Kim Wheatley is from Shawanaga First Nation Reserve; she carries the Spirit name Head or Leader of the Fireflower and is Turtle clan. In her engaging presentation last Thursday, Kim explored the importance of land acknowledgements as part of reconciliation efforts and provided suggestions for all Canadians on being strong allies to Indigenous communities.
Kim started by taking students and staff back to the arrival of Europeans explorers to Turtle Island (what Canadians know as North America). Europeans, Kim said, brought with them different ideas of how to interact with the land -- ideas focused around ownership.
“A deer doesn't know when it’s in someone’s backyard,” Kim says. “Animals teach us how to interact with the land and how to be good stewards of that land.”
In a bid to gain ownership of the land, Europeans introduced the idea of land treaties to Indigenous communities. The first treaty was signed in 1871, with many more following, ultimately taking most of the land now called Canada from Indigenous peoples.
“Not one of these treaties, not one, was written in our languages,” Kim said. “We trusted that the people writing the treaties were writing the whole truth and not changing anything we had agreed upon, but we know now that that is not true.”
The understanding of these treaties has been broken or fallen through the cracks in the years since they were signed. Today, many Indigenous communities are still going to court to protect the land. 26 modern-day treaties have also been signed; these are more fair and written in Indigenous languages
Why are land acknowledgements important?
Land acknowledgements, Kim said, are stepping stones to honouring broken treaty agreements. They encourage Canadians to understand which treaty they live under and to get to know the nation(s) of people who live there, and to understand that all Canadians are treaty partners.
“We talk about First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, but we never introduced ourselves with any of those names. Canadians gave us those names,” Kim says. “Because we’re so diverse, Canada has tried to put us in large groupings where they can homogenize who we are, but that really does us a disservice.” For example, Kim identifies as Anishinaabe, a nation name that is more accurate than the umbrella terms often used.
Kim encouraged students and staff to get to know and understand the nations living on the land where they live, work and play; doing so helps Canadians to remember every day that people were here before Europeans arrived and that they were displaced and treated unfairly and unkindly. In Greenwood’s case, the school is situated on the Ancestral lands of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, Anishinabek and the Wendake.
Kim also emphasized that land acknowledgements should be developed in consultation with Indigenous communities, who already have language they would like included in land acknowledgements, and that only settler nations should perform land acknowledgements.
“Land acknowledgements are a way of saying, “We’ve done wrong, and we intend to make it better,’” Kim says.
You can learn more about the Indigenous Nations, territories, and Indigenous communities across Canada and where they are located on the Whose Land
How can Canadians be allies to Indigenous communities?
Kim provided a number of suggestions for actions Canadians can take to be strong allies. In addition to land acknowledgements, they included:
Kim also shared the names of some Indigenous creators to follow on social media:
Ultimately, Kim wanted students and staff to know that they have the power to make positive change and to move Canada forward on the road to reconciliation. “I believe in you,” Kim said. “I believe that you are change makers. I believe that you have incredible amounts of power. I believe that you are intelligent and that you can do your own research. I trust you and I encourage you.”
Thank you, Kim, for sharing your knowledge with us! We will continue to build on everything you have shared during Indigenous History Month and in the years to come.
Greenwood’s Land Acknowledgement
Last year, Greenwood worked with local Indigenous communities to develop a new land acknowledgement for the school to ensure that we are properly recognizing and honouring the Ancestral lands on which our school is situated. You can read our new land acknowledgement below.
We acknowledge with gratitude the Ancestral lands upon which our main campus is situated. These lands are the Ancestral territories of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, Anishinabek and the Wendake. The shared responsibility of this land is honoured in the Dish with One Spoon Treaty and as settlers, we strive to care for the land, the waters, and all creatures in the spirit of peace. We are responsible for respecting and supporting the enduring presence of all First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. When away from this campus we vow to be respectful to the land by protecting and honouring it. We will create relationships with the people and the land we may visit by understanding the territories we enter and the nations who inhabit them.