When I am at a meeting for most progressive-minded groups at UVic, the meeting always begins with what is called “acknowledging the territories”.
When I first read that on the agenda, I had no idea what that meant, so I sat down and decided to listen, figuring it was some kind of formal ceremony to open the meeting, and worrying that maybe it was a prayer, which I would be very uncomfortable participating it.
Nope. It involved the club leaders standing up, and calling attention to remind everyone that the University of Victoria is located on Coast Salish territory which has not willingly been given to Canada (Almost none of the Aboriginal groups in the Pacific Northwest have any treaties) and that this means we are guests on this land, and should respect the land and each other.
I was so incredibly touched, I was nearly in tears. I saw once on a chart that Montana allegedly had the best overall situation for support of native rights in the U.S, but you wouldn’t guess that if you were anywhere near Rocky Boy or Northern Cheyenne Territory, and Native students often struggled with being accepted and dealing with racism, both subtle/ignorant and outright cruel and malicious, from students and professors alike.
So, for me, that moment was like a warm hand on my shoulder, telling me that this really was a safe space for Native/First Nations students. I don’t openly identify as Blackfoot, but my secret deep down is that that side of my family means a lot to me, because it is the “lost” side, the one that I was completely cut off from as a child and have been slowly piecing together as an adult. I have a feeling it will be a much more secure journey than back in Montana, even though that is Blackfoot territory.
Curious how that works.