go this website, type your city or town into the search bar, and the website will show you the Indigenous Nations that have stewarded the land for millennia: https://native-land.ca/. In many cases, the map will show overlapping territories because pre-contact, several Indigenous Nations shared the use of the same land, taking what they needed and leaving the rest for their relations and future generations. You can also use this tool to discover any treaties that have been signed and any traditional Indigenous languages that are spoken where you live. This website may contain errors and it does not claim to show the official or legal boundaries of any Indigenous Nation. To get the most accurate information, reach out directly to an Indigenous Nation. Most Indigenous Nations in BC have websites which provide contact information including email and mailing addresses.
“Whose Land” is a similar web-based app that uses geographic data to identify Indigenous Nations, territories, and communities across Canada: https://www.whose.land/en/. Simply type the name of your community into the search bar, and the map will show you the Indigenous peoples that have lived on that land for generations. “Whose land” has a helpful Frequently Asked Questions page that answers common questions such as what is Turtle Island? What’s a Treaty Map? https://www.whose.land/en/faq The homepage also features videos of six different land acknowledgements including one by Dennis Thomas who is from the səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nation. These examples are from across Turtle Island: they can give you an idea of where to start with your own land acknowledgement.
First Peoples’ Map of BC
The Indigenous communities in BC are geographically, linguistically and culturally diverse. The First Peoples’ Cultural Council has created an interactive map that allows you to explore the more than 30 different Indigenous languages spoken in the province; the vast array of traditional and contemporary Indigenous art and artists; and places of cultural significance throughout BC including traditional fishing sites: https://maps.fpcc.ca/
One of the best features of this tool are the audio files embedded in the map. When you select a language, you will be brought a page that includes recordings of Indigenous people correctly pronouncing the name of the language and offering a greeting (where available). You can listen to these audio clips as many times as you need to learn the proper enunciation. Each language homepage includes more information such as the number of fluent speakers, the status of the language (e.g. is it an endangered language?), and resources you can use to expand your vocabulary.
The First Peoples’ Cultural Council is a provincial Crown Corporation that was formed by the provincial government in 1990 to support Indigenous communities in their efforts to revitalize Indigenous languages, arts and culture (https://fpcc.ca/about-us/overview/).
What’s their purpose?
“A land acknowledgement (or territorial acknowledgement) is considered a respectful, yet political, statement that acknowledges the colonial context of the Indigenous territory/territories where a gathering is taking place. It recognizes relationships between land and people, and in particular Indigenous peoples’ continued presence on the lands being acknowledged” (X̱wi7x̱wa Library 2021).
It is important to be accurate, respectful, and intentional (X̱wi7x̱wa Library 2021). If you are hosting an event, find out in advance whose land it is. Use some of the tools that we’ve discussed above (native-land.ca, whose.land, etc.). Acknowledge Indigenous rights and title to the land: emphasize that those rights were never surrendered and recognize the ongoing dispossession of Indigenous peoples from their traditional and ancestral territories and resources. Express your gratitude and appreciation as an uninvited guest or visitor to these lands. Be mindful: create a unique land acknowledgement for each event or space. Resist the temptation to re-use an old land acknowledgement. Understand that land acknowledgements are all about relationships, and relationships between Indigenous peoples, non-Indigenous people and the land are always changing. Encourage others attending an event or gathering to offer their own land acknowledgements.
Land acknowledgments should be personalized and contextualized. Include some information about your ancestors, your heritage, your relationship to the land. Identify or situate yourself, your roles and responsibilities in colonization and reconciliation. Specify the action that you are taking to move us closer to decolonization such as incorporating and centering Indigenous knowledge, values and worldviews in your course curriculum.
Land acknowledgements should also evolve over time as your knowledge of Indigenous peoples expands and your commitment to decolonization deepens. Practice giving land acknowledgements in many different scenarios (e.g. virtual events, in-person meetings, backyard picnics). Ask for input and be open to feedback. Be self-critical: are you simply reciting a statement that’s been prepared by someone else and repeated verbatim over and over? If yes, then change things up. Take time to reflect on the part you play in colonization: what action are you taking to help stop over-policing of Indigenous people? What specific changes are you making to your class and course materials to ensure that Indigenous students feel represented and welcome? By carefully considering the language you use in your land acknowledgement, you can convert a superficial statement into a powerful, transformative action (âpihtawikosisân 2016).
Being a true ally involves constantly doing the work. Work to unlearn racist stereotypes, incorporate Indigenous knowledge and worldviews into your courses, take responsibility for learning more about Residential schools and the ongoing trauma experienced by Survivors, their families and communities.|
We know that uncovering the real history of this country can be distressing but remember that Indigenous people are still living with the many negative consequences of Residential schools – in the form of intergenerational trauma, lateral violence, addiction, mental, physical and spiritual harm. Understand that asking an Indigenous person how they’re feeling only adds to the grief and loss that they are already experiencing. Be mindful of any requests you make of Indigenous people: have you tried to find the answers yourself? If not, Google before you ask. Appreciate that Indigenous services teams at post-secondary institutions are understaffed and under-resourced. Avoid unnecessarily adding to their workload. Speak up and demand that your institution allocate base funding to increase resources in the Indigenous department.
Listen more than you speak. Amplify Indigenous voices and stories. Reframe promises to create safe spaces. Focus instead on fostering brave spaces and creating opportunities for difficult conversations. A brave space is a space in which Indigenous people feel safe to disagree with or challenge anything that is said. Create room for Indigenous people. For example, if you are in a meeting or another space and there are no Indigenous people then ask why and figure out how you can support them to enter that space.
Be ready to make mistakes and take ownership for your words and actions. Welcome any discomfort, sit with it and try to understand where it is coming from. Examine which assumptions you may need to unpack. Do a privilege walk to identify the unearned advantages that you have had in your life. Understand that any benefits that you have enjoyed are the direct result of land and resources being stolen from Indigenous people and communities. And most importantly take action: if you own land, consider returning it to Indigenous communities. Call out racist attitudes and behaviours. Leverage any power you have to help dismantle colonial practices and policies.
We hope that we have inspired you to keep learning about Indigenous people, their histories and contemporary realities. Here are other steps that you can take to expand your skills as an ally:
- Learn why the harm caused by micro-aggressions is far from small. Start by watching a short video called “Microaggressions are like mosquito bites” (1:57 minutes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDd3bzA7450)
- Participate in a Privilege Walk – https://www.buzzfeed.com/dayshavedewi/what-is-privilege
- Register for a week of Truth and Reconciliation programming this fall, September 27-October 1, 2021. This five-day program is entirely free and will be available online. You can learn more here: https://nctr.ca/education/truth-and-reconciliation-week/ You can register either as an educator or a general attendee: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/truth-and-reconciliation-week-tickets-153491752965
âpihtawikosisân (Vowel, C.). (2016, September 23). Beyond territorial acknowledgements. [blog post]. Retrieved on June 24, 2021from https://apihtawikosisan.com/2016/09/beyond-territorial-acknowledgments/
Wilson, K. (2018). Pulling Together: Foundations Guide. Victoria, BC: BCcampus. [e-Book]. Retrieved on June 24, 2021 from https://opentextbc.ca/indigenizationfoundations/
Wu, Y. (2021, June 15). Building your Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Foundations. [Workshop]. Organized by the League of Innovators and CityHive.
X̱wi7x̱wa Library. (2021, June 18.). Distance Research: Doing Land Acknowledgements. Retrieved on June 24, 2021 from https://guides.library.ubc.ca/distance-research-xwi7xwa/landacknowledgements