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Vaughan's land acknowledgement changes show detailed Indigenous history

Six changes were made
June 25, 2021
Dina Al-Shibeeb

Vaughan is making official changes on June 22 to its Indigenous land acknowledgement to show how history as we know it -- at times -- needs to be rectified and amended.

It’s customary for Canadian government institutions as well as schools to give land acknowledgement statements to further recognize the history of its Indigenous people before starting any meetings or gatherings.

In addition to amending the title from its old “Aboriginal Territorial Acknowledgement” to “Indigenous Land Acknowledgement,” Vaughan councillors ratified the changes that were made in collaboration with Darin P. Wybenga of Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, who is traditional knowledge and land use co-ordinator, to show how "Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation are the only treaty holders in the city of Vaughan."

Another change seen in the new land acknowledgment is referring to the “Toronto Purchase Treaty 13” to reflect the name of the specific treaty.

In addition, removing reference to Williams Treaty First Nations, Chief R. Stacey LaForme of Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation confirms that Williams Treaty Boundary does not extend to any portion of Vaughan.

Alos, the reference to “Anishinaabeg” was omitted since Anishinaabe refers to a group of culturally related Indigenous peoples residing in Canada and the U.S.

However, the Huron-Wendat and Six Nations of the Grand River, who identify as Haudenosaunee, have traditional territories in Vaughan. While “Metis Nation and people” do not hold traditional land rights; the city nevertheless would still honour and recognize Metis people as residents using the land.

The Canadian Constitution recognizes three groups of Indigenous peoples: First Nations, Inuit and Metis. These are three distinct peoples with unique histories, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs. "First Nations people" include Status and non-Status Indians. There are more than 630 First Nation communities in Canada, which represent more than 50 Nations and 50 Indigenous languages. Inuit are the Indigenous peoples of the Arctic. The word Inuit means "the people" in the Inuit language of Inuktut. The singular of Inuit is Inuk.

The statement now reads:

“We respectfully acknowledge that the City of Vaughan is situated in the Territory and Treaty 13 lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. We also recognize the traditional territory of the Huron-Wendat and the Haudenosaunee. The City of Vaughan is currently home to many First Nations, Metis and Inuit people today. As representatives of the people of the City of Vaughan, we are grateful to have the opportunity to work and live in this territory.”

Previously, it read:

“We respectfully acknowledge that we are situated on Traditional Territories and Treaty Lands, in particular those of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, as well as the Anishinaabeg of the Williams Treaty First Nations, the Huron-Wendat, and the Metis Nation. As representatives of the people of the City of Vaughan, we are grateful to have the opportunity to work and live in this territory.”

This comes amid the city’s recognition of National Indigenous History Month in June and National Indigenous Peoples Day on Monday, June 21, both of which were proclaimed by Vaughan council.