Offering a land acknowledgment has become a symbol of reconciliation and almost standard protocol for public gatherings across Canada, particularly at universities. But recently, they’ve also been criticized as an empty gesture, prompting some to ask whether they should change.
Politicians in Richmond Hill, Ont., recently rejected an initiative to open council meetings with a land acknowledgment, voting instead to train staff on Indigenous issues. Alberta’s new United Conservative government seems to have curtailed the practice. And Indigenous scholars are asking whether the statements have become little more than lip service, like a box to be ticked on a protocol checklist.
At one of Canada’s largest academic conferences this month, scholars discussed how to make land acknowledgments more meaningful.
“It has to go beyond just a tokenized gesture,” said Sheila Cote-Meek, a First Nations scholar and York university executive who led the workshop at the Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences held this year at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
“As you embed a process, it can become just another everyday thing you do that’s not as meaningful as it could have been.”
......"Several scholars have called for acknowledgments to be rethought. Instead of reciting a script, they encourage people to speak frankly about their own connection to the communities and places they intend to honour, and building actual relationships."....