TRC CTAs 43-45 & 47: Land from an Indigenous perspective

Day 11 of sharing the 94 Calls to Action (CTAs) from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Trailer of Waniska, a film by Reconciliation Education Canada.

This coming Monday, June 21, 2021, is National Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Canada. So it’s coincidentally appropriate that we’ve reached the Reconciliation CTAs in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report.

Have you ever heard a land acknowledgment spoken? Perhaps at a meeting or conference you attended. I’ve been hearing them over the last few years, but it’s only in the last 12 months that I’ve intentionally sought out the meaning and significance behind them.

There’s a lot to say about Indigenous worldviews on land, for which I encourage you to watch this video from Reconciliation Education and First Nations University of Canada, available free until June 30: “Waniska - An Awakening of Indigenous Knowledge”. It doesn’t teach you how to do a land acknowledgment; in 30 minutes, it begins to share how integrated the land (and what settlers might call “nature”) are into Indigenous living, culture, healing – everything.

With that perspective, when I read CTA #45 – “Repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius” – I understand it to go far beyond geography or territorial claims. When colonizers took land away from Indigenous peoples, or confined them to certain lands, they didn’t just take away a piece of property. It’s not the same as if you or I got evicted from our house.

Land is fundamental to Indigenous way of life. It’s steeped in their knowledge, and how that knowledge is passed on. It’s how they obtained food, medicines, and shelter. It’s core to their worship and spiritual practices, their very relationships with the land and each other.

Taking land away from Indigenous peoples, or taking the people away from their land, leads to loss of identity, culture, and spirit.