Public acknowledgement of the traditional territory upon which we all live is an important step toward reconciliation.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s final report calls for 94 actions toward restoring a balanced relationship between Indigenous peoples and settler communities in this country. We encourage campus community members to not only acknowledge the traditional territory on which University of Waterloo resides, but to also ground this acknowledgement with action. 

Universities and reconciliation

Commitment to reconciliation actions is growing among post-secondary institutions and associations. The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) published a guide to territorial acknowledgment for Canadian universities, which includes the following: “[…] acknowledging territory is only the beginning of cultivating strong relationships with the First Peoples of Canada. CAUT encourages academic staff associations to reach out to local Aboriginal communities to open pathways for dialogue.”

Related links: Universities CanadaFederation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Territorial Acknowledgement in Virtual Times

Since many individuals are spending more time at home, both living and often working, it is important to not lose sight of the importance of territorial acknowledgements. For professors and teaching assistants who are designing curricula and delivering content virtually, there are creative ways to incorporate learning and action when acknowledging the territory not only where the University of Waterloo resides, but also the territory where students live and work, which is often outside the Haldimand Tract.

Sorouja Moll has generously shared a great online assignment she provides students at the start of the term. Native Land is an excellent resource to locate yourself within the territory where you reside and work. The site also has teaching guides and further readings and podcasts related to territorial acknowledgements. Native Land is a map resource, and as stated within the site, “…this map must be used critically. Maps potentially function as colonial artifacts and represent a very particular way of seeing the world – a way primarily concerned with ownership, exclusivity, and power relations.” The Teachers Guides provide an excellent foundation to start a discussion in a critical and good way.

The Xwi7xwa Library is a centre for academic and community Indigenous scholarship. Its collections and services reflect Aboriginal approaches to teaching, learning, and research, and it is the only branch of an academic library in Canada that is entirely dedicated to Indigenous materials. They have developed a land acknowledgement research portal that provides guidance and resources on virtual territorial acknowledgements.

    University of Waterloo acknowledgment 

    The University of Waterloo acknowledges that much of our work takes place on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee peoples. Our main campus is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the land promised to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River. Our active work toward reconciliation takes place across our campuses through research, learning, teaching, and community building, and is centralized within our Indigenous Initiatives Office.

    Where and when we make the acknowledgment

    Departments, offices and individual members of the University are strongly encouraged to acknowledge the land we occupy in any or all of the following ways:

    • While the Waterloo territorial acknowledgement is placed across all website footers associated with main campus, departments and units are encouraged to create supplementary acknowledgements that speak directly to their work and those engaged in this work

    • Ground the acknowledgement with action and connect it to current work in your discipline/area
    • Add the acknowledgement statement to UWaterloo email signature.
    • Add the acknowledgement statement to course syllabi.
    • Make the acknowledgement statement at commencement of courses, meetings, conferences, and presentations. 

    About the Haldimand Tract​

    Haldimand TractOn 25 October 1784, Sir Frederick Haldimand, the governor of Québec, signed a decree that granted a tract of land to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), also known as the Six Nations, for their alliance with British forces during the American Revolution (1775-83). The Haldimand Tract extends by 10 kilometers on both sides of the Grand River, from its source in Dundalk Township to its mouth at Lake Erie. Originally, 950,000 acres was designated for the Haldimand Tract, today approximately 48,000 acres remain. Read more about the history and ongoing negotiations: Six Nations Lands and Resources.

    Map source: Adam Lewis, “Living on Stolen Land,” Alternatives Journal December 2015