Land Acknowledgement statement to be read at every city council meeting - Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation flag to be raised in civic square.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

June 18th, 2018



We basically took the land from the Indigenous people.

Some treaties were signed – we didn’t always live up to those treaties.

Canadians have begun creating a new relationship with the Indigenous people. The Halton District School Board has been reading a Land Acknowledgement statement at the beginning of each meeting for some time.

Starting this Monday Burlington city council will begin doing the same thing. Stacey LaForme the elected Chief of Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, a graduate of the Osgoode Hall Law School and a member of the Ontario Bar will be a significant part of this ceremony this afternoon.


Stacey LaForme the elected Chief of Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation,

In 2002, LaForme served on the Ontario Divisional Court panel that ruled that denying same-sex couples the right to marry was a violation of their civil rights; his suggestion – that marriage be redefined – was subsequently adopted by the Court of Appeal for Ontario.

A member of the Mississaugas people, LaForme is the first appellate court judge in Canadian history with a First Nations background. He has served as the Commissioner of the Indian Commission of Ontario; as the Chair of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Land Claims; and – until his resignation in October 2008 – as head of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

He will probably be the most distinguished, qualified and accomplished person at the event.

Some Burlington high schools have been holding “blanket ceremonies”, an interactive way of learning the history most Canadians are never taught.

blankets - all the land

Blankets representing the territory of Canada – it all belonged to the First Nations before the Europeans arrived.

The Blanket Exercise is based on participatory popular education methodology and the goal is to build understanding about our shared history as Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada by walking through pre-contact, treaty-making, colonization and resistance. Everyone is actively involved as they step onto blankets that represent the land, and into the role of First Nations.

By engaging on an emotional and intellectual level, the Blanket Exercise effectively educates and increases empathy.

Students learn the key terms and concepts behind the words Aboriginal peoples, First Nations, Inuit and Métis. Aboriginal peoples is the term used in Canada’s constitution, it has specific importance within a Canadian legal context.

Assimilation, Colonization, Discrimination, Doctrine of Discovery, Equity and First Nations which is not a legal term but replaces “Indian” in common usage. The term elevates First Nations to the status of “first among equals” alongside the English and French founding nations of Canada.

Less land left

The Blanket ceremony takes participants through the history that took away more and more of the land that the First Nations owned.

Indigenous peoples is a term for which there is no one definition because it is up to each Indigenous person to define themselves, something that for far too long has been done by others. However, Indigenous peoples all over the world have the common experience of being the original inhabitants of a territory and being oppressed by ethnic groups that arrived later.

A Mohawk (Kanienkehaka) person from Akwesasne who is a member of the Bear clan may choose any number of indentifiers. Others may identify themselves as members of one of the many other First Nations in Canada – Innu, Cree, Salteaux, Ojibwe, Haida, Dene, Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Blood, Secwepmec, etc., each with its own history, culture, and traditions.

On blankets reading to each other

The lnd that the First Nations owned ended up being reserves around the country.

In 1876 all the laws dealing with Indigenous peoples in Canada were gathered together and put into the Indian Act. The Canadian government used the Indian Act to attack the identity of Indigenous peoples. It limited hunting and fishing and made spiritual ceremonies like the potlatch, pow-wow and sundance against the law. This didn’t change until the 1950s. To this day, the Indian Act controls many aspects of Indigenous peoples’ lives.

From the 1960s to the 1980s, thousands of First Nations and Métis children were forced illegally from their homes and adopted or fostered, usually by non-Indigenous people. This period is known as the 60s scoop. Many of these kids experienced violence, racism and abuse and lost connection to their identity and culture. Like residential schools, the purpose of the 60’s scoop was assimilation.

Territory map

The land that Burlingtonians live on is represented in treaties; what is now Burlington is land that was given to Joseph Brant who in tern sold it off in bits and pieces. There isn’t as much as a square foot that belong to a descendant of the Brant family. But we named our main street after the man.

Treaties are internationally binding agreements between sovereign nations. Hundreds of treaties of peace and friendship were concluded between the European settlers and First Nations during the period prior to confederation.

These treaties promoted peaceful coexistence and the sharing of resources. After Confederation, the European settlers pursued treaty making as a tool to acquire vast tracts of land. The numbered treaties 1 through 11 were concluded between First Nations and the Crown, after Confederation.

Students - focused - girl

Some of the students were transfixed by the blanket ceremony. Far too many paid more attention to their cell phones as they texted each other.

For Indigenous peoples, treaties outline the rights and responsibilities of all parties to the agreement. In the traditions of Indigenous treaty making, these are oral agreements. In addition, they are “vital, living instruments of relationship”

In reading a Land Acknowledgement we are beginning to accept these rights and responsibilities.

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