Territorial Acknowledgement

The Grand River in the summertime on a sunny day

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

University of Waterloo Territorial Acknowledgement

This acknowledgement was written for the University in collaboration with the Office of Indigenous Relations.

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 granted 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 co-ordinated within the Office of Indigenous Relations.

Learn how to pronounce Haudenosaunee.

Learn how to pronounce Anishinaabeg.

Where and when to make the acknowledgement

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
  • 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

What NOT to include in a territorial acknowledgement 

  • Possessive pronouns when referencing Indigenous peoples (i.e. “our Indigenous people” or “Canada’s Indigenous peoples”)
  • Comparison to non-Indigenous and non-territorial specific issues and topics 
  • Political views on world politics unrelated to the territory you are acknowledging
  • Grounding the acknowledgement in past tense only (i.e. “this is the historical territory of…”) 
  • Do not ask for an Indigenous person to deliver the territorial acknowledgement 

Note: As language is always changing and evolving it is worth reviewing your territorial acknowledgement every so often to see if it still reflects the territory, the people, and your positionality in the most accurate and respectful way. 

Best Practices for Meaningful, Personalized Territorial Acknowledgements

  1.  Learn about the territory/treaty land you are on and the First Nations, Inuit and/or Métis who are the historical and present caretakers of the land. Put in your own work- do not ask Indigenous people to do this for you. 
  2. Reflect on your learnings, and your positionality within the territory you are on.
  3. Write the statement based on your learning and reflecting, taking into consideration the following tips for best practice:
  • Personalize it to your work or department and relationship with the territory. Connect the acknowledgement to current work in your discipline/area.
  • Ground the statement in past, present and future, acknowledging the historical but also the current and future context of Indigenous peoples and the land. 
  • Use direct, honest language that acknowledges the traditional First Nations of the territory and any governing treaty/treaties as well as your positionality within the territory you are on. 
  • Commit to action (i.e. pick a book to read and encourage your colleagues to check it out, find a local Indigenous organization to give back to and uplift, or share what your department is doing to commit to tangible actions of reconciliation).

Land vs. Territorial Acknowledgments

While the terms land acknowledgement and territorial acknowledgement are often used interchangeably, they are different, and the situation will determine if there is a need for a land acknowledgement or a territorial acknowledgment. 

Land acknowledgments are statements focused on physical land, land use, spiritual connection to the land. They often express thanks and/or a connectedness of the event, workplace, meeting, and/or ceremony to the land on which these happenings are taking place.

Territorial acknowledgements recognize and pay respect to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people and their traditional and/or current geographical territories on which we live and work upon. They often include mention of the associated treaty or treaties to the geographic location.

Universities and 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.

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 link: Universities Canada