Canada's #Next150 Years Will Start With a Territory Acknowledgement

Canada's #Next150 Years Will Start With a Territory Acknowledgement

Canada's #Next150 Years Will Start With a Territory Acknowledgement

Today, along with our partners at Screen Siren Pictures Inc., Hello Cool World, and other members of the Indian Horse  film team, we’ve launched a new project called #Next150.

What is the #Next150?

Next_150_IH

#Next150 is a campaign/web app that is designed to provide a pathway to follow for those people in Canada who want to engage in Reconciliation, but who don’t know what that means or what that looks like in a practical sense. “Reconciliation” can feel amorphous and fantastical, it can feel like something that is only the responsibility of governments and national organizations with no role for individuals or families. However, we believe that Reconciliation is everyone’s responsibility. Maybe we don’t yet know (or don’t yet agree on) what a ‘reconciled Canada’ looks like and maybe we don’t all agree on how to get to that point yet - but we can all agree to start walking the path that’s in front of us and to course-correct along the way. 

The #Next150 campaign is a web app through which community leaders from around Canada will issue weekly challenges to all participants. You can log into the app and accept/complete challenges at www.indianhorse.ca/next150. For the next 150 days of this 151st year of Canada, we will release one challenge each week that we hope will push your thinking and understanding of Indigenous experiences and Reconciliation movements that are ongoing.  

We don’t really know where we’re going on this “Reconciliation path” and we won’t always agree on what the next step should be, but I hope we can all agree to walk together, and I think we can all agree on a few first steps.

#OnWhoseLand

With that in mind, the first challenge in our #Next150 challenge campaign is called #OnWhoseLand. This challenge asks you to find out on whose traditional territory you live (or are from, or are visiting, etc.) and to respectfully acknowledge that territory for others to see so they can engage in that learning too. We’re starting with #OnWhoseLand because we believe that any path towards Reconciliation must start with an acknowledgement of land and with truth. Over time, we in Canada have been taught to think of our country one way - in an idyllic, friendly, ‘polite’ way - but deep down (or not even that deep) we know that the story of Canada is more complicated than it sounded in our Social Studies classes. We have to start this journey of Reconciliation with honesty about our country, including with honesty about the Nations and the communities here that predate Canada and continue to exist today. We need to start at the same place of truth to walk on the path together.  

On Whose Land OG

How did we approach building this territory acknowledgment database?

We know that territory acknowledgements as a practice are not perfect. Even within our own team we had conflicting understandings and ideas about the practice and how it’s used across the country. The tool that we have built is not infallible; it’s not an all-knowing, impartial judge of exactly whose territory any spot on the map is. Just like every other tool that has ever been built, it contains bias and reflects the understanding of those who built it. However, there is no infallible, all-knowing, impartial database that explains exactly whose traditional territory every spot in Canada is - that just doesn’t exist. There was no single source we could turn to to get the information we needed to make this tool work perfectly, so instead, we built it using the most reputable sources we could find, and most importantly we built it to get smarter over time.

What happens if there are errors in the acknowledgement suggestions the app makes?

Inventors and innovators rarely get it perfect the first try. It takes testing, time and updates to improve along the way. The database behind the #OnWhoseLand app is built to be improved by your corrections, suggestions, and sourcing. We built it to be a crowdsourced database that reflects the understanding and the practical usage of territory acknowledgements today. If you use our tool to find out on whose land you are and you think there’s an error or a simplification in the acknowledgement it generates, we ask that you let us know at territories@indianhorse.ca. At the other end of this email address, there is a real person who is going to read through your edit suggestions and your clarifications to improve our database for the next user. With each correction you send, we ask you to provide a source for your information (whether your source is an Elder or Knowledge Keeper, an institution, or a Nation/Government website, etc.) and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure all of the information we share is respectful.

So for example, if you’re in Vancouver, BC, and you read the territory acknowledgement the app generates for the city but you feel that the language is not respectful or that the acknowledgement itself shares incorrect information, please email us to tell us that. Based on your feedback, we can do additional research to confirm your edit suggestions and will make those changes in the database if necessary. Then, the next time someone checks-in to acknowledge the territory of Vancouver, the acknowledgement they see generated from the app, will reflect your suggestions.

When will the database be complete with all acknowledgements in Canada?

This database project will never be “finished.” Territory acknowledgements have changed over time and they will continue to do so. Just as Indigenous art, languages, and communities have evolved with our changing environments, so too will our land and water acknowledgements. This territory acknowledgements web app was not built to sit behind metaphorical glass as a perfect, completed thing - it was meant to be used, maintained and improved over time. The app will only get better if you point out where we’ve fallen short. We want you to point out the errors, we want you to tell us where we’ve got something wrong, so that we can make it right. Please work with us to make this the most complete database of Indigenous land and water acknowledgements that exists for the land now known as Canada.

Can I write my own acknowledgement if I know it?

Whenever you’re using this tool, you always have the option to craft your own acknowledgement. Maybe you have a specific way that you’ve been taught to acknowledge the land/water where you live, but you recognize that there are multiple ways this can be done and don’t want to write us about it. You can always edit the text that shows up on the generated image and write your acknowledgement in whatever way you know to be most appropriate. However, we encourage you to write to us so we can better understand the diversity that exists among territory acknowledgements.

What comes after acknowledging land and water?

To some, territory acknowledgements require willful cognitive dissonance. Some people find it disingenuous or even hypocritical when settlers acknowledge the original inhabitants of the land without taking any further action, or even continuing the conversation. That being said, our team believes that territory acknowledgements do have value in their own right. We believe that it is valuable to make known one’s relationship to the land and water upon which one lives; we believe this first truth - this most basic and fundamental truth - is where understanding between communities will grow. 

Help Us Create a Better #Next150

We hope that you find value in the app we have built - even if you already know on whose land you live. We put care into building this app and we did everything that we could think to do to be respectful and accurate - but we recognize that we could never do this completely on our own, so we’re asking for your help. Use our territory acknowledgement app, share it with your friends and networks, and where you see an opportunity to make it more reflective of current understanding/practice, point that out to us and help us implement the needed changes.

To walk together along any path leading to Reconciliation, we need to keep learning and creating empathy between all communities here. No one will take a leap from having no knowledge of Indigenous experiences in Canada to becoming an informed and respectful settler or newcomer who acknowledges his/her/their privilege in this country, without first understanding connection to land. No matter where you’re from, whether you’re a settler, a newcomer, an Indigenous person living outside of your traditional territory or an Indigenous person whose family has been in the same place since Time Immemorial, you have a relationship with the land on which you live. Due to colonization and the way that trauma continues to manifest in our education systems, many of us don’t know how to express our relationship to the land, but we should. With modern tools - like this app - we have the ability to share knowledge and practices and to learn from each other so that one day we will all be able to confidently and respectfully acknowledge on whose land we live.  

» Sign up now to take the #Next150 challenge.

Thank you/marsee/miigwetch.

Article published January 29, 2018.

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