OPIRG Peterborough acknowledges that those of us who are settlers are uninvited guests occupying Traditional Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg Territory. We are located on the land associated with the Williams Treaty of 1923 and Rice Lake Treaty #20 of 1818. We are grateful that the Indigenous peoples of this territory, and Turtle Island as a whole, have been caretakers and inhabitants of the land since time immemorial. Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg teachings, ceremonies, language, and traditions are intrinsic to the territory and should dually be respected with our own ways of living.
We honour that we are located in Nogojiwanong, which is the Anishinaabe word for “place at the end of the rapids”, which refers to the gathering place at the end of the Odenabe river. Nogojiwanong was ‘renamed’ by settlers to Peterborough, however, the Anishinaabe name of Nogojiwanong was never changed by the Nishnaabeg people and we must honour that. As well we must acknowledge the Nishnaabe name for the river that flows through Nogojiwanong as “Otonabee is an anglicized version of Odenabe-the river that beats like a heart in reference to the bubbling and boiling waters of the rapids along the river”, as written by Leanne Simpson.
Our presence in Nogojiwanong also connects us to Curve Lake First Nation, Alderville First Nation, Hiawatha First Nation, and the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation. With that, we have a responsibility to foster respectful relationships with these communities and their peoples.
For those of us who are settlers on this territory, we need to be accountable for the impacts of settler colonialism on Indigenous peoples and work towards decolonization. Decolonization is important as it creates space for Indigenous peoples, communities, teachings, ceremonies, and traditions as well as breaks down the barriers that were constructed by colonization. To work towards decolonization, it is necessary to understand that we must not only take action to work with Indigenous peoples, but we must also work respectfully with the land. We must recognize and address the ongoing issues for Indigenous peoples that are perpetuated by colonizers, colonialism, and the government.
We respectfully acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory covered by the Williams Treaty of 1923 and Rice Lake Treaty #20 of 1818.
The Williams Treaty was signed in 1923 and to this day is said to be one of the worst Treaties to exist. This Treaty, like many others, was written according to what had suited the colonizers’ desires best. The Chiefs negotiating on behalf of the Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg peoples were clear about their needs; protection of hunting and fishing rights and access to traditional food harvesting. The communities were bearing the brunt of settlers taking over their territory and with the treaty, were adamant about food security for their people. Nonetheless, the colonizers utterly disregarded this and placed limitations on hunting and fishing rights and access to traditional foods as a whole.
The Nishnaabeg peoples were banned from hunting for game meat such as deer despite the significant role it played in the diet of the peoples. Further, provincial statutes prohibited fishing from October 15th to July 1st of every year. These rules severely impacted the Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg peoples as they were then forced to strategically hunt and fish without getting caught by the Game Wardens and, if they were unable to hunt and fish, spend a grand deal of money on western food.
The Williams Treaty worked to starve the Nishnaabeg peoples, on top of restricting their language and expression of their beliefs and culture, and forced them into abiding by western lifestyles. To this day, the Williams Treaty still impacts the Nishnaabeg peoples and produces conflict regarding food sources and Indigenous rights.
Why Should we Honour and Acknowledge the Treaties?
It is important that we acknowledge the Treaties as they dictate the relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples today. Moreover, it is pertinent to address the fact that Treaties took advantage of Indigenous peoples and engaged in trickery and deliberate miscommunication on behalf of the colonizers. Some treaties have created terrible conditions and outcomes for Indigenous peoples and communities. Such as the Williams Treaty of 1923.
When acknowledging and addressing treaties, be sure to consider the impact they had and continue to have on Indigenous peoples. Also, ensure you honour the Treaties from the perspective of the Indigenous peoples. Through the eyes of Indigenous peoples, treaties were intended to be the establishment of a mutual and respectful relationship between the colonizers, the crown, and Indigenous peoples. They bring responsibility to care for each other and keep the promises that were made in their creation.
We are all Treaty signers and we all have the responsibility to honour the Treaties. Look into the Treaty that is associated with the land you are occupying and understand the Treaty from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and communities.
Hear from Doug Williams about Treaty 20 and the importance of understanding the history of treaties and beyond.
Also, hear more on the Williams Treaty and the importance of Treaty recognition from Maurice Switzer:
What is a Land Acknowledgement?
A Land Acknowledgement is a statement that recognizes our relationship with and responsibility to the land and the Indigenous peoples of the land. Key components of a land acknowledgement are:
- Correctly naming the land you are occupying with the Indigenous name of the location
- Acknowledging and naming the Indigenous peoples of the traditional territory
- Acknowledging the Treaty that is tied to the land you are occupying
- Addressing your occupation of the land ex. As uninvited guests
- Addressing the impacts of colonization on Indigenous peoples
- Commitment to supporting and working with Indigenous peoples
- Commitment to protecting and working with the land in a respectful way
Land acknowledgments should not be spoken in the past tense. Indigenous peoples are still here, colonization persists, and we all have responsibilities to uplift and respect Indigenous peoples and the land.
