By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
“I so appreciate the area in which we live, said Invermere mayor Al Miller. “Acknowledging the Indigenous land, we live on is like giving thanks for being able to live here in this area. We’re only here for a short time and I think it’s very important to acknowledge that while we are here, we are on these different unceded territories across Canada. I think not only is it important to acknowledge the histories that these lands hold, but also learn more about them. To listen to our fellow Indigenous Peoples about it. There were too many atrocities that happened, and that is why it is so important to give this recognition now and going forward.”
“I feel that Indigenous lands should be recognized at every important event, not only in the Columbia Valley, but across Canada,” said Columbia Valley Métis Association president, Monica Fisher. “Every person in our valley should know whose traditional territory they live upon and be able to say the names of the First Nations properly. I feel that it humbles us as a collective and honours the people who were here prior to our existence.”
Fisher, an employee of Rocky Mountain School District 6, said land acknowledgements are made at all school events and assemblies, in some classrooms daily every morning. There are many local lessons that can be combined, for example teaching that the hoodoos in Fairmont are on unceded Ktunaxa territory and were formed through the melting of glaciers, according to geologists.
“I think it shows respect. Something that I as an educator and a resident of the community do find frustrating is when we have large scale events and land acknowledgements are not made,” said Fisher. “It feels like at this time, it should be common knowledge that land acknowledgements are important, but we also want them to be done authentically, and with that purpose. I think making these acknowledgements shows the growth of where we’re at in Canada, of finally recognizing that non-Indigenous Peoples are visitors to the land,” said Fisher. “We need to be able to humble ourselves and recognize that people were here before us. That puts that humility piece in place. For me personally, it helps me take care of the land better.”
Jenna Jasek, school district 6 vice principal for Indigenous Learning and Equity, is not only an educator with the Rocky Mountain School District but within the community as well. She is the co-founder of the annual Every Child Matters Year-long Learning Challenge, which first launched in October 2021.
“We need to reflect and acknowledge that we are on unceded traditional First Nations territory that was taken away from the First Nations people without consent,” said Jasek. “In addition to recognizing that Turtle Island (what some Indigenous Peoples refer to as North America) was here long before settlers arrived, Indigenous Peoples have lived and cared for these lands since time immemorial. I believe there also needs to be a second part of the land acknowledgement where you share your personal responsibility to the land and Truth and Reconciliation.”