The Importance of Land Acknowledgements

You’ve more than likely attended an event where a land acknowledgement was made, but do you understand why they happen and why they’re so important? Let’s break it down.

What Are Land Acknowledgements?

Land acknowledgements are moments of recognition for the land you’re on and the people who descend from it, generation upon generation. Hopefully, you’re present in that moment, listening to the speaker, thinking about the people who once solely inhabited this land and how their lives have changed.

The truth is, many people don’t understand land acknowledgements. This is largely due to growing up with improper education around colonization and the myth that Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ the Americas. Thankfully, it’s now widely known how incredibly wrong this is and that the Americas were inhabited by many diverse groups of Indigenous Peoples who have been here for over 10,000 years. 

But this understanding is just the beginning of the true history of Canada and its attempted genocide of the Indigenous Peoples. It’s a long, hard journey of truth that leads to a path of reconciliation. A great place to start is understanding the importance of land acknowledgements.

History of Land Acknowledgements

Historically, land acknowledgement is a traditional practice shared amongst many Indigenous groups to recognize the land and territory they visit. As Peoples, we had extensive trading practices with surrounding communities, so it was essential to acknowledge our gratitude for visiting another group’s territory and sharing where we come from.

Today, a land acknowledgement remains a way of recognizing and expressing gratitude to the First Nations, Inuit, or Métis land you’re on. For settlers, the act of performing a land acknowledgement is a very basic and fundamental step towards reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. However, land acknowledgments go much deeper than just acknowledging whose land you’re on. To truly understand the importance of a land acknowledgement, one would need to look into the historical traumas that plagued Indigenous Peoples and the lasting effects they have today.

Colonization & Indigenous Trauma

Connection to the Land

Indigenous Peoples have a powerful inherent kinship to land and territory, with most of our creation stories telling of us originating from the land, our collective first Mother. Our way of life is intrinsically intertwined with the natural world.

The land provides everything we need to survive. We’ve maintained our ways of life for thousands of years by working to balance what we take and how we nurture and care for continued prosperity. Through generational teachings, we learn to live with and show respect for the land so that it can always thrive and be there to take care of future generations.


When colonization began, one of the first tactics was to remove Indigenous Peoples from the land, attempting to sever a connection that runs thousands of years deep.

Throughout colonization, there were many attempts at the genocide of the Indigenous Peoples: broken treaties, control of resources and food access, residential schools, and the ’60s scoop, just to name a few. These tactics involved profound abuse of Indigenous Peoples, often focused on our young children and the intention of destroying their relationships to land, family, and community. This way, they cannot carry on our ceremonies, traditional practices, and ways of life.

Colonial government policy was enforced upon Indigenous groups, our territories were deemed ‘crown lands,’ and our communities were coerced onto small allocations of land called reservations. These areas were often in unfavourable locations, with little access to traditional foods and clean water. Being forced into a situation where we were no longer able to care for ourselves in the only way we’ve ever known resulted in dependency on support from the colonial government, just as they had intended.

The Canadian government worked to erase our existence and has fought against any recognition of Indigenous lands and territories. Only in very recent history have we seen Canada make any amends for their wrongs and work towards reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. The Truth and Reconciliation Committee identified the act of performing land acknowledgements as a fundamental step towards reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. As a result, we have seen more and more of them taking place.

Impacts of Colonization

This is just a glimpse into the suffering that Indigenous Peoples endured, and the repercussions of these tactics live on today. Most Indigenous Peoples inherited severe forms of intergenerational trauma and continue to suffer from ongoing racism and discrimination.

The modern perception that colonization is a thing of the past and that we should “just get over it and essentially assimilate into settler society is an issue we consistently deal with. But the thing is, for many of us, it isn’t a thing of the past. It’s our grandparents who were taken into residential schools, our parents who were stolen from their families in the ’60s Scoop, and our children who were raised in foster care systems which cared little for their wellbeing. Now, our children are still taken from us at the highest rates in Canada – Indigenous youth represent over 50% of youth in care despite only making up 7% of the total population.


Today, suppression and racism towards Indigenous groups continue. As a result, Indigenous People are constantly advocating for rights, better services, and opportunities for our People. Indigenous sovereignty and autonomy remain at the forefront of our advocacy, as the health of our lands and territory are consistently threatened by corporations decimating land for profit, with little regard for future generations.

Indigenous ways of life are directly correlated to land health, which is one reason why land acknowledgements are so important. If you are concerned for the health of the lands and the preservation of our natural world, you should consider including land acknowledgements in your work.

How to Perform a Land Acknowledgement

So, knowing this information, how can you respectfully perform a land acknowledgement? Well, the good news is that a land acknowledgement is actually rather easy to do. It’s more or less exactly as it sounds: a moment to acknowledge whose land you are currently on.

  • Step 1 – Identify the Indigenous People of that territory. There may be more than one group belonging to that area. Don’t worry, acknowledge them all.
  • Step 2 – Take some time to learn about those Indigenous People, and not just about their traumas. Look into what traditional practices they had before colonization. What were their primary food sources, and what cultural activities and ceremonies did they practice? And, of course, take some time to learn what colonial tactics were used there, how they were affected, and how they are still affected today.
  • Step 3 – Write your land acknowledgement. If you’ve done your research and taken some time to learn about the Indigenous Peoples in your area, this step should come more naturally and be more heartfelt than the common “I would like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the X Peoples.”

No matter how you perform a land acknowledgement, recognition and intention are the most important aspects, and it is so amazing to see this happening in more and more spaces.

How to Incorporate Land Acknowledgements into Your Business

Land acknowledgements are for more than just presentations and events. Many businesses incorporate land acknowledgements into their business practices without ever making a presentation. There are many fun and creative ways to do this. Here are some suggestions:

  • Include a land acknowledgement in your bio – whose traditional land were you born and raised on? Where do you live now? What are some of your favourite things about the land that you’re grateful for?
  • Put a land acknowledgement on your website, social media channels, etc. For example, “Proudly operating on the traditional unceded territory of the X Peoples”
  • Have you got a brick-and-mortar store? Put a land acknowledgement by your door – hang it in a picture frame, write it above the door, and be creative.

You may also choose to go beyond a land acknowledgement and celebrate Indigenous Peoples and any holidays we may have. Consider celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21st. Maybe you feel compelled to join our activists as we fight for land protection, Indigenous and human rights, and epidemics such as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW).

How do we Move Forward?

It’s never fun to examine historical traumas. Thank you for your time and commitment to better understanding this hard history. Knowledge of Indigenous history and an openness to learning more about our current place in society and our struggles provide the foundation for us to move forward together. Many of the ‘Indigenous issues’ we advocate for are human issues belonging to all races and genders. If we work together to advocate for a better future for all, we will have greater success and unity so we can walk together as diverse and inclusive people.

No matter how big or small your inclusion may be, where you perform a land acknowledgement, or how often you perform one, these efforts are part of a larger practice of reconciliation. There is no going back now. We cannot change history but collectively work towards a better future for us all. We need to move forward together. To do so, reconciliation must guide the way.

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