Land Acknowledgement

Pjila’si, Atelihai, Tunngasugit,
Tshima minu-takushiniekᵘ,
Welcome, Bienvenue

 On this page you will find information on:

  1. The importance of territory acknowledgements – what they are, why we do them, and their significance.
  2. Territory acknowledgements at Memorial – a brief history of territory acknowledgement use at Memorial, and campus specific acknowledgements
  3. Territory acknowledgement protocols – the who, when, and how to ensure territory acknowledgements are delivered with intent.
  4. Resources - blog posts, scholarly articles, news, podcasts, and videos offering criticisms and explanations to supplement your understanding of territory acknowledgements.

The Importance of Territory Acknowledgements

The lands that we study on, benefit from, and where Memorial’s campuses are located have been occupied, managed, and governed since time immemorial by Indigenous peoples.

There is a tradition of knowing, teaching, and learning on this land that goes beyond the histories of the university and settler education. It is an Indigenous practice to acknowledge the land and territory which you are on. When Indigenous Peoples visited other Indigenous Peoples, they acknowledged their territories.

Land is sacred to Indigenous peoples, and ways of being and knowing come from the land. Land acknowledgements recognize the unique and enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories. They are a way to recognize and respect the Original Peoples of the territory upon which the university is situated.

Land acknowledgements are a way to share space with Indigenous Peoples through the weaving of Indigenous protocols into University procedures. Land acknowledgements prompt us to think about relationships between Indigenous Peoples and institutions.

They are a means of creating awareness of Indigenous presence and land rights in everyday life. According to many Indigenous scholars, including Mi’kmaw Professor Bonita Lawrence, decolonization begins with acknowledgment that there is “land theft and dispossession.” Land acknowledgements are a way to recognize the history of colonialism, and to remind us of the many involuntary sacrifices of Indigenous peoples in the creation and maintenance of settler spaces.

Land acknowledgements disrupt settler colonialism and challenge the myth that the land was empty when settlers arrived. They are a reminder of the generosity of Indigenous peoples for sharing the land with visitors.

Land acknowledgements must be accompanied by a commitment to real change. Land acknowledgements are not a box to check, although they can easily become a token gesture rather than a meaningful practice. They become meaningful if we are willing to learn, and exercise accountability and respect.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission defines reconciliation as being about “establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in this country”. Establishing a respectful relationship starts with the act of acknowledging one another. Land acknowledgements when done with intention are a first step in addressing the legacy of colonialism.

Territory Acknowledgements at Memorial

Early use of territory acknowledgements at Memorial University emerged through grassroots efforts across the institution. In 2015 there were simultaneous but independent initiatives to create a standard for territory acknowledgements - Grenfell created an acknowledgement for their campus through consultation with Indigenous groups in the province, while MUNSU implemented their own protocol for territory acknowledgement. The Office of Indigenous Affairs also started the process to create a standard territory acknowledgement, and following consultation with the Indigenous groups in Newfoundland and Labrador a territory acknowledgement for the St. John's campus was approved in 2016.

St. John’s Campus:
We acknowledge that the lands on which Memorial University’s campuses are situated are in the traditional territories of diverse Indigenous groups, and we acknowledge with respect the diverse histories and cultures of the Beothuk, Mi’kmaq, Innu, and Inuit of this province.

Grenfell Campus:
We acknowledge that the land on which we gather is in traditional Mi’kmaw territory, and we acknowledge with respect the diverse histories and cultures of the Beothuk, Mi’kmaq, Innu, and Inuit of this province.

Labrador Institute:
We acknowledge that the lands and waters on which we gather are the homelands of the Innu and Inuit of Labrador, and recognize their ancestral and continued ties to these lands and waters.

Virtual Spaces:
This acknowledgement is appropriate for use virtual spaces, such as online events, when we are come together from across the province and campuses. This acknowledgement is also used by some staff members in their email signature.

We acknowledge that the lands on which Memorial University’s campuses are situated are in the traditional territories of diverse Indigenous groups, and we acknowledge with respect the diverse histories and cultures of the Beothuk, Mi’kmaq, Innu, and Inuit of this province.

Territory Acknowledgement Protocols

Below are a number of tips to ensure land acknowledgements are done respectfully and with purpose and meaning:

  • A written territory acknowledgement can be used on course syllabi, email signatures, websites, and job postings.
  • It is appropriate for territory acknowledgements to be delivered at all in person and virtual events including the first day of class, orientation, graduation/convocation, staff meetings, professional development sessions, workshops, and conferences.
  • It should happen at the beginning of the event, regardless of the size of the gathering, and independent of the presence of Indigenous people.
  • The acknowledgement should be delivered by the event organizer, and it should be done by a non-Indigenous person. While Indigenous people can provide a territory acknowledgement, it is more appropriate for us to offer an opening prayer or words of welcome.
  • The acknowledgement should never be rushed, and should not be skipped if an event is running late. It must be prioritized and given adequate time and respectful attention from the audience.
  • Learn how to correctly pronounce unfamiliar words before delivering an acknowledgement.

We recommend the following actions to avoid making the territory acknowledgement a checklist item on the agenda:

  • Make it an opportunity for a conversation, if possible open the floor for questions or comments after the acknowledgement.
  • Take a moment after the acknowledgement to reflect on what it means, encourage attendees to think of the ways their life and work may contribute to decolonization and reconciliation.
  • Speak from a place of sincerity to make the acknowledgement your own. You do not need to read a word for word acknowledgement. 

Questions you might encourage attendees to reflect upon include:

  • Why is this acknowledgement happening?
  • How does this acknowledgement relate to the work you are doing?
  • What is the history of this land, how has it been impacted by colonialism?
  • What is your relationship to this land? How did you come to be here?
  • What intentions do you have to disrupt and dismantle colonialism beyond this land acknowledgement?

Territory Acknowledgement Resources

Learn More:
Native Land - Territory Acknowledgement
Simon Fraser University Library - Positionality statement and land acknowledgement workshop
CAUT - Guide to Acknowledging First Peoples and Traditional Territories
Dr. Nardozi - How can I make land acknowledgements more meaningful?
Reconciliation Canada - Cultural Teachings: Welcome to Territory & Land Acknowledgements
CBC - What is the significance of acknowledging the Indigenous land we stand on?
Gazette - Saying with Intention

Apihtawikosisan – Beyond territorial acknowledgements 
Baroness Von Sketch Show – Land Acknowledgement (VIDEO)  
CBC – ‘I regret it’: Hayden King on writing Ryerson University’s territorial acknowledgement
The New Yorker – Canada’s Impossible Acknowledgement    
Megaphone Magazine – Unceded territory  
The Red Road Podcast – Bland Acknowledgements