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Bonnie's Acknowledgement

Bonnie's Acknowledgement

by Bonnie Nicholas -
Number of replies: 12

I was very excited to find this course and enroll, not realizing until later that the time coincided not only with the beginning of a new term but an out-of-town trip. This means that I’m typing this in the airport, so no video (I don’t think my fellow passengers would be amused.) So while I know this is an asynchronous course, I will be perhaps more out of sync than other participants. I apologize for this, and look forward to catching up after the course officially ends, when I have more time.

I live in Alberta but travel regularly to BC for conferences, and it was there some years ago that I first heard the land acknowledgement being made at the beginning of the conference proceedings. At that time, land acknowledgements were not yet commonly used in Alberta and (I will be honest) the words seemed tokenish, perhaps a little insincere. In recent years, the land acknowledgements that I've heard have become more meaningful, often with the participation of elders and with more extensive explanations. Part of it may be that I have become more sensitive to the importance of acknowledging the land where we are situated, but I think perhaps this awareness is growing in other individuals and institutions as well.

I teach language and settlement to newcomers at NorQuest College in Edmonton. We have a significant number of Indigenous students at our college, so we have an Indigenous Student Centre, as well as Elders on campus. There are multiple projects in progress about Indigenizing the curriculum, which translates into opportunities for professional development for faculty and staff.

This term for the first time, I made a land acknowledgment in my class of adult English language learners. I didn’t go a great job, so I’m hoping that this course will help me to think more deeply about what I want to say and how I want to say it. So this is perhaps what I might say next time to my class, as we begin a new term of learning and working together. Remember that I need to use plain language as much as possible as learners in my class have a limited vocabulary.

It’s important to me and I hope to you that we all know and understand that we are on Treaty 6 territory, the traditional home of First Nations and Metis people. This is especially important to me because my family has been in Canada a long time, for over 350 years. But the Indigenous people of Canada have been here for hundreds of years before that, so I see myself as a settler on what is traditional Indigenous land.

In our class, we will be working on improving your English skills, and we will also be learning about Canada. We call this part of our course settlement, because, as newcomers, you, like me, are settlers on this land. We will be learning a little about Indigenous people and their history, including some of the bad things that settlers did to Indigenous people. When people do wrong things or make mistakes and bad things happen, it's important to try to make things right. This is called reconciliation. We will learn about reconciliation in our class. We will learn a little about treaties, which are agreements or contracts between government and Indigenous people. We will learn a little about what it means to learn, live, and work on traditional Indigenous land here in Canada. We will do some of this this by reading and hearing stories from First Nations and Metis people.

I look forward to your feedback and also to reading your land acknowledgements.

In reply to Bonnie Nicholas

Re: Bonnie's Acknowledgement

by Ryan Banow -

Hi Bonnie,

Thanks for sharing your acknowledgement. It seems really sincere to me and I really appreciate how you are able to make clear connections to what is going to happen in your course. You also educate while acknowledging. Great work.

Ryan

In reply to Ryan Banow

Re: Bonnie's Acknowledgement

by Bonnie Nicholas -

Thanks for your feedback, Ryan. I hope that the land acknowledgement will help newcomers begin to think about the land that live and work on. 

In reply to Bonnie Nicholas

Re: Bonnie's Acknowledgement

by Maureen Glynn -

Hi Bonnie -

Similarly to Ryan, I really appreciate how you drew a direct connection between your acknowledgement and the coursework that lays ahead for you and your students.

I was also impacted by the fact that you explicitly underscore how important and necessary it is to work on reconciliation. 

These two aspects of your acknowledgement have provided me with food for thought around how my own acknowledgement might evolve as I practice and share it.

I wonder -- when you state that you hope it is important to your students that you all know and understand that you are on Treaty 6 territory -- Do you anticipate that they might actively respond to this hope and, if so, what types of responses do you expect? I ask this as your acknowledgement is one of the first I've read that actively calls out to and involves the audience....(although I still have many of our classmates posts yet to review!)


In reply to Maureen Glynn

Re: Bonnie's Acknowledgement

by Bonnie Nicholas -

Thanks for your question, Maureen. 

My hope is that students will begin to think about Indigenous people and their history in a new way. I work in a college located in downtown Edmonton, and many of our students - newcomers all - also live near the city centre. This means that they may have some familiarity with some of the negative generational results of the residential school system. 

My hope is that the students I teach may begin to grow their understanding of the history of Indigenous people in this land, and of the richness of Indigenous cultures and traditions. 

Do you know the TED Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The danger of a single story? My hope is that newcomers will see that there is not a single story about Indigenous people, that there are many stories about and by Indigenous people, and that they will want to listen to some of their stories.

