Giving a meaningful territorial acknowledgement and connecting it to action

The School of Public Health Sciences at the University of Waterloo recognizes our role in upholding oppressive systems and is making efforts towards reconciliation with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples. Understanding that reconciliation is a continuous journey and not a means to an end, we believe appropriate first steps include a meaningful and sincere Territorial Acknowledgement. This template provides suggestions for approaching a territorial acknowledgement.

Before you give a territorial acknowledgement, you are encouraged to engage in research and self-reflection to ensure your acknowledgement is meaningful and connected to thoughtful action, rather than approached as a procedural or rote task.

University of Waterloo Territorial Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that we live and work on the Territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabeg, and Haudenosaunee Peoples. The University of Waterloo is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the territory granted to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River.

If you are not in Waterloo, resources below can help you identify the Indigenous Territories on which you live and/or work.

Beyond the territorial acknowledgement itself

Reflect on the history and stewardship of the territory (rather than ownership).

  • Indicate your relationship with the territory, for example, as a settler or immigrant
  • Explain why you are acknowledging the territory. Speak to past and present histories of oppression and colonialism, and how these have affected local Indigenous communities, as well as how this history relates to your own lived experiences
  • Connect your territory acknowledgement with the event you are holding (e.g., meeting, conference, webinar) and if appropriate, to current events and legacies, such as Land Back, water security, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Treaties, and policies such as the Indian Act
  • It may make sense in the context of your meeting or other events to integrate deeper consideration of Indigenous Peoples and reconciliation beyond the territorial acknowledgement itself; for example, with respect to health inequities, climate justice, and other public health challenges

Connect your territorial acknowledgement with action, for example, through learning, volunteering, or donating. Again, a Territorial Acknowledgement is a small step towards reconciliation and is only sincere when followed by action to decolonize oppressive systems.

School of Public Health Sciences, University of Waterloo resources

The School’s November 2020 newsletter includes reflections on territorial acknowledgements from School members, including students and faculty members.

The resources below can be used as a starting point for becoming more informed on colonialism and reconciliation. Further research is encouraged for gaining insight into how you can personally contribute to reconciliation efforts.

Additional tips

  • Practice pronunciation in advance - you can find YouTube videos to help you
  • Avoid using "our" or "Canada’s" Indigenous Peoples; instead, Indigenous People WITHIN Canada. Be as specific as possible when discussing communities or Nations. Settlers are living on territory that belongs to Indigenous Peoples, not the other way around
  • Do not sugar coat your Territorial Acknowledgement – Canada has undertaken brutal actions against Indigenous Peoples that need to be acknowledged
  • If you make a mistake, that’s okay – we are all learning. Correct yourself and move on. Starting somewhere is better than not trying!

This template was created by Christine Williams, Student Engagement and Retention Specialist (fall, 2020), and reviewed by Gina Hickman, Director of Equity, and Professors Hannah Neufeld and Sharon Kirkpatrick.

Please feel free to share and/or adapt for your purposes.

If you have comments or suggestions, please contact Sharon Kirkpatrick.