Land acknowledgements: uncovering an oral history of Tkaronto
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Land acknowledgements: uncovering an oral history of Tkaronto


Aahnii, Boozho, Sara Roque n-dish-ni-kaaz, Shebahonaning n-don-jibaa, Tkaronto in-day. Tkaronto, a Mohawk word: The place in the water where the trees are standing. The place where the fish weirs are. My dog and I spend a lot of time walking. It’s my favourite way to move through this city. For me, it’s the meditative action that isn’t about negotiating bike lanes or public transit. But a time to slow down and really try to see the world around me. Concrete sidewalks, parking lots–now covering the rivers and trails that once flowed freely. The Petun, the Huron Wendat, the Haudenosaunee the Anishnaabeg, the Métis, the Mississaugas, all made their homes here. And many other nations expanding beyond these groups travelled through for commerce and trade. For thousands and thousands and thousands of years. I think of the other First Peoples’ languages and the names they had for this place. I think of the ancient trails covered by the pressures of settlement. The waterways and the moderate climate of the Great Lakes made it a perfect place to fish, hunt, grow food, gather medicines and seeds for horticultural development. Rich, fertile and abundant: Turtle Island’s Mesopotamia. Many First Peoples and their goods traveled from here all the way to the Mississippi and back. Whenever I travel somewhere new, I try to find out whose land I’m on and I ask “who are the original occupants here?” So, for Indigenous peoples land acknowledgments are not only to assert our sovereignty and treaty rights of today but it’s also a way for all peoples to feel more connected to a place. Davenport might be a street now, one I walk down regularly in my neighbourhood, but it’s not just another thoroughfare. For me, it’s an ancient portage trail that holds Indigenous knowledge. They say the animals made the first trails that led them to water, and the people followed. I imagine the deer and the moose once made this trail Followed by the people carrying their birch bark canoes, carrying their goods to trade and bringing stories to tell. Nations from all over Turtle Island met and traveled through this land. Many languages were spoken. Alliances and decisions were made. People from different nations met and intermarried. The Dish With One Spoon Treaty was made. Tkaronto was a meeting place and land made up of sophisticated and cosmopolitan peoples and cultures that I see reflected in the city today. I wonder, is it something in the land, in the water? Land acknowledgments might seem like a small and simple gesture, but like many of our ways, they are intended to have more impact and to hold more meaning than the words alone. If we pride ourselves on diversity and equality, shouldn’t our story include Indigenous peoples? In this era of reconciliation, we need to share the truth first. And reimagine the narrative of this land and this city, together.

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