Acknowledgement of Traditional Land


We feel incredibly lucky to have a beautiful space in Toronto to do our work. We recognize however that being able to use this space is a result of the long process of colonization that led to where we stand today. There is no easy way to sit with this fact.

We want to start by sharing the names of the Indigenous peoples who are the traditional guardians of the land where our studio is located. These are the Wendat (wen-dat), the Anishinabek (ah-nish-nah-bek) Nation, the Haudenosaunee (ho-den-oh-sho-nee) Confederacy, the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, and the Métis (may-tee) Nation, who emerged as a distinct aboriginal people across Ontario in the 18th Century.

We also want to state that the treaties with European settlers weren’t the first on this land. Long before, this territory was the subject of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Ojibwe and allied nations.

“The Toronto Purchase” which deeded the land we work on from Indigenous peoples to Europeans was problematic for all kinds of reasons — the amount of land claimed by Europeans far exceeded the land in the agreement, communication about the nature of land ownership was ambiguous and it’s not clear whether Indigenous people even actually signed the final contract, or a blank contract that was later written up.

And while we remember this heartbreaking chapter in our history, we also remind ourselves that it’s not history at all. Today, Toronto and surrounding areas are still the home to many Indigenous people, both from the groups named here and others, and they continue to face obstacles placed by colonialism, including the Canadian government’s attempts to assimilate Indigenous people into dominant culture, the racism that still exists in Canada today, and even basic human rights issues like lack of clean water.

The ongoing presence of racism, institutional and otherwise, was made especially clear in the past few years in the trials for the murders of Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine. In both cases young Indigenous people were murdered, older white individuals were brought to justice and acquitted even though it seemed to many that there was plenty of evidence for their arrest.

All this being said, the survival of Indigenous people, their cultures, languages and communities, is a source of deep hope and inspiration. We stand in awe of the resilience and creativity of the Indigenous people of Southern Ontario and beyond.

We’re grateful and humbled to have the opportunity to do our work on this land, but we also acknowledge that gratitude and humility aren’t ever enough; we all have a role to play in true acts of reconciliation. For us, it begins with these words, but it doesn’t end here.

Each season, as a studio, we take a concrete action to support Indigenous people in Canada. This fall our action is to financially support the First Nation Child and Caring Society, an Indigenous-led organization that works tirelessly for the well being of Indigenous children. They receive no government funding. You can learn more about them here, and watch an NFB documentary about them here.

If you feel moved to take actions towards reconciliation, there are some readings below to help you find your own path.

We strive to make our studio into a place where healing can occur, truths can be told, and hidden stories can be unearthed. We also strive to never take for granted the privilege and complexity of living and working on this land.

Looking to learn & act? Here’s a start.

First Story Toronto is a small, local organization devoted to researching and preserving the Indigenous history of Toronto. Among other things, they have released an app and bus tour to help people learn about Indigenous history in Toronto, and they’re mounting an art mentorship program for Indigenous youths.

The CBC put out this great reading list of Canadian Indigenous works, a great place to start if you haven’t done very much reading by Indigenous authors.

Room Magazine assembled this list of Indigenous Women Writers in Canada to read and watch out for.

A short video about the history of Indigenous peoples and settlers on the land that’s now called Toronto.

Muskrat Magazine  is an on-line Indigenous literary magazine packed with great articles and links to Indigenous arts and culture events.

Indigenous Lives Matter, an excellent article about the responsibilities of non-Indigenous allies in the wake of Colten Boushie’s murder trial.

Indigenous Cultural Competency Training is a one-day course offered by the Native Canadian Center of Toronto for Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people who want a deeper understanding of the way our historical context colours our day-to-day.

Nish Dish and Tea-N-Bannock are both wonderful Indigenous-run restaurants in Toronto, where eaters can sample traditional Indigenous food.

Media Indigena is a weekly Indigenous current affairs podcast.

A thoughtful take on Traditional Land Acknowledgements by Indigenous blogger âpihtawikosisân.

Groundwork for Change is a website created by Non-Indigenous people whose mission is to provide information for Non-Indigenous people to grow relationships with Indigenous people that are rooted in solidarity and justice. Chris has done it and thought it was great.

Dodem Kanonhsa’ is a center in Toronto devoted to helping Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people gain a better appreciation and understanding of First Nations culture and philosophies. They provide lots of workshops, talks and teaching circles with Indigenous elders. See upcoming events here.

Working It Out Together is a beautifully produced online magazine exclusively featuring Indigenous voices.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada is an organization whose mandate is to collect stories of survivors of residential schools and to educate the Canadian public about what happened during this era of our history. It’s made up of Indigenous residential school survivors, their families, communities, former residential school employees and the Government of Canada.  In 2015 they released a detailed report about the harm committed to First Nations people in residential schools. You can read their full report as well as articles and other media about the Commission’s work on their website.

Toronto’s only First Nations School, formerly the Wandering Spirit Survival School, recently moved to the East End (a short walk from the studio) where they could expand into high school programming.

Feelings about this acknowledgement? Anything to add to this list?

Drop us a line. We’re always learning and listening.

We are very grateful for the guidance of Terry Swan, Manager of Programs at Indigenous Justice Division supporting families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (and beloved Firefly participant) who helped us craft this acknowledgement.