Why do Land Acknowledgements?
Land acknowledgements are foundational steps for establishing relationships with Indigenous peoples and the land. They should be used as a start for decolonization. You can begin to break down colonial influences through your land acknowledgement and your actions that will follow. Land acknowledgements are also a foundational way to honour the Indigenous peoples of the land. Colonizers have attempted to erase their existence, culture, language, and ties to the land. Acknowledging the Indigenous peoples pulls away from the idea that this land belongs to Canadians, the government, or the crown.
In addition, land acknowledgements are a step to honouring the land. By viewing your relationship with the land in a new way, you are honouring the way that Mother Earth sustains us. Actions following your land acknowledgment should have at least some focus on bettering your treatment of Mother Earth. Moreover, land acknowledgements are a start to honouring relationships. They establish intentions to change and to do everything in your position to support Indigenous rights and self-determination. That being said, you are committing to a reciprocal relationship with Indigenous peoples and the land.
Land acknowledgments are just the beginning. If you are doing a land acknowledgment without taking substantial actions to support Indigenous peoples and communities, rethink why you are choosing to do a land acknowledgement.
Tips for a Land Acknowledgment
- They do not have to be read off of a script, you can talk about what the land and the land acknowledgement means to you
- Take time to practice pronouncing the name of the Indigenous peoples and the territory you are acknowledging
- Take the initiative to set out goals for yourself every time you acknowledge the land. Think about what you will do to live up to the words you are speaking. Think about what you will do to decolonize
- It is and always will be necessary no matter the event/meeting/gathering and no matter if Indigenous peoples are present or not
- The person giving the acknowledgement should be the host of the event or meeting themselves
- Include a formal thank you to the host nation whenever making a presentation or holding a meeting, whether or not Indigenous individuals are part of the meeting or gathering
- If you do not know the name of the Nation on whose territory or treaty land you are occupying, ask around; Friendship Centers, Indigenous Student Centers, local Band Offices
- A land acknowledgment is not something you “just do” before an event. Rather it is a reflection process in which you build mindfulness and intention by walking into whatever gathering you are having
- With getting to know the land, also comes getting to know the culture. Land acknowledgements are about respect and improving relationships so while getting to know the land and people, become familiar with the traditional language of the Indigenous peoples in your area. Language is strongly connected to the land
Taking it Further than a Land Acknowledgement
Land acknowledgments are important and necessary however they are just words. They express and push for action to create change in your life and your community.
Beyond a land acknowledgement, you should:
Unlearn- Colonial practices and ideals are instilled in our society so it is important to unlearn oppressive concepts and ideals. This means critically considering your own way of thinking and actions and understanding how they may be detrimental to Indigenous peoples and the land- then unlearn and change it. This is a step towards decolonizing.
Educate Yourself- Learn about your community, the Indigenous peoples of the land you are occupying, the history of colonization, the Doctrine of Discovery, Indigenous cultures, Indigenous languages, Indigenous ceremonies and traditions, racism, discrimination, the Indian Act, status, Indigenous land stewardship, Indigenous water and land teachings etc. There are numerous resources out there available such as films, books, community events, Indigenous-run websites and social media pages, webinars, and courses that you can learn from.
Take Action- Allyship is not possible without action. Stand with Indigenous peoples, attend protests and stand-ins, call out problematic language and conversations, refuse to support racist companies/teams/institutions/people, use your position to amplify Indigenous voices, hold yourself accountable, hold the government accountable, take responsibility, take care of the land, stand with the land, address important issues, etc.
Foster respectful, mutual relationships- Stand in solidarity and find out what you can do for the Indigenous communities near you.
What Indigenous Land are you Occupying?
To conduct a proper land acknowledgment, it is necessary to find out what territory you are occupying and learn about the Indigenous peoples and nearby Indigenous communities.
Here is a resource to get you started:
As well, land acknowledgements go beyond verbal and written acknowledgements. It also means taking care of the land, giving offerings, and promoting land stewardship. See the video below to hear from Anne Taylor on the importance of respecting the land through performative actions:
Land acknowledgments and understanding treaties are merely stepping stones. Go further and educate yourself on what you can do to honour Indigenous peoples, land, and communities.
Indigenous Organizations to Support and Become Familiar with
Some concepts for land acknowledgment explanations inspired by and taken from:
Land Acknowledgment page written by Kelsey Roote