Developing Meaningful Territory Acknowledgements

Exploring the Connection Between Land & Indigenous Peoples’ Health & Wellness

Before European colonization, Indigenous peoples had a strong and healthy relationship to the land and its gifts, including its many resources such as food, water, shelter, and medicines.

From the First Nations Perspective on Health and Wellness:

“Land is what sustains us physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. We use the land for hunting, fishing, and gathering. The land is where we come from and is our identity. It is more than just the earth. It includes the ocean, air, food, medicines, and all of nature.

We have a responsibility to care for the land and to share knowledge of the land with our people. Land and health are closely intertwined because land is the ultimate nurturer of people. It provides not only physical but emotional and spiritual sustenance, because it inspires and provides beauty; it nurtures our souls.”

– First Nations Health Authority, 2012

This strong relationship to the land resulted in good health and wellness for Indigenous peoples. Dispossession of these lands via forced evictions, relocations, and loss of access to resources are all part of a broader system of colonization meant to assimilate and eradicate Indigenous peoples through trying to break connection to the land.

By conducting meaningful and in-depth territory acknowledgements and recognizing the inherent rights and title to land and resources of Indigenous peoples, the relationship of Indigenous peoples can, in part, begin to be restored, contributing to the decolonization of society in what is now commonly called British Columbia.

Territory acknowledgements are one part of a larger system of decolonization efforts. From the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:

Article 26

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.

2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.

3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007)

Learn More About Territory Acknowledgements