Dianne’s Land Acknowledgement Learning Journey

Written by Dianne Traynor, Pedagogical Lead

pussywillows in a field against a blue sky

Last year many people reflected on how the lock down supported them to slow down and notice what has always been there. Many noticed how the earth took a sigh of relief and we were grateful to see positive change in natural environments. While I was home for 4 months, I took up the idea from colleagues to document where they were spending time outside. It was interesting to notice the changes in the season as I walked my dog in the hay field and meadow.  I was studying several trees and the pussy willow bushes. I would take photos and reflect on the some of the ecological dispositions that I have learned from Ann Pelo’s book “The Goodness of Rain.” (“Finding Place; Walk the Land; Learn the Names; Embrace Sensuality; Gratitude”) Ann Pelo also offered great questions during a PD opportunity during the pandemic.“What has been nourishing you during this pandemic? What was heavy on your heart? What do we want to keep doing?”  

In the last 18 months, there have been so many professional learning opportunities to support my land acknowledgement journey of learning. (Hanah’s Treaty Talks; Braiding Sweetgrass book study just to name a few.) During this time, I was also curious how my ecological identity influenced by Ann Pelo, London Bridge and Reggio connected to the Indigenous learning I was trying to make sense of. I was curious about the trend of offering a land acknowledgement at the beginning of meetings and gatherings. ORA has been doing that for years. When I would hear a land acknowledgement I would reflect on the stories told by Maya Chacaby and was grateful for the reminder to keep it top of mind. But I did not connect at that time how I am a settler on this land and how colonialism has affected every aspect of my life. This process of learning is extremely personal.

Watch this comedic demonstration of how land acknowledgements can be done in words only:

During the Treaty Talks based on the Living as Treaty Partners in the Anthropocene: Early Years Education on Stolen Lands blog series we were encouraged to research and write our own land acknowledgement. We reflected on ideas of stewardship vs kinship and place-base vs land based education. Hanah shared so many resources, and still does, that supported my learning journey. Listening to Phil Abbott share knowledge and stories from Elder Doug Williams; Finding Hope Through Connecting to the Land, stories by Chief Joe Pierre; How do we respect the land? How will we create a reciprocal relationship with the land? I was asking myself, what is our responsibility to the land? And what is the story of this place? These provocations offered me the inspiration to start some research. How could I create a statement that was truthful and accurate with confidence just by googling my location through native-land.ca ? It needs to be more than just naming the First Nation, Treaty or traditional territory. How can it be authentic and meaningful? Then what? What will this compel me to do? What will I do with this new information and how will I find the confidence to say these words out loud? Our Treaty Talk group created a safe place to try. I believe that being vulnerable and brave and making mistakes is the best way to learn, but just because I believe that doesn’t make it any easier to take the leap to make it happen.

So I tried! I jumped in with rough notes all over my journal, shaking, cracking voice, mispronouncing words and feeling a knot in my gut. It was so awkward and uncomfortable. As a white, English-speaking Canadian with privilege, it should be! The group held me up and noticed my vulnerability and encouraged me to keep sharing and learning. The more we shared and reflected together, the more I slowed down and really became present with the land I have the honour to walk on and live on every day. Reading Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer also added a layer to my thinking about the more-than-human world and the ideas of connecting to the identity of the living species I share space with. 

German Shepherd dog sitting in a field against a cloudy sky.

I try to imagine who else used to walk this land and who was here before me. My mother loved genealogy and I wish she was still here to discuss this topic with me. My mother’s family and my husband’s family still have farm land in square hundred acre lots. My family has been benefiting from colonialism for a very long time and property is sold over and over to other family members. No one has made much profit, just worked hard in agriculture to feed their families and make a living. Hundred-acre square lots stripped of their trees and nature, stolen to create farm land for immigrants. It makes it hard to be proud of my heritage.

My attempt at a land acknowledgement has changed and grown during this past year:

I would like to start our time together by giving thanks to the land that I have the privilege to walk, grow a garden, raise my family and live on every day. There are so many amazing species of life here. We are grateful for the trees and creek. This acknowledgement is to bring awareness of Indigenous presence and land rights of the Mississauga/Eastern. I am researching, learning and trying to make sense of the true history of our country and how settlers truly came to be on this land. My family has a direct benefit from this history. We live and work under Treaty 20 from 1818 with the Williams Treaty overlapping. Which means there are agreements that were made and have been broken. It is important to me to hold this land in reverence, creating a reciprocal relationship in kin, taking up less space and respecting the more than human world. Along with stolen land, now I reflect on the lost lives and stolen children! Who walked these fields before me? I still have so much to learn.

Click here for a document to support educators in writing land acknowledgements.

This is a very personal learning journey. I encourage you to connect to your sense of place. What is the identity and stories of the places you love to be? How will you hold them in reverence and learn their true history?

Dogwood and grasses in a field.