In reply to Bonnie Nicholas

Re: Bonnie's Acknowledgement

by Derek Murray -

Thanks Bonnie! I think the plain and direct language is useful, especially for ELL, and clearly lays out the importance of reconciliation.

In my classes at CapU I tend to have about 50% international students, and they are often surprised when they start learning about the history of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. One thing I might encourage is to emphasize the length of time that Indigenous people have lived here, measured in thousands as opposed to hundreds of years. Given the ELL context, a phrase like "time immemorial" might be a bit much, but the emphasis on thousands of years of occupation dispels the notion that we are all immigrants.

In reply to Derek Murray

Re: Bonnie's Acknowledgement

by Bonnie Nicholas -

Thanks for that feedback, Derek; I will change that hundreds to thousands.

In reply to Bonnie Nicholas

Re: Bonnie's Acknowledgement

by Donna DesBiens -

Hi Bonnie,

Your acknowledgement helped me shift perspective from 'mainstream' courses/workshops/meetings to the very important group of ESL newcomers in both learning and community contexts.  In a way, ESL learners actually make up a 'mainstream' segment in our classrooms (as Derek notes) in view of booming numbers of international students and people immigrating to Canada 

I think your draft acknowledgement offers us a strong model of how we can show reconciliation in action to newcomers and help them learn how to make their own land acknowledgements in time.  

I really appreciated Maureen's insightful observation that you open a door to active participant engagement in your opening statement that this is important to you and your hope that they too will all know and understand what it means to be on Treaty 6 territory... I imagine that could set the ground for a series of experiential learning activities along with the stories they'll be hearing and reading.     

I also wonder if it would be better learning to use the actual names of the Cree and Assiniboine peoples instead of just saying Treaty 6 - maybe with visual aids like a map or poster, and at the right time of course.  I don't know much about Indigenous territorial lands in Northern Alberta so Treaty 6 was just a number to me until I looked it up and read a bit about the member Nations and history on their website, and found these beautiful words ...For as long as the Sun shines, the Rivers flow and the Grass grows...

In reply to Donna DesBiens

Re: Bonnie's Acknowledgement

by Nancy White -

wow, a lovely light/bell went off thinking about this in the wider context of migration/immigration. THANK YOU!

In reply to Donna DesBiens

Re: Bonnie's Acknowledgement

by Bonnie Nicholas -

Thanks, Donna; I'm very happy that we will have access to this course afterwards as I have simply not had the time to do it justice. So thank-you for that. 

I'm going to think about and do some research on your idea of including the First Nations peoples by name. I think one challenge may be not leaving anyone out, as I've seen land acknowledgements for Edmonton that include up to eight First Nations / Metis. Here for example, is a suggested one from the University of Alberta:

“The University of Alberta respectfully acknowledges that we are located on Treaty 6 territory, a traditional gathering place for diverse Indigenous peoples including the Cree, Blackfoot, Metis, Nakota Sioux, Iroquois, Dene, Ojibway/ Saulteaux/Anishinaabe, Inuit, and many others whose histories, languages, and cultures continue to influence our vibrant community.”

I think it's good that we are being deliberate and mindful about making these land acknowledgements. If I make a misstep,  I will try to do better next time.
In reply to Bonnie Nicholas

Re: Bonnie's Acknowledgement

by Donna DesBiens -

Hi Bonnie, 

I get the challenge of maybe overwhelming listeners with too many names, especially newcomers who speak English as a second or additional language. My 'positionality' is that we want to engage minds and hearts, not lose or confuse them.  

I think U of A did well on making a clear, brief statement of Treaty 6 as a traditional gathering place for (so many) diverse Nations. Yet, I wonder, could this statement be made even more brief if the focus is only on larger Nation affiliations? 

Would it be fair to say just Cree and Assiniboine peoples in your acknowledgement? And maybe show maps/info on the diverse First Nations in later learning activities. E.g.: Where I am on Vancouver Island, the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council includes 14 unique First Nation communities who work together for good, but in fact have diverse community needs, values, and aims. 

Try not to worry too much about making mistakes. No doubt, we all will do that!  Just remember resources are at hand:  E.g. Ask local Indigenous elders; use the resources in this microcourse; and please do stay in touch about how you're implementing the ideas from this course.  Still here, Donna   

In reply to Donna DesBiens

Re: Bonnie's Acknowledgement

by Bonnie Nicholas -

Thanks, Donna. Lots to think about here! NorQuest College (where I work) is focused on inclusion as a core value so I would feel uncomfortable highlighting just the largest First Nations groups who are part of Treaty 6. This would seem almost like an exclusionary practice to me. I have a session booked next week with one of our Indigenous faculty so I will definitely ask her about this.