ADVISORY: All of Halifax Peninsula, including ’s three campuses, are currently under a boil water advisory until further notice. All water must be boiled for at least one minute if it will be used for drinking or any other activity requiring human consumption.

Land Acknowledgement

University is located in Kjipuktuk, the district of Ա’kپ, Mi’kma’ki, which since time immemorial, has been the unceded traditional territory and ancestral homelands of the Mi’kmaq Nation. We pay respect to the historic and contemporary Mi’kmaw artists who have, over millennia, created unique artforms and designs, and through generations, passed down ways of being, knowing, and doing that are valued and respected.   University is committed to forging a relationship based on reciprocity as we move forward together in a good way, based on the foundational aspirations in our collective treaties, dating back to 1725.  In Nova Scotia, we recognize we are all Treaty People.

This page contains University’s official Land Acknowledgement and detailed protocols outlining how to use it with intention, and in the spirit of respect, community, and reconciliation.

About the Land Acknowledgment

What is a Land Acknowledgement?

Beneath the surface of any territory, histories of belonging have been erased, overlooked, contested and forgotten. A territorial or land acknowledgement is an act of reconciliation that involves making a statement recognizing the traditional territory of the Indigenous peoples who called, and still call, the land home before the arrival of settlers.

Who developed and approved our Land Acknowledgement?

The Land Acknowledgement was developed by our Ombudsperson Jude Gerrard, a member of the Millbrook First Nation. Jude has worked for many departments within the Nova Scotia public service, including Education and Early Childhood Education (where he helped established Treaty Education in Nova Scotia), Communities Culture and Heritage, and the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives, where he helped with Canada’s first Equity and Anti-racism legislation. He has worked at a number of post-secondary institutions in Nova Scotia and served on the National Indigenous Education Advisory Committee for Colleges and Institutions Canada.

Jude has been a speaker at national and international conferences on systemic oppression and racial identity. He has trained with international equity leaders in Cultural Proficiency, Cultural Humility, and was the first Canadian to be trained as a facilitator in Beyond Diversity2, Courageous Conversations about Race, and received an Award of Recognition from the Pacific Educational Group for his work in reducing the achievement gap for First Nation and African Canadian students.

In preparing our Land Acknowledgement, Jude sought feedback and received approval from elders and leaders from several Indigenous communities and organizationsacross Mi’kma’ki.

Rationale

All words have impact and power. As we continue on the path of decolonization, it is important to understand, value and respect Mi’kmaw knowledge. Colonialism has created institutions that historically value western knowledge over all other knowledge systems. As part of the decolonizing process, we need to change the way colonial institutions view knowledge and education.

Protocols

Pronunciation guide

  • Kjipuktuk(Jeh-book-dook)
  • Mi’kmaq(meeg-gah-mah) comes from the root word Ni’kmaq (nee-gah-mah) meaning my kin/my relations. It is plural, referring to the larger group of people and/or the collective of people. Mi’kmaq is not used as an adjective, nor is it a singular noun.
  • Mi’kmaw(meeg-gah-maw) comes from the root word Mi’kmaq. However, it is used as a singular noun or adjective.
  • Mi’kmaw’ki(meeg-maah-gee) The territory of the Mi’kmaq
  • Ա’kپ (Seh-bey-gah-nay’ gah-deek) one of the seven Mi’kmaw Districts in Mi’kmaw’ki.

To hear the pronunciation of these and other M’kmaw words, visit

How to use the Land Acknowledgement

A land acknowledgement done at the beginning of ceremonies, lectures, or any public event is a way to insert an awareness of Indigenous presence and land rights in everyday life. It can be a subtle way to recognize the history of colonialism in the very place a group is gathering.

A land acknowledgement should be used to position the creator and audience in a specific place/territory, and, because of this, should not mention other groups or cultures. Remember, this is about reconciliation.

The Land Acknowledgement should be used at the beginning of ceremonies, lectures, or any public event. Speakers should start with the following:

“ University is located in Kjipuktuk, the district of Ա’kپ, Mi’kma’ki, which since time immemorial, has been the unceded traditional territory and ancestral homelands of the Mi’kmaq Nation. We pay respect to the historic and contemporary Mi’kmaw artists who have, over millennia, created unique artforms and designs, and through generations, passed down ways of being, knowing, and doing that are valued and respected.   University is committed to forging a relationship based on reciprocity as we move forward together in a good way, based on the foundational aspirations in our collective treaties, dating back to 1725. In Nova Scotia, we recognize we are all Treaty People.”  

As a conclusion to your land acknowledgement, you can finish with:

“This Land Acknowledgement should not function as acceptance of the structural conditions of settler colonialism that remain in effect today. We hope that it sparks a desire to learn about our shared history, provoke thought, reflection and change, which are the starting point of creating respectful, reciprocal relationships, and a step on the journey to reconciliation.”

Take your time.

Land acknowledgements started a first, small step in the reconciliation process. Today, they have become commonplace, and they can easily create an impression of being a hollow gesture.

When quickly stated, rushed through, or given because someone feels they have to, they continue to validate colonialism, and its lasting negative effects on our modern society.

When done without concerted effort, it becomes more about acknowledging and obscuring Indigenous presence to a historical realm, and then moving on to the “important” reason for gathering, or to do the real work of decolonization.

Be intentional and thoughtful.

To go beyond a token generic script is considered best practice and is a step along the journey of reconciliation. The real work of delivering the land acknowledgement actually begins long before the event, and long before the acknowledgement is written down.

We need to be more thoughtful and ask ourselves several questions during the process:

  • What are we doing to continue the relationship afterwards?
  • What does your acknowledgement compel you, your organization, and your audience to do?
  • What does unceded territory mean to your organization, and you personally?
  • How can we make this better and more meaningful?

If these questions are difficult to answer you have more work to do before proceeding with a land acknowledgement.

Your acknowledgement and the relationship development required to do it with integrity, should be an invitation for deeper interpersonal analysis, relationship building, and personal action based on genuine allyship. Speak directly to the people whose territory you are on. Go directly to community, build a relationship while being respectful as to how the community wants to be recognized. Ensure your land recognition is personal and speaks to societal/organization commitments so it compels action. This moves it from simple words, to an actual tool to create change.

When you are creating a land acknowledgement, do not use colonial language to recognize or describe Indigenous communities. If there is a Mi’kmaw word you don’t know how to pronounce, reach out to someone who may be able to help you.

Remember, words are not enough. It is only a rudimentary step to know the territory you are living and working in. It’s only a first step. You need to build genuine relationships that are mutually beneficial and build equity into your spaces and places. Reconciliation will not happen without relationships. Relationships begin when you listen to each other’s stories.

Reconciliation begins when you believe the stories you hear.

Can I add additional acknowledgements to the Land Acknowledgement?

No. The Land Acknowledgement is supposed to be an act of reconciliation. By adding additional groups to it, the original intention is diminished. Indigenous people have lost so much as a result of ongoing colonialism, adding additional subjects to it is continuing a form of colonialism that takes away our existence as individual nations and further marginalizes us in our own territory.