The University of Manitoba campuses are located on original lands of Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation. We respect the Treaties that were made on these territories, we acknowledge the harms and mistakes of the past, and we dedicate ourselves to move forward in partnership with Indigenous communities in a spirit of reconciliation and collaboration.
Connection to the lands
Many people think that territorial acknowledgements are relatively new, however, in both Indigenous and Canadian society, they have a long and storied history. Canadian children once always started the school day with singing “Oh Canada” or “The Maple Leaf Forever” and ended the day singing “God Save the Queen.” In the United States, children have a similar experience, reciting the pledge of allegiance. In both nations as well, national anthems open sporting events, continuing these rote recitations of or territorial identity that reinforce civic nationalism.
For Indigenous people, territorial acknowledgement was as common as introducing yourself – for example, the Anishinaabe language, you indicate your name, your clan, and the community are from just to identify who you are. Whenever we meet, we ask one another, Where are you from and how are we related?” When elders stand to speak at elders gatherings they will add to this the names of those from whom their teachings come in the same way that at university, we acknowledge the sources from which we write our papers. When Indigenous people came together in council to discuss politics, leaders acknowledged their connection to place as a part of their authority to speak, often tracing genealogies back to indicate how long their families had been responsible not only to the people but to the plants, animals, fish, birds, insects, and very soil of the places in which they lived. Relationships between people, between and people and plants, people and animals, people and place are central to Indigenous identity, ways of knowing and being, and our spiritual selves.
The territorial acknowledgements that we use today are a marriage of the Canadian commitment to civic pride demonstrated in singing anthems in our schools and at sporting events and an acknowledgement of Indigenous presence and the Indigenous sharing of their lands with Canadians and newcomers. A marriage which in many ways demonstrates the spirit of reconciliation. The rote repetition of them at university and sporting events ingrains awareness of the Indigenous peoples who lived on and cared for these places and the many beings that grew and lived on them for hundreds if not thousands of years prior to Settler arrival and who have continued to do so in the face of massive attempts to separate them from the land, assimilate them, and erase their presence from Settler histories and public life. It reminds Canadians whether generational settlers, or recent newcomers that the lands on which Canadians now live has been shared with them by its original inhabitants which in Manitoba are the Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, Dene, and Métis peoples and we are still here.
The treaty through which First Nations determined to share the lands on which the University of Manitoba is situated is Treaty 1, while Metis scholars are increasingly conceptualizing the Manitoba Act of 1870 as their treaty. I hope that learning about territorial acknowledgement will encourage you to learn more about Treaty 1 and the Manitoba Act, which the Canadian Encyclopedia states “essentially established a Métis Province.” Join us in respecting and protecting these Indigenous lands which you may also come to call “home.”
We gratefully thank Dr. Cary Miller, Head, Department of Native Studies for sharing her teachings on the territorial acknowledgement.
Further readings about Territory Acknowledgments
Compiled by the University of Manitoba Libraries
Asher, L. (2018). The limits of settlers' territorial acknowledgments. Curriculum Inquiry, 48(3), 316-334. Link
Bell, C. (2020). Unsettling existence: Land acknowledgement in contemporary Indigenous performance. Performance Research, 25(2), 141-148. Link
Daigle, M. (2019). The spectacle of reconciliation: On (the) unsettling responsibilities to Indigenous peoples in the academy. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 37(4), 703–721. Link
Kappler, M. (2017, January 14). Reconciliation more than land acknowledgments, Aboriginal groups say. The Canadian Press. Link
Pickard, R. (2018). Acknowledgement, Disruption, and Settler-Colonial Ecocriticism. ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, 25(2), 317-326. Link
Wilkes, R., Duong, A., Kesler, L., & Ramos, H. (2017). Canadian university acknowledgment of Indigenous lands, treaties, and peoples. Canadian review of sociology, 54(1), 89-120. Link