As part of its programming for National Indigenous History Month, CAMH has released a new resource for those looking to better understand the meaning behind land acknowledgements, and how to develop and deliver them with purpose and intention. Guidance for Honouring the Land and Ancestors Through Land Acknowledgements
was created by a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous CAMH employees who are members of the volunteer Reconciliation Working Group.
“Teams from across our hospital and partners in the community were reaching out with questions about including land acknowledgment at their events, and looking for advice about creating their own land acknowledgements,” said Diane Longboat, CAMH Elder and Senior Manager, Strategic Initiatives, Shkaabe Makwa, who co-chairs the Indigenous Health Action Network for the Toronto Academic Health Science Network. “So we brought together a team of passionate CAMHers from the Reconciliation Working Group to review the literature, and after months of research and spirited debate, we’re glad to pass on our learnings through our new resource.”
The resource provides advice on common questions such as who should be delivering land acknowledgments, how they should be approached for virtual events and how organizations can get started in developing their own land acknowledgments. It also includes a helpful list of learning materials for those looking to learn more about the land and why acknowledging the land and its original caretakers is an important step towards reconciliation.
Ashley Cornect-Benoit, a research methods specialist with Shkaabe Makwa at CAMH, engages with numerous Indigenous communities from across Turtle Island to support community-based projects. The goal of this work is to honour local approaches to health and well-being in order to decolonize the health care system. For her, it was important to express the purpose behind acknowledging the land and self-location.
“Oral stories and teachings about the Traditional Territories of Turtle Island are deeply connected to the relationships that many Indigenous peoples have with the land,” said Ashley. “This connection is grounded in respect, love, humility, and reciprocity, as to not position human beings as above all of creation, but instead as helpers and protectors of the land. Understanding the traditional names of territories can create connections to many stories and much wisdom about the spaces and places we now reside, reminding us of the journeys our ancestors took. Some questions that facilitate my personal reflection about the land include: what gifts does the land share with me? What does the land teach me? What are my roles and responsibilities in protecting this land? How do I honour this privilege and encourage others to do the same?”
The group who developed the resource wants to be clear that the recommendations are only their best advice, as opinions and practices vary greatly when it comes to land acknowledgements. There is no single source of truth. This resource is a living document that will be revisited as thinking about land acknowledgements shift over time.
“I was motivated to work on this project because, as someone who does a lot of event planning, it’s important that land acknowledgements don’t become simply another item on a checklist,” said Carley Lennox, Communications Manager at CAMH. “Our hope with this resource is to support people to move past tokenism and towards meaningful reflection and shifting mindsets.”
To read Guidance for Honouring the Land and Ancestors Through Land Acknowledgements click here .
To watch a webinar and discussion about this resource click here.
The purpose of the Reconciliation Working Group is to support CAMH staff members in all sectors of the organization in their learning about First Nations, Inuit and Métis and how the history of colonialism and continuing systemic racism in Canada impacts their mental health and substance use today. Part of this learning process is also recognizing the resiliency of Indigenous Peoples and to understand how cultural traditions, heritage languages, and rich ceremonial life support mental well-being and inform the Indigenous determinants of health.