First Nations public acknowledgements: how to do them properly in Revelstoke

'In other communities it has been practice for many years to acknowledge the Aboriginal people’s who once use the land as traditional territory. This practice is somewhat new for many in Revelstoke.'

705
Representatives from the Ktunaxa, Sewpemec and Sylix First Nations perform a song for the audience assembled for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's visit to Revelstoke in late July. Photo: Zoya Lynch

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Revelstoke this summer, he was welcomed with a First Nations greeting, something that is becoming more and more common at formal Revelstoke gatherings. We wondered: how do you do one properly? What are the key steps to getting it right? What First Nations groups should be acknowledged? We did some research on the trend and came up with this guide.

In Revelstoke, we are often told that no Aboriginal peoples lived here because of the harsh climate. This has been proven to be untrue and we now know that the Sinixt, Ktuanaxa, Swepemec and Sylix once considered Revelstoke as part of their territories.

Cathy English, Revelstoke Museum & Archives curator wrote in her book, Brown Bag History: Revelstoke Origins, that when she first arrived in Revelstoke in 1983, she was told there was never a significant First Nation population in this region.

“They may have come here occasionally to hunt and fish, but they never spent much time here because they didn’t like the snow and they were afraid of the mountains,” English wrote. “We now know that is simply not the case, but the truth is very complicated and has never been an easy story to tell.”

In other communities it has been practice for many years to acknowledge the Aboriginal people’s who once use the land as traditional territory. This practice is somewhat new for many in Revelstoke.

Lisa Moore, Revelstoke Secondary Aboriginal student assistant, said anyone can make the acknowledgment as long is made with sincerity.

“It should be pointed out that the speaker who is doing the acknowledgment should be speaking from the heart and may feel inspired to add a message to the acknowledgment,” Moore wrote in a School District 19 Aboriginal Education newsletter. “As long as they are speaking from a good-hearted place there should be room for personal variations.”

Moore said part of making the acknowledgment meaningful includes being sincere and not rushing through it in order to get to the rest of the event or activity.

“When we acknowledge territory we recognize the fact people did live here. We recognize those First Peoples still have stories about this land and feel strong connections to this area,” she said. “We are also making a gesture of reconciliation for past wrongs; this is not to shame people living here now, it is merely recognizing the historical fact that other people lost their homes, sometimes violently, and we now live where they once did.”

Making an acknowledgment is simple and takes only a few moments. Cut out the guide below and keep it with you,

Here’s how to deliver a simple acknowledgement ahead of your next public gathering:

“We would like to acknowledge and honour the four nations on whose traditional land we live and learn: the Sinixt, the Ktunaxa, the Secwepemc, and the Syilx.”

Pronounciation guide:

Sinixt – sin-IKES-t

Ktunaxa – tah-NAH-ha

Sewpemec – suh-KWEP-meh

Sylix – silks

Comments

comments