Toronto Acknowledgement of Country Resource
First off, I would like to acknowledge that I am a white ancestor of settler colonials, and that I participate in an ongoing, violent system against Canada’s First Nations and Indigenous peoples.
To my knowledge, Acknowledgement of Country seems to have grown out of a tradition in Australia as a symbol for non-aboriginal people to acknowledge the traditional caretakers of the land. I first encountered the use of Acknowledgements at a conference in British Columbia, where I understand the Acknowledgement is more widely used. I wanted to create an easily accessible resource for non-indigenous people in the Toronto region to use, since the symbol is the smallest gesture we can make, but an important one. I had the honour of working with two incredible community leaders who helped me craft the following acknowledgement, and I’m including a few notes of my own afterwards.
I welcome any and all feedback from First Nations and Indigenous peoples if I’ve gotten anything wrong. Please don’t hesitate to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if I’ve erred in any way.
Acknowledgement of Country
This event is being held on the traditional lands of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, the Haudenosaunee, the Anishnaabe and the Huron-Wyndat. We wish to acknowledge them as the past, present and future caretakers of this land, traditional territory named Tkaronto, “Where The Trees Meet The Water”; “The Gathering Place”. We do not support colonial forces that undermine, distort or erase the vital role of Indigenous people in our world. We would also like to pay our respects to the Elders, past and present, as well as the ancestors of all us who have gathered here today.
Statement collaboration by Mahlikah Awe:ri Enml’ga’t Saqama’sgw (Walking Woman), a Haudenosaunee Mohawk/Mi’kmaw First Nations TAC Cultural Leaders Lab Fellow, Michael Erickson and Michael Lyons, prepared for the Naked Heart: The LGBTQ Festival of Words
Further Context for Acknowledgement of Country, prepared solely by Michael Lyons
In addition to the innumerable injustices committed against First Nations and Indigenous peoples, amounting to what we now recognize as literal and cultural genocide, the “sale” of Toronto first came about in 1787, when the Chief Superintendent of Indian Affairs met with the Mississaugas at the Bay of Quinte to “discuss a number of potential land sales along the north shore of Lake Ontario, including the purchase of land at Tkaronto/Toronto as well as land on either side of the Humber River and at Lake Simcoe.” Not surprisingly, there was confusion over the extent of land that was surrendered, and when the deed to the land that was found years later was blank and contained no description of what was purchased by the Crown. Eventually the Chief Superintendent gave an account of the boundaries, but they didn’t conform to the parcel the Crown ultimately intended to obtain.
The Crown entered into a second Toronto Purchase agreement with the Mississauga in 1805 to “confirm” the 1787 surrender, though it’s clear the boundaries of the 1805 transaction didn’t correspond with the 1787 transaction. In short, the Crown took more from the Mississaugas in 1805 than had been purportedly taken in 1787.
When I first looked into this, the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation website described how they’d recently entered into negotiations to resolve the 1805 claim, which includes 250,880 acres of land, which runs from Ashbridge’s Bay to Etobicoke Creek, 28 miles north on either end and includes the Toronto Islands, which were included in the surrender. So you can roughly understand just how much land that is…
The Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation site explained: “Negotiators for the parties will be trying to reach an agreement on what constitutes fair cash compensation for the losses to the First Nation as a result of the 1805 Toronto Purchase. The current ownership of that land is not in question and is not at issue in this claim.”
The Author’s Postscript
Everyone in Canadian schools stands for the National anthem every single day. Until a few years ago—and I swear this is true, not just me trying to be pithy—I thought the lyrics to the song went, “O Canada! Our home on Native land.” I guess that just goes to show that a dumb little white kid from a small town on the East Coast with even the most rudimentary understanding of Canadian history can imagine the extent of injustices committed against the Canadian Native community and it’s many First Nations.