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  • Anthony Leong

Acknowledging our Colonial Roots

Let’s do Thanksgiving differently this year—yes, even more different than it will already be. As we approach this holiday that all too often has us forget our colonial roots, we can try to remember in these trying times how much we have to be grateful for, starting with the land and water beneath our feet. In this article I will introduce you to some Indigenous issues and provide resources for you to educate yourself and help us all move towards reparation and reconciliation.

I’m Anthony, a team member at Creative Life Mapping, and I moved to Winnipeg in central Canada in 2016. I am a settler writing to you from Treaty 1 territory, the traditional land of the Anishinnabeg, Néhiyaw, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and the homeland of the Métis nation. Our water is taken from the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation. The Indigenous peoples concerned in Treaty 1 likely did not view the treaty as a cession of their traditional territory.

That is called a land acknowledgement. It’s now common in Canada for settlers to give a land acknowledgement at ceremonies, universities, public schools, and in meetings, websites, and email. While Indigenous scholars have observed that land acknowledgements have serious limitations and can become tokenized, they are a first step for us settlers to recognize and remember that the land on which we reside is either unceded or coercively ceded territory.

If you’d like to take a first step, learn how to make this acknowledgement about the land where you live and incorporate it into your personal and professional life. It shouldn’t be rote memorization, but more of an open discussion of our history of oppressing native peoples. For example, my land acknowledgement above contains a little more info than most university land acknowledgements, recognizing where our clean water comes from, using the autonym (self-given name) Néhiyaw rather than the exonym Cree, and recognizing Indigenous perspective on Treaty 1.

Indigenous reconciliation feels like one of those huge, insurmountable issues, and it certainly isn’t going to be resolved any time soon. But if you’re a settler, many of the initial steps towards reconciliation involve educating yourself so you can be an ally. Here is a list of resources:

  • 150 Acts of Reconciliation is a great place to get started

  • Consider donating to an organization that supports Indigenous people like the Native American Rights Fund

  • I’ve learned so much from the University of Alberta’s free Indigenous Canada course on Coursera, and many of the lessons certainly apply to American history as well

  • The “150 Acts” page recommends Indigenous podcasts Red Man Laughing by Ryan McMahon and Métis in Space by Molly Swain and Chelsea Vowel.

  • I would recommend the books The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King and 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph.

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