How to Write a Meaningful Land Acknowledgement

Land acknowledgements are formal statements that recognize and respect Indigenous peoples as traditional stewards of this land. Land acknowledgements are essential in order to acknowledge the land, and the kin of this land who have been caring for it for millenia. Indigenous cultures practice sustainability, as they honour relationships and reciprocity—there is always a give and take. In hosting sustainability driven events, it is especially important to recognize the efforts done by the Indigenous communities to promote sustainability within their cultural practices, and recognize that they provide a model for the rest of the world as we strive to become environmental stewards ourselves.

Here is one process for writing a land acknowledgement, and an example for you to work alongside as you develop your own personal land acknowledgement.

Step 1: Research the history of the land you are on

Take the time to research the following areas.

 

  1. Which Indigenous peoples have been and are present on the land where you live? Note that “Indigenous” is an umbrella term for the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples.

  2. Which of the Numbered Treaties were signed in your area? The province of Alberta covers 3 Indigenous treaties, Treaty 6, 7, and 8. Which treaty you mention will depend on your location in Alberta.

To help you with your research...

Here is a map of Alberta created by the Alberta Teacher's Association. It shows the approximate locations of Indigenous groups and Treaty Land across Alberta.

Here are examples of land acknowledgements written by the Alberta Teacher's Association to give you guidance on which Indigenous groups you need to mention.

Here is an interactive world map created by Native Land that shows the Indigenous territories, languages and treaties in each area. 

Example: if you live in Calgary, then based on these resources you are in Treaty 7 Territory, and in the traditional territory of the following groups: The Stoney Nakoda Nation, the Tsuu T’ina Nation, the Siksika Nation, Piikani Nation, and Kainai Nation (and the last three are members of the Blackfoot Confederacy).

Step 2: Research and brainstorm about how your event is related to the Indigenous peoples and their culture

To make a land acknowledgement meaningful, it is important to consider the following:

 

  1. What is the purpose of this event?

  2. How does the event relate and/or affect the Indigenous communities?

  3. What is my role in Truth and Reconciliation?

Example: if you are hosting an educational sustainable event, your brainstorming may look like this:

 

a) What is the purpose of this event? 

Answer: To educate younger kids about climate change

b) How does the event relate to and/or affect the Indigenous communities?

c) What is my role in Truth and Reconciliation?

Answer: The Indigenous peoples have been stewards of the environment for generations

Answer: I look up to the Indigenous peoples for their relationship to mother nature and for always taking care of it. I really want to learn from them and become a better steward myself, and in turn, continue to advocate for their inherent rights to their traditional land. 

Step 3: Write out the Acknowledgement

Now it is time to use your research and brainstorming to write out your land acknowledgement! Though a land acknowledgement does not have a specific template, we have provided you with a general idea of how to structure your land acknowledgement. 

  1. Introduce the acknowledgement

Example: “We would like to take the opportunity to recognize...”

2. State the Groups and Treaties Researched

Example: “...that where we are today is within the bounds of Treaty 7, the traditional lands of the the Stoney Nakoda Nation, the Tsuu T’ina Nation, and three nations who are part of the Blackfoot confederacy: the Siksika Nation, the Piikani Nation, and the Kainai Nation.”

3.  Recognize all Indigenous groups that may have had ties to these grounds

Example: “...We acknowledge all the First Nation, Metis and Inuit who have lived, travelled, and gathered on these lands for years.”

4.  Relate your land acknowledgement to the event you are hosting, and any other personal connections

Example: “In respect to hosting this sustainable event, we offer gratitude to the Indigenous peoples for being stewards of the natural world to this day. As an individual who is passionate about the environment, I look up to them as role models for their strong connection to mother nature, one that I strive to reciprocate. We commit to honouring their practices, and continuing to learn about how to become better stewards of the environment ourselves.”

Full Example

“We would like to take the opportunity to recognize that where we are today is within the bounds of Treaty 7, the traditional lands of the the Stoney Nakoda Nation, the Tsuu T’ina Nation, and three nations who are part of the Blackfoot confederacy: the Siksika Nation, the Piikani Nation, and the Kainai Nation.” We acknowledge and offer respect to all the First Nations, Metis and Inuit who have lived, travelled, and gathered on these lands for years. In respect to hosting this sustainable event, we offer gratitude to the Indigenous peoples for being stewards of the natural world to this day. As an individual who is passionate about the environment, I look up to them as role models for their strong connection to mother nature, one that I strive to reciprocate. We commit to honouring their practices, and continuing to learn about how to become better stewards of the environment ourselves.”

Additional Tips

When writing land acknowledgements, it is also important to keep in mind the following:

 

  1. Always refer to the Indigenous peoples in present tense. Oftentimes, the Indigenous peoples are treated as relics of the past, when in reality, they are living stewards of their traditional land. Thus, use words and phrases such as “continue,” and “to this day” when writing your land acknowledgement.

  2. Make sure you are saying the correct pronunciations of the names of Indigenous groups. This may require additional research, and is crucial to writing an effective land acknowledgement. Some great resources to help determine correct pronunciations are youtube, as well as the pages of the respective First Nations.

Additional Resources

Additional guides and examples for writing land acknowledgements can be found below if you desire further help and detail. This condensed guide to writing land acknowledgements was heavily based around the following resources:

 

Activism Skills: Land and Territory Acknowledgement 

SCFR.LandAck.Examples.2021.pdf

Indigenous Land Acknowledgements – Law Society of Alberta