Land-Practice and Protocols:
4 Thoughts for Beginning or Enhancing Your Journey Towards Reconciliation
Guest Blog By Stephanie Bartlett
Many of us are familiar with land acknowledgements as a way of addressing the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) calls to action. Today’s post invites us to think about the importance of land acknowledgments…and go a step beyond to explore the question what does it mean to develop a connection to the land where you live, work, and play?
To begin, pause and think about the land. Moss on the sidewalk. Trees in a backyard. Waves lapping against the shore. Did this invoke a connection to nature that is often lost in the busy world in which we live?
As a PhD Candidate in Educational Research and Anthropology, Stephanie’s research addresses education for reconciliation through land-based learning, Indigenous pedagogies, and design. A land practice is an attunement to the land, the animals, rocks, trees, and plants that are in a particular place. One of her approaches to reconciliation is to adopt a land practice and she offers this as four actions that you can take starting now.
Four Actions To Develop a Thoughtful Land Practice
1- Notice deeply. Go beyond the land acknowledgement and develop a relationship with the land. This can be as simple as noticing the characteristics of the land and can develop into understanding of a new way of being.
2- Connect with the Indigenous community whose land you are on. Find out first from your local nation how to offer protocols to ask for guidance.
3- Build relationships with local Indigenous communities and invite community members to the table at the beginning of a project.
4 – Listen. Commit to listening and learning so that you can find a way forward together.
Land Practice as an Awareness of the Ongoing Effects of Colonialism
Look Beyond the End Goal
How might we seek help or clarity for the sake of learning a process? The act of seeking help or clarity often comes with an end goal in mind, especially in work that is driven by policy or government approvals. Seeking understanding about land through the lens of reconciliation requires a greater call to think deeply about project benefits, emphasizing the goal of reconciling with the Earth.
Barriers of Time
What changes could be made to address barriers of time? Taking the time to build relationships with Indigenous communities requires a slower pace.
Pay Attention to Language
How might we think critically about language and how we use it, both in print and verbally in meetings? Both the words land use and claims indicate property and ownership and have colonial implications. Step into a new way of envisioning how to understand land as a being and how to understand your thinking about land.
Resist the Urge to Problem Solve
What are ways that we could actively resist the urge to jump to conclusions or follow a trajectory to go from A to B? Listen and learn about the historical and cultural significance of the land from local knowledge keepers and Elders. Ask how they might guide you in stewarding the land for future generations.
A Call to Action
“Land acknowledgement, done well, is a memory. A memory of the future.” (K. Wayne Yang, 2022).
In response to this quote and in closing, I invite you to consider developing a land-practice, leaving you with these questions:
– How might you incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing into your work and personal life?
– How might the work of land claims and land use develop into a responsible practice that plans for the future of the land itself, not just the generations of people who will dwell on this land?
– How might learning to pay attention to the characteristics of the land develop into a practice that reconciles humans with each other and the Earth?
– How can you take an active role in responding to the TRC (2015) calls to action personally and professionally?
– What actions can you take to deconstruct colonial systems by creating a respectful practice of noticing, connecting, building relationships, and listening will develop into actions of reciprocity that give back to all humans and the Earth for generations to come?
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). (2015). Truth and reconciliation commission of Canada: Calls to action [Report]. https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2091412-trc-calls-to-action
Yang, W.K. (2022, April 23). Tribal sovereignty and Indigenous education: Situating land-tax, #LandBack, land acknowledgements in equity discourse. American Educational Research Association 2022, hybrid conference. https://www.aera.net/Events-Meetings/2022-Annual-Meeting
About the Author
Stephanie supports individuals and organizations to begin or deepen a journey towards reconciliation and guides them in decolonizing their business practice and learning protocols so that they can approach Indigenous communities in a good way. She is a PhD Candidate and an instructor at the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary. Emerging from her experiences in collaborative creativity and co-design, her research focuses on education for reconciliation, Indigenous pedagogy, and anthropology and she uses design to create transformative learning experiences. Stephanie is an Armand-Joseph Bombardier SSHRC Scholar and a Philanthropic Educational Organization Scholar.
If you are interested in working with Stephanie, connect with her by: