What are land acknowledgements and why are they important?
By: Anson Wong
Published on: September 2, 2022
Land acknowledgements are a common way to acknowledge Canada’s history. They validate the groups that came before and the abuse they have endured. Government attempts like residential schools stripped Indigenous youth of their culture and heritage.
Residential schools exposed its students to all manner of physical and sexual abuse. The effects left a legacy of post-traumatic stress, alcoholism, and substance abuse problems. Generations today continue to deal with the trauma inflicted from these schools.
Remembering these moments in history is important in ensuring the same acts do not happen again. Acknowledging the land we inhabit means honouring the many first nation groups that continue to struggle to this day.
The City of Toronto acknowledges that land traditionally belonged to many nations, including Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat peoples. These acknowledgments give credibility to territory taken by the government. Other websites like Native-Land create digital borders to inform users where traditional territories lay.
Below is a brief guide on some of the common names referred to in land acknowledgements.
The Mississaugas are a subtribe of the First nations who inhabited the lands north of Lake Superior and around Georgian Bay. The city of Mississauga is named after them. Mississauga is derived from the word Misi-zaagiing in the Anishinaabe language, meaning “[Those at the] Great River Mouth.”
Today, six first nations make up the Mississauga Nations. They are the Mississauga First Nation, Alderville First Nation, Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, Curve Lake First Nation, Hiawatha First Nation, and Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation. The Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation (MCFN) continue to celebrate their heritage, including multiple events that celebrate their history.
Anishinaabe is the term for a person that is part of a group of culturally related indigenous peoples from the surrounding area of the Great Lakes. The Anishinaabe hold a variety of art styles, including birchbark, ash baskets, and boxes. Much of this art is still created today with talented Anishinaabe artists such as Frank Shebageget, Robert Houle, Bonnie Devine, and Katheryn Wabegijig carrying the legacy.
Anishinaabe is the spelling of Ojibwe, and a common misconception is that the term is synonymous with Ojibwe. Anishnabeg is the plural form of Anishinaabe and is used to refer to the people. This term for example is used by the City of Toronto in their land acknowledgement.
The Chippewa are another group of Anishinaabe people who reside in southern Canada and the northern Midwestern United States. They are also known as Ojibwe, Ojibwa, and Saulteaux. Much of the knowledge known to the Chippewa was recorded in birch bark scrolls and rock carvings, which was a common practice. Many efforts are made today to restore their culture, including cuisine. Traditional ingredients such as maize, fish, corn, and more are being examined to preserve the diet before colonial times.
You may recognize Haudenosaunee under another term, Iroquois, which the French referred to them during colonial rule. The English called them the Five Nations as they comprise of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca. Haudenosaunee is a recognized confederacy of First Nations people by both the Canadian and United States governments. Every year, Haudenosaunee celebrate 13 ceremonies relating to the lunar calendar.
The Haudenosaunee produced artworks through bowls, pottery, and clay. Their designs resembled human and animal imagery among others. The Haudenosaunee founded lacrosse, which was a sport played among clans. The goal was to carry or throw a deer-skin ball to a goal post using netted sticks. Today, lacrosse is famous worldwide but the sport has its origins as practiced by the First Nations.
The Wendat Peoples referred to four major tribes: People of the Bear, People of the Cord, People of the Rock, and People of the Deer. The Wendat held a gender specific culture where men hunted and went to war while women made clothes, cooked, and raised children. Traditionally their territory occupied much of the north shores on Lake Ontario and southeastern shores of Georgian Bay. The Wendat people used birchbark canoes to travel throughout the lakes and the St. Lawrence